A week spent penning end of term reports can lead to all sorts of wandering thoughts. It takes a good ten minutes to read a pupil’s full set of reports, digest what has been said and then pen a good paragraph which synthesizes all that has been said by the other teachers and expresses it in a coherent way. With 209 pupils in the school, this equates to something in the region of 35 hours of report writing or a solid five hours a day for the last seven days. As you might expect…this can lead to the mind wandering and, in the midst of all this, I thought it could be interesting to delve into my own school reports to see how things have changed. You will understand that Yorkshire in the mid 70s and early 80s was not a place where people minced their words! For your amusement, here is a choice selection:
At the age of 7 my English teacher had this to say, ‘Very poor writer. Letter shapes badly formed and untidy. Work often has to be re-done. Punctuation poor. Spelling poor’.
In Music and Movement (remember that?) my teacher was also far from impressed, ‘Not very interested in Music. Too lazy to exert himself. Dances with his hands in his pockets’.
My class teacher then summed up, ‘…it has been difficult for him. If only he would apply himself better and show more enthusiasm for learning he would cope and life would be much easier for him. A great time-waster’.
A couple of terms later, little had changed, ‘Extremely poor writing, no care taken with presentation of work and it is dirty and untidy’. She then went on to say, ‘On the whole John is a very disappointing pupil. Unless constantly nagged he achieves little. He puts no effort into his work and is forever wasting time’.
A year later and it would seem that I had begun to turn a corner. My class teacher concluded her report with, ‘though I am still disappointed with his general progress, he seems willing enough, not unintelligent and a nice enough boy. He has many interests but must channel some of them into class activities’.
I would go on, but space (and the need to finish my reports) doesn’t really allow it. As I read on there was an almost imperceptible change in tone over the course of the 12 years’ worth of my school reports. I should tell you that I completed my time at public school as Head Boy and with a decent(ish) handful of ‘A’ levels to boot. I gained a Cadetship in the Royal Navy, completed an honours degree and then a year of Postgraduate study. Reflecting upon my own journey through school has reminded me that we can often focus too narrowly on one snapshot of a child’s progress and neglect to consider the overall journey. Children progress at different rates and, indeed, some, like me, seem to make little progress at all for substantial periods of time. However, there often is a light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes, just sometimes, we should be patient, bide our time and wait for the progress to become apparent.
John F Gilmour