Ctrl+C. Ctrl+V. Find and Replace.
Necessary. Not entirely acceptable. In an ideal world we would never use these buttons. No child is the same. It’s likely no child has learnt precisely the same things.
But finding 120 spare hours to dedicate to writing their reports – four hours per child at a minimum – this is three working weeks (that’s if you have nothing else to do and work non-stop). So Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Find and Replace it was. Necessary. Editable. Adaptable. Time efficient.
With each group being taught the same objectives, copy and paste formed a guide for the basic information. The intention was to share with parents what had been taught to their little one, and how they had fared with the learning of these goals. For some this was similar, for others distinctly different. Editing made the process speedier but by no means ‘less’ because some of the sentences contained the same structure.
Making the sections a true and accurate reflection of the child’s achievements, struggles and engagement was more important than having a newly crafted sentence for each one of them. If I think back to my childhood reports, I’d rather think they were truthful about me than entirely different from someone else’s for the sake of comparison. I pity the teachers of those days who wrote every single comment by hand; the old copy and paste being ‘copy and write out again’.
As we embark on the summer term, report writing season, I have been reflecting on reports. Nowadays a report is a write up of something I’ve done, perhaps a side of A4 and shared with my colleagues. A report is run off a system to give an idea of numbers. There’s some craft in the former, none in the latter but then I have time to write for enjoyment now. Because, I reflected, the part I do quite miss is the personal and social comments.
This section was the main outlet for my writing in five teaching years. It gave me a chance to craft a picture with words. To create the nuanced details of an individual and their particular quirks, passions and foibles was a joy. I spent considerable time choosing the precise word, consulting an actual thesaurus, and searching the right way to convey exactly what I meant. I imagined that this would be read, potentially stored up in that child’s and parents’ hearts and reflected on in the coming years. What a challenge, a privilege. I did not want to suggest to a child that they could not change. I wanted to praise their strengths, show where their skills had been noted and recorded, and to challenge their weaknesses by providing a way to develop and grow.
This takes forever.
Writing reports is the lengthiest task of the teacher’s year. Even at half an hour per child it is perhaps 15 hours of work. That’s if you have a class of 30, and this is simply one section of approximately 14 others. Easter holidays and May half term would be taken up with this endeavour, somewhat diminishing the teacher holiday idea of endless free time and carefree abandon.
That reports were my writing outlet is perhaps surprising. At a potential 120 hours of work it is less surprising I had no time to indulge in writing. Overall, it is safe to say that I do not miss writing reports. Blogging is more fun as an outlet for writing. Although there’s sometimes similar concerns around how people might react, chances are if people don’t like it they won’t tell me anyway (though feel free), or at least don’t feel I have misrepresented their child.
Two years ago, during my Easter holidays, I sat surrounded by friends in a flat overlooking the sea, trying desperately to finally finish this child’s report. In a moment of procrastination (so unlike me..!), I checked my email finding I had an invitation to interview, and the rest, as they say, is history.