Student Resting on Math Books High school workshops are becoming a major part of the work we do with teens. Set around specific subjects and skills, these sessions lay the framework for [...]
It’s report season – how do you decipher your child’s grades?
NAPLAN is finally behind us, and now schools are preparing for parent-teacher interviews while frantically finishing off their reports.
How seriously should I take my child’s report?
This is a really interesting time for us at tutoring. On one hand, we see a lot of new parents with concerns about their child’s school progress. On the other, we chat to a lot of our own parents, most of whom have seen some very big changes since their child started tutoring. Every now and then, we have children at tutoring who are disappointed in their report. There are two main reasons for this:
1. The report takes 6 months of work into consideration
We sometimes forget how much things change for children in 6 months. A child who starts tutoring the same term that a report comes out is unlikely to see a big difference, as testing and assessments have been done over the whole year. Instead, pay attention to your parent-teacher interviews. Has the teacher noticed any change in your child’s work ethic? Is your child starting to pick things up more easily? Are they participating more? An easy guide is whether your child is willing to put up their hand in class J.
2. The concepts make sense, but there is no organisation
This happens to our older students, and most commonly in maths and science. If your child seems to have been making big leaps and feeling more confident in their work, but then falls short in a test or gets a poor mark on their report, this might be why. The reason we place so much emphasis on study skills and exam preparation is because so few students a) know how to study effectively, and b) feel comfortable in a test situation. I’ve lost track of the number of times I talk to students and discover they felt good going into an exam, but only completed half the paper, or missed a mark because they though the multiplication question was actually an addition question.
If this is happening to your child, they likely need a hand with effective study strategies (learning to apply their new knowledge, not just memorising it), and some practice working under pressure. Start by asking them to do 5 questions in 10 minutes, and show all their workings out. Gradually increase the speed until they can still do their problems accurately, but to time. Unused text book questions are handy for this!
The really important part
Believe it or not, it’s not the grades that you should be drawn to first. Instead, skip straight to the comments. If Sally is getting A for all of her maths, but the teacher has signaled that she could use a hand to make sure she is clearly covering all steps, there’s a chance your daughter is finding it really easy to see the answer, but hasn’t necessarily taken in all the steps. Your teacher is flagging that while she’s ahead of the curve now, you need to watch out and make sure she can show you how she figures it out so she doesn’t get stuck later in her school life.
On the converse, if Sam is getting a D in his English, but the teacher has said that Sam is working really hard and would benefit from such extra help, or by approaching his teacher, there’s a sign that something isn’t clicking, and it’s not his fault. Have a chat to the teacher: does the school have a multi-lit program? Is there something happening with his fine motor skills or eyesight? Why is this such an effort for him if other areas are ok.
Keep in mind that most students are supposed to be at a C level. Some teachers are stricter at marking than others, but especially in the early years, it’s not uncommon to see an entire class where C is the highest grade – it just mans that students are performing exactly where they should be. Times have changed, and as much as we loved the feeling of an A at school, these days an A says that your child is performing way, way above the class expectations.
Use your time wisely
Teachers have limited time for parent-teacher interviews, though most can arrange a follow-up if it’s really necessary. Our top tips for interviews are:
– Start by just listening to what your child’s teacher wants to say. Chances are, they’ve got something they want to mention, and it’s going to be useful to hear it (as nice as it sometimes is to start with a long list of questions!).
– Definitely mention areas you’re worried about, but do it constructively. E.g., instead of, ‘I’m really worried about Lucy’s latest English mark, why was it so bad?’, try ‘Lucy was really disappointed in her English, and I’d really like to help her improve. What can I do to help with that?’. They sound similar, but the response you get will be very different. Instead of a blow-by-blow, time taking recount of every part of that one paper Lucy found challenging, you are going to get some clear examples of how she can turn it around, and the skills she hasn’t quite grasped yet.
– Rather than focussing on where things are going poorly, make sure to also ask where your child lights up. You might be surprised to hear that your child turns into a warrior on the basketball court, or absolutely lights up in art. Maybe they have a hidden talent for graphics or a language. Your child’s teacher sees your child in action, and they will know what really makes your child happy at school. Not only will you find out more about your child’s talents, you might uncover more about how they learn. Great at sport? They might need to move around and participate to understand new concepts. Loves art? Think diagrams and visual information, not just talking. Loves the debating team? Make sure to have stimulating dialogue with them before they tackle an essay or quiz.
The school years are tricky to navigate. Every school, every teacher, and of course, every child is different. If in doubt, ask, and keep encouraging your child to find value in their work.