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Friday, 14 June 2013

Friday Five: Five phrases you might see on your child's report- and what they REALLY mean

Summer term. The home stretch. All the tests have been completed, all the paperwork has been filed, and teachers everywhere are relaxing just a little and opting to play rounders in the sunshine with their class instead of teaching them history.

I expect we all have happy memories of summer terms from our own childhood, when it felt like we never did any proper work, and there is a definite sigh of relief when the summer holidays are in sight.

But for teachers, arguably, the hardest task is still to be tackled. The End of Year Report. That little thorn on an otherwise beautiful rose of a term. While children are enjoying weekends free of homework, teachers are shackled to laptops and desperately trying to be constructive and creative in their descriptions of their little darlings. As a writer, school reports are the most challenging test of my craft- finding that delicate balance between honesty and tact, fact and fiction of the white-lie variety.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who writes in code. It's simply not done to be too truthful and blunt; in fact, being British and terrified of offending in even the most basic of situations, euphemisms are a blessing when writing reports. Here are some of the secret codes you might find in your child's report, and what they really mean.

1. Report says: "...takes a while to settle to tasks..."
Teacher means: cannot sit still for longer than ten seconds, unless technology, sweets or some other bribe is involved. Quite often has to be chased around the class and coerced into joining in. Is constantly sharpening pencils/looking for a board rubber/going to the toilet. Always chooses to sit next to someone they can be silly with. Can be relied upon to make trumping noises to entertain their classmates, usually when the headteacher/governers/OFSTED inspectors are present.

2. Report says: "...has made some interesting comments in class discussions..."
Teacher means: has shared some personal details that would horrify their parents. Has admitted that they never read at home (despite what their reading record says) and spend four hours a night on Halo/Call of Duty instead while Dad is at the pub. Can describe, in detail, the love lives of their parent's friends and shares criminal convictions of family members with refreshing (if disturbing) honesty. Has declared that, when they grow up, they will go on the dole like Uncle Pete and sell pirated DVDs at car-boot sales. In "Show and Tell", told the entire class about the time the bailiffs came for the TV and the Christmas dinner that was ruined because Mum drank a bottle of wine at breakfast.

3. Report says: "...needs to concentrate..."
Teacher means: is away with the fairies and has to have everything repeated because they didn't listen the first time. Alternatively, they didn't hear the first time because they were busy poking the child next to them or discussing the football/last night's episode of Hollyoaks. Will continue conversation immediately after teacher has explained the task again, only committing pen to paper when threatened with having to stay in at playtime.

4. Report says: "...should try to consider the opinions of other children..."
Teacher means: will shout over other children to make their own comment. Has to be reminded constantly to wait their turn and not snigger at other's views. Refuses to change their mind; even when presented with persuasive and reasonable evidence will stick to their original opinion, often commenting "Well, my Dad says that immigrants/gays/Muslims are (insert your own negative comment here).

5. Report says: "...is learning to behave appropriately..."
Teacher means: despite having a ferocious temper and a penchant for climbing fences and scarpering when asked to stop throwing things/calling names/eating sweets smuggled in from home, is sometimes caught... being lovely. Examples may include: looking after a younger child who has fallen over, offering to show their friend how to do "chunking" or sharing enthusiastically the fossils they found at the beach. Restores teacher's faith and makes them realise that underneath that grumpy face, a kind child is hiding, hoping that someone will notice. Induces gooey feelings of tenderness for the poor, mixed-up kid. Until the next time...

Do you have any more? Or maybe you have a school report you'd like translated? What did your teachers say about you? Comments in the box, please!

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