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From the Desk of Dr. Charles Murphy: November 19, 2010

Remarkably, the first quarter of school has ended and secondary report cards will be sent home. Report cards! Yes, it is report card time already. I can remember dreaded school report card. Oh, the anxiety associated with carrying home my report card. Admittedly, this can be a terrifying experience for some (like me) but for others like my three sisters - the pride, the joy and excitement of showing off their stellar performance and of course, a guaranteed ice cream treat at Friendly’s. Well, as my Irish grandmother used to say, “The worst of boys…make the best of men…”

In my elementary school, Carmen Road in Massapequa Park, the teachers would hand out report cards prior to dismissal. I can vividly recall taking my second-grade report card from my teacher and grabbing the wooden bathroom pass where I could examine my report card in private. After all, we were told not to open our report cards on the way home and to bring them straight to our parents. Well, before I left the sanctuary of school I wanted to know if I had anything to be concerned about before my mother examined each letter grade and scrutinized my work habits. Would I end up with an even lower grade in penmanship? “A what? Oh no!” What did Mrs. Marcinkowski write about me this time? “Charles needs to slow down, take his time, and write more neatly.” Well, my secretary can attest 37 years later that my handwriting is still illegible. And most importantly I would wonder, “Was it good enough for Friendly’s?” At 7 years old – it could go either way.

In the end, the anxiety and concerns about my parents’ reaction, possibly my mother specifically, were somewhat overblown to an active imagination. However, understanding the fear and nervousness some children have about report cards should be considered to improve student performance. How should parents react to school report cards? Communication and knowing our children is important for utilizing the report card effectively. Children are all so different, and how we respond to one may be different than you respond to another. It really depends upon your children. Naturally, we want our children to succeed and do well; however, we need to be mindful that our response and reaction does not discourage or turn them off from school.

There are children who are very emotional and can be harder on themselves than a parent would ever be. If the report card is good, these children need to know they are heading in the right direction. In fact, along with the praise, making a copy of the report card and posting it in a prominent location would be a nice way to recognize their efforts. On the other hand, in the case of a sensitive child in need of improvement, their reaction may say it all. Of course, we should not let the tears deflect the issue of school improvement, but we do need to be aware of our approach. A parent should try to be low-key, start with specific praise, and then ask open-ended questions in areas of concern. For example, how do you think you did in math…why is that….what do you think will help make things better… Lastly, parents need to use this time to emphasize the importance of school, set realistic work goals (small steps to build upon), and to encourage their children to succeed.

If you have any questions about your child’s progress or need clarification on the report card, please contact your child’s teacher or principal.

Island Trees Secondary Report Cards – Quarterly – Issued November 19.

Island Trees Elementary Report Cards – Tri-semester – Issued December 10