Recently a lot of the writing I have done has been for school. I am teaching freshman composition at Temple University’s Japan campus, but I am also teaching at The International Secondary School (ISS) part time in the mornings. I teach one class of 7th grade English, one class of 8th grade English, and then one class of Multicultural literature for 12th graders. Trust me when I tell you that it is never boring.
This is the end of the first marking period and right now I have just finished writing report card comments, the first I have ever done in my life. Wow, what a challenge!
As a parent myself, I know what those comments mean. Parents search within them for clues to how their child is really doing, regardless of their grade. If the grade is low, they search for reasons why. If the grade is high, they lap up the positive comments like a parched animal. Every word is subject to interpretation and therefore, misinterpretation.
The key is to make the comments nuanced enough so the parent can understand what the concerns are with their child, without being outright negative. No one wants to believe something bad about their own child, and bad news is difficult to deliver. Even good comments have to be phrased in such a way that is cautiously optimistic, lest the parent think that the child is fault-free.
It took me a long time to craft the right message to the parent about the kids. It is a whole different type of writing than that to which I am accustomed. I’m not saying that it was a bad experience; just different. How’s that for nuance?