Some "starters for ten"... Why do we put students on report? On what basis are teachers expected to judge them? Are there consequences for high or low scores? And how many of us are using a four-number system to tick off the four horsemen of the classroom apocalypse: BEHAVIOUR, ATTITUDE, EFFORT, HOMEWORK? It's like the Top Gun Academy designed the process based on feeling the need.... the need for speed (AHA - in high-pitched voice)… Honestly, I've done exactly the same for years and the bit that takes the longest is signing my name.
Is it reasonable to ask subject teachers to spend time unpicking the lesson with every student in the class who is on report? I think not. The realities of teaching a full timetable are that you are generally rushing off to get to the next lesson yourself, or just to get to one of those valuable moments of time that is supposed to be YOURS, e.g. the toilet. When a student hands me a report (hopefully at the start of the lesson, but usually part-way through when it accidentally falls out of something), it gives me a valuable piece of information - they are struggling. Whether it is in one lesson or across the board, something is going wrong and despite how their indifferent or rude behaviour may present, they are probably finding lessons, or even school, a miserable experience.
So within the multitude of competing demands and pressures within my lesson, I might choose to actively pick out a bit more positive, notice when they are just doing the right thing and guide them with as much compassion as I can muster when things go wrong, but mostly this post is more of a discussion about how you as a form tutor, mentor, pastoral lead, etc. can use a terrible and basic system to a greater level of depth. (A note here about using reports to threaten students: I have seen, on more than one occasion, a teacher repeatedly and publicly refer to what they are going to write on a student's report as a tool to manipulate their behaviour - all this does is put more pressure on a student who is already feeling under pressure and probably struggles to self-regulate, HENCE THE REPORT!! You will, of course, be "proven right" about their terrible behaviour when the child explodes; just remember that 99% of the time you will still be getting them back in your classroom, so some empathy may serve you better in the long run).
At the end of the school day, the procedure for the person who the student is "on report to", frequently goes as follows: a) receive tattered, folded square, unfold and peel open pages b) scan down looking for a vague pattern of numbers and any negative outliers c) briefly check if teachers' signatures look as if they have been constructed by an adult's hand, given allowance for being in a rush and not having anything to lean on whilst writing d) All 1s and 2s - praise, any 3s or 4s - berate and ask why they failed, which leads to... e) listen to complicated version of what happened in the lesson to explain the 3s or 4s that you cannot possible judge or comment on (but will try anyway as it feels like a professional duty), because YOU WEREN'T THERE! f) apply detention or merit/praise accordingly.
Wouldn't it be easier if it was just a two-comment system: 1. Good stuff...…. 2. Things to work on.....? Fighter jet pilots would still keep it brief (e.g. 1. No issues and 2. Keep it up) but even "stayed in seat" or "too distracted" gives the pastoral staff something easier to work with ("Why did the teacher choose stayed in seat? Is that something that gets you in trouble in lessons?"...)
But let's assume we are just numbering our horsemen. Here are some suggestions about how to unpick it to something that might be useful, with students who struggle to articulate their experience:
* What was your best lesson of the day? Can you think of three things that made the lesson work well for you?
* Which lesson did you feel like you learned the most? Can you teach me something you learned?
* Did you get any merits? What did you do that made the teacher feel so good about you that they wanted to give you merits?
* This lesson has got some low scores. What did you find hardest in the lesson? How did you cope with that? Now we are outside of that moment, can you figure out why the other student(s)/teacher reacted in that way?
* This subject seems to be a consistently low score. Can you rate the behaviour of the class out of 10? Why would you give it that score? Where do you fit into that picture? If we asked the teacher, where would they rate you compared to the rest of the class? If other students are "getting it wrong", does that change your behaviour? Is that under your control?
* Do you know when you are starting to get into trouble? What does it feel like / what happens? What would help you get back on track? Can we come up with a plan?
Next time you have a student in a 30 minute detention who is on report, try as many of these questions as you can. Help them unpick their thoughts first (no matter how delusional you suspect they may be) and then use a coaching approach. Remember the words they use are just a cover for the emotions, and that they have no earthly idea what it feels like to be a teacher, so getting them to empathise will be a long-term journey, but one you can definitely move them forward on today!
A final post-script - when reports are consistently poor across multiple subjects, please trigger a SEND referral, team around the child (TAC) meeting or whatever your internal processes are. For the many students who arrive in school with undiagnosed ADHD, ASC, dyslexia, PTSD, anxiety, etc. the effects of persistent sanction, removal, isolation and exclusion can be life-changing for them, not only in terms of their mental health, but as the group most likely to be permanently excluded from school and often society. Those with welfare issues, who may live in chaotic and unstable home environments have other more important things on their minds than following our lesson plan and their cognition, attachments and behaviour may be significantly impaired due to developmental trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (I am not ready to hand back my primary school Grammar certificate - ACEs are the current trendy acronym, hence the capital letters). Berating these students every day for their poor reports will not improve their behaviour and will cause more harm.
Any topics you would like my rambling thoughts on, (even if it's just to disagree or question who in their right mind gave me a grammar certificate), please post a request in the comments.