Report cards form a sacred ritual that speaks to our core mission.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

We’re approaching another reporting period in my middle school. Our year runs in three terms, and we’re currently in the process of wrapping up term two before spring break.

The deadline for the submission of report card comments looms large.

The Agony

For as long as I’ve been a teacher, reporting periods have been something of a painful rite of passage.

Even on normal weeks throughout the school year, I feel the weight of lesson and unit planning, assessment, emails, parent communication, team meetings, staff meetings, supervision, and all the other duties that come with the job.

If you’re in the classroom full-time, I’m sure you can relate.

Reporting periods just pile on top of those regular demands. There are more summative assessments to complete, marks to record, work habits to consider, progress comments to write.

It all takes time, and because we are proud of our professional work and committed to the mission of learning and growth, we want to do it well. It can lead to some long days and late nights, leaving us with less emotional margin for the people we serve.

As deadlines loom, thoughts of 9 to 5 days in other career fields suddenly become interesting, and our escapist fantasies take us to lazy beach vacations.

It can be an exhausting time.

The Ecstasy

Even in the midst of this pain, there is joy to be found. Year after year, I’m somehow surprised when the arduous process of reporting actually increases my care and empathy for students.

I evaluate each strand of their work habits, and I see their faces. I replay our interactions: their expressions, laughter, passions, curiosities, and the highs and lows of their character.

I write about their progress, and I’m called to reflect deeply. To consider their academic strengths and weaknesses. To remember their moments of despair and frustration. To relish their times of triumph and success. To point to areas of continuing growth and progress.

I’m reminded that some of my students fight silent battles: health problems, stressful moves, parents in the middle of divorce. Others project a brave exterior that masks deep anxiety: about academics, about their future, or about fitting in at school.

As I intensify my focus on each learner in my care, my commitment increases.

photo of three men jumping on ground near bare trees during daytime
Photo Credit: Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

A Sacred Ritual and Privilege

Reporting is a sacred ritual — one integral to our mission. It comes back to our great purpose, our rai·son d’ê·tre.

Our why.

Because this project of K-12 education is about something far, far bigger than the transmission of information. It’s about far more than 13 years of filling brains.

It’s about equipping students with skills.

It’s about habits of thinking and attitudes of heart.

It’s about the formation of mind, spirit, and character.

It’s about developing young adults who are filled with passion and compassion, who lead with service, who are prepared to contribute to the lives of others and make this world a better place.

And so it is that the rite of reporting is an honor, a privilege. Because as educators, as guides, as lead learners, we’re given a special place in this journey.

Our place is to speak into this process of growth, this journey of development, knowing that our words carry great weight.

Our comments become a formalized, enshrined review of the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the growth and the challenges ahead.

Our words can simultaneously affirm, correct, encourage, and create hope.

And that’s an awesome responsibility. It’s what we’re all about.

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