“Is this a report meeting that I see before me?”
A sudden rush for paper, chunks of time sought desperately, fierce and furious writing going on, last minute consultations, notes being exchanged…any guesses about what is going on? Yes...it’s report writing time and this is the scenario as far as the staff is concerned. What of the students? Hardly any of them seem tense or anxious. By contrast they seem to have plenty of time to stand and stare. They are aware that often they may be consulted to jog a memory of a class situation or a particular happening. Some of them will even collaborate in the writing of the report along with the teacher. They also know that before it is sent to the parents, they will be given their report to read by themselves or the coordinator will read it with them. They all welcome this overall ‘looking’ at themselves and they feel very special that teachers are expending so much sweat and toil putting together this comprehensive and individual report. In fact they are sharply disappointed if they find any teacher’s report missing and will notaccept a ‘no need’ plea!
Over the years at our school much thought and discussion has gone into looking at evaluation and feedback procedures and systems. We give written reports and then meet individually with parents. These reports consist of an overall view of the student written by the coordinator, subject reports by academic teachers, hostel observations by hostel parents, sports, activities and library reports as well as comments regarding involvement in community workand duties.
For the senior students, we set aside three or four days at the end of the year when we meet with parents of each student for an hour or a little more. We ensure that reports reach the parents at least two to three days in advance so that they will have time for more than one reading and have the space for their own responses, reflections and questions to emerge. Quite often parents read the report with the child so that his responses may be registered too. The report is actually handed over to the child—in an unsealed and decorated cover. Howeverwe do request that it not be passed around to his friends!
Cut to the actual day of the meetings. This is attended by the parents, by the coordinator, and by as many adults who have some direct contact and even by any adult who wishes to raise a point or just to listen. Interestingly, the parents welcome and even ask for such a large representation and feel no sense ofintimidation or uneasiness.
Some parents have come with written notes. Others get carried away and the orchestra of teachers has to gently bring them back. Most of the parents comment on the accuracy with which teachers have captured their child. They also express appreciation of the time and energy given to write such an in-depth individual report. The hour just whizzes by. Attitudes, aptitudes, approaches, patterns either of passive obedience or of resistance, movement and growth, glimpses of maturity, sensitivity... all these themes come up in the discussion. The reports too would have covered these themes. Sometimes there are sharp exchanges and hard-hitting questions are raised. But then there is a pause, a quietening, and we pick up the threads again. Almost always, at the end of the meeting, there is a sense of having shared common concerns and of looking together at the child—not to correct or mould him—but to understand from where his attitudes or blocks or even positively his effortless flow may be arising, and to act from there. And very, very important it is for us to see how much we as adults are affecting the learning and growth process of the student in terms of our own biases, expectations, blocks, and conclusions. As we all emerge from the meeting there is a quiet satisfaction that we have ‘met’.
From class 10 and above, we have report meetings where the student is physically present in the first or the second half. We have been very struck by the fact that, first, the student is remarkably composed and self-possessed. Second, he speaks freely in response to questions and comments from both parents and teachers, and expresses how he feels and thinks. This vulnerability and trust is the best gift we can receive from our students.
Older students’ meetings are also an opportunity for all of us to explore the possibilities for the future. Many students at this time are thinking of their next step, and they need concerted support from the adults around them. We take the opportunity to dialogue with the parents about some of the most important questions for us—of right livelihood and the place of inward enquiry in our daily lives. When it all comes together, there is the exhilaration of truly having ‘brought up the child together’.
Of course there are exceptions, meetings that begin and end with tension crackling. We try to meet again, and if necessary again, with such parents to find the source of the discord. If this too does not work, then we have to agree to part! But we have several parents with whom the relationship has strengthenedafter going through fire and brimstone.
What is the purpose of such elaborate procedures for a report meeting? It is certainly not to deliver final judgement, nor is it a combined grousing session against the student or against one another. It is a time to exchange perceptions and thoughts, and perhaps to reinforce that we are three members of a team, so there is a frequent need for huddles! Above all it creates the space for all of us to listen to one another.
The report meeting’s the thing
Wherein our conscience we bring.
An excerpt of a general report for a student in class 12
- This last year of M’s has been an important turning point in her life—it has seen the maturing of a sweet-natured and bubbly girl into a responsible and compassionate young woman. The bubbles are not far below the surface, thankfully! Throughout the year, there have been many, many occasions when some teacher or student has turned to her for help or advice, which she gives freely and unstintingly. While this ability to work hard was always there, it has grown into a general sense of responsibility for the place and people around her.
- For example, when her classmates experience difficulties either in relationships or in their work, she is actively concerned about it and usually takes steps to remedy the situation by talking with them. She has a good relationship with the entire age range of children at school, and can be relied on to look after any activity at a pinch. Often the kitchen receives her special attention, and of course she continues to have the ‘healer’s touch’ with the ill or injured. Although she has enjoyed land work in the past, this year there was not much opportunity for her to get into it. Two large areas of accomplishment should be highlighted here—one, the volunteering at Shrishti Special Academy, and two, the completion of the academic requirements for the 12th standard certificate...
- M has a lively and honest interest in learning about herself—in the dialogue classes she is an active and willing participant, even when her peers are reticent. I think she sees the sincerity of her teachers alongside their limitations. We all wish M the very best in whatever she decides to do next. Needless to say, we anticipate that we will continue to be a part of her life and career—she cannot get rid of us so easily!