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Now browsing: Hometown News > Columnist Archives > Counseling - Caring Connections

Report cards can be learning tools
Rating: 2.68 / 5 (167 votes)  
Posted: 2007 Feb 16 - 02:55

Interim reports are on the way, striking fear in the hearts of many students and parents, alike.

Which is why this article will focus on ways to put things in perspective, and use the reports as learning tools.

First and foremost, interim grades should not be a surprise. They are merely a reflection of how your child has performed over the last several weeks. If either you or your child is surprised by the information you receive, then you might want to talk with the teacher about getting more regular feedback.

Report cards and interims can provide a host of information. The first bit of information is whether your child accurately perceives his her performance. When the interim comes home, don't overreact. That is exactly what your child may fear and will immediately close down any possibility of constructive conversation.

It is important to reassure your child ahead of time that interims will help you learn about his or her strengths and weaknesses, in order to help, not simply punish.

I suggest that you ask whether or not there were any surprises (either positive or negative).

When you review the report, first find all the positives to comment about. When there are poor or disappointing grades, we tend to go straight to focusing on them; the positive aspects tend to get lost in the process.

Discuss any grades or comments that seem to indicate a need for improvement. If a grade is poor, simply yelling about it and punishing for it is not the most effective way to deal with the situation. Finding out what the grade actually indicates is much more constructive.

Generally, many parents immediately interpret the grade as an indication of a lack of effort and/or a need to "study" more. But how do you know? The grade could just as easily signify a lack of understanding of the subject matter, difficulty following directions, performance anxiety on tests, fear of raising a hand to ask questions, attention problems, need for extra time to complete assignments, poor comprehension skills, etc.

Does the student have poor organizational skills, forget to bring home books or write down assignments? Does he or she do forget to turn them in? In other words, there could be numerous reasons for a poor grade. Over-reaction, as discussed in previous newsletters, closes down communication and actually may lead to a misinterpretation of the information.

Try problem solving with your child. Find out why he or she thinks the grade was lower than had been expected. Discuss what measures could be taken to bring up the grade by report card time. Ask your child what you might do to help. Take a look at the work space at home, as well as the availability of help on homework or studying for tests. Many students tell me that their parents are too busy, so they don't even ask them for help; or that mom is bad in math, so she can't help. I always encourage them to talk to their parents about this; I know that their misconceptions need to be addressed.

If the issue is poor organizational skills, or ineffective time management, these are skills that can be taught; so can study skills.

If the grades are a reflection of lack of motivation or poor effort, then consequences can be considered. For some students, grades are intrinsically rewarding. But for others, a different type of motivator may be necessary.

For the unmotivated student, a reward program can be devised to encourage hard work in exchange for something meaningful.

When report cards arrive, use them as diagnostic tools to explore what may be interfering with your child's optimal performance. Use the information you gather to constructively help your child to take the steps needed to achieve greater success.

Form a partnership to work together on any difficulties. Help your child feel that you are in this together, rather than at odds with each other.

Clinical psychologist, Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., has a specialized practice in Melbourne, working exclusively with children, adolescents and families.

To contact Dr. Vicki regarding her workshops, seminars or publications, call (321)-722-9001 or visit www.askdrvicki.com.

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