Okay, so perhaps I am not exactly an 'idiot' but here is my list of ten essential things to know or remember when it comes to dreaded report writing...
1. Report writing takes time - no matter how experienced you are, no matter how many years you have written reports for, no amount of practice or preparation makes it any better - reports take a long time to write. And so they should! It took the kids a whole year to provide the data and information for you to write about!
2. Report writing is as much for the teacher as the student - if one of your professional goals (I hope) is to reflect upon the teaching and learning, then here is the best evaluative tool you could ever have.
3. Reports are easy if you know your students well - you have shared a learning journey with these little peeps for a whole year! Reports are a reflection of how well you know them, how they learn, their strengths and weaknesses. As a parent, I want to read a report and be assured, more than anything else, that the teacher has really 'got' my children!
4. Reports need to be readable - parents, in most cases, did NOT go to teachers' college. They don't get all of the teacher-speak jargon. They really have no idea about asTTle and they usually can't work out what AfL is either. So keep it simple - they know you have a Degree and they often don't, so they just want it - in plain, simple language.
5. Report writing is a product - the work we do during the year is the process and the reports at the end of the year are essentially the product of what has been learnt. You have been painting the portrait all year, and now you can present the final, completed canvas to their parents for viewing.
6. Be proud of what you write - this is as much a reflection of who you are as teacher as it is a reflection of who the learner is. Wrapped in the report should be a piece of you - your professional persona - and your ability to represent a learner and their learning on paper. Be proud of the content - would YOU want to read this if YOU were the parent? How would you feel if your own child presented this report to YOU?
7. What about the 'tricky reports'? Sometimes there are very difficult children and it is hard to find a positive spin on them. Start with all of the other children's reports first - this will put you in the right space to write about the more difficult learners.
8. No surprises - there should NEVER be any surprises for parents. The reports should simply confirm what you have communicated about their child all year. If there are surprises, then you may want to take a SERIOUS look at your communication skills. A report is NOT the place to 'break the bad news' to a parent!
9. Be accountable - make sure you have a buddy teacher on staff, whose opinion and professional advice you value, who can support you with any 'tricky' report comments, and someone who can proof read your reports for you before they are sent for checking.
10. Be honest - this is the most important advice of all - be brave. Sometimes there are hard things to say. Say them. Sometimes there are tricky comments that you worry about. Seek advice. You are not doing anyone any favours if you dress it up as something that it isn't. At all times, be perfectly honest.