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School is almost over, which means report cards are coming home soon. If your child is an average or outstanding student, you probably go through his or her report card within a few minutes. However, if your child struggles with one or more subjects, you are likely more nervous about receiving your child’s report card.

I personally have wonderful memories about receiving report cards. When reviewing my report cards, my parents would hide the column that displays the grade for each subject and review the “behaviour and work habits” column first. They explained to me then that this information was the most important element for them because it told them more about my social conduct and work ethic. In my parents’ eyes, good marks were second to good work and well-mannered behaviour.

Here are some tips on how you can review your child’s report card in a constructive and positive way!

1. Before looking at the report card

Before you look at the report card, choose an appropriate time to review it with your child. The perfect time is when you and your child are relaxed, calm, focused, and full of positive energy.

Choosing the appropriate time for review can be difficult. One way to approach this is to sit down with your child right after school on the day you get the report card. However, avoid choosing a time that will take away from one of your child’s regular after-school activities (so it doesn’t seem like a punishment). Your child will likely be excited (or possibly anxious) about your reaction. Sit down together in a positive space that is free of distractions (such as the dinner table) and calmly go through the report together.

2. While looking at the report card

Both you and your child are nervous and excited. You really want to see you child’s marks. However, it is important that a parent doesn’t give the impression that the only things that matter are the grades and teacher’s comments.

Take some time to discuss the evaluation presented in the report card with your child. Ask them to tell you their impression about their progress, the quality of their assignments and the grade they were expecting to get for each subject. Ask your child to write down the grades they expect to receive in each subject on a piece of paper so that you can compare them with the actual grades. When you give your child a chance to assess themself, you give them the opportunity to develop a critical view of their own work and progress.

You will likely be surprised at how critical children can be when evaluating themselves!

Keep the following points in mind while you and your child are discussing the report card:

  • Be an active listener: If your child is perfectly able to read, than let them hold the report card and read the marks and grades themselves. Let them explain to you why they did poorly in this part and their impression about the evaluation they got.
  • Praise your child for the things they achieve: We love our children and we always wish them the best, which is why it is important to make sure we approach discussions such as this using positive language. That is, sometimes it is easy to, unconsciously, undermine the child, especially if you are disappointed or frustrated. Comments such as “You still have the same mark!” “All this work for nothing!” or “Why are your grades always under the class average?” should always be avoided. Instead, focus on positive approach: “I’m sure you put lots of efforts preparing for this course, why do you think you got a lower mark this term?” or “Can you think of any reason why you did poorly in this subject?”
3. After looking at the report card

After you’ve reviewed the report card, make plans to work with your child to improve by the next report card. This can be especially a difficult task if you are trying to help them improve during the summer or when school is not in session. Consider your child’s suggestions seriously and then create (and both commit to) an action plan that will help your child to engage with and succeed in their academic work.
Here are some concrete examples you can consider while you plan:

  • Start the summer vacation with at least 3 to 4 weeks-off in order to disconnect completely from school work
  • Set concrete and specific expectations such as: we need to practice your computation and reading skills
  • Purchase textbooks that provide them with extra exercises. Set a time during the day where they have to settle down and work. You can also hire a tutor who will help them set and respect a working routine
  • Let them participate in a scientific or literacy summer camp

As a parent, you are responsible for making sure that your child feels comfortable discussing their education with you regularly and helping your child reach their academic goals.

Going over your child’s report card in a constructive and positive way will have a direct impact on their self-esteem and will surely affect their life-time relationship with education.

Bchira Dhouib, B.Ed.
Director of Education
Liberty Tutoring