Are (old) school reports useful?

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I was sorting out the filing cabinet at home the other day at the same time looking for that vital form that you need to claim back some sort of insurance.  It is never easy to throw things away and sometimes you wonder why you hang on to random nostalgia from the past, it is as though there is an emotional bond and a difficulty to let go.  So the easiest thing to do is file it away at the back of a draw or at the bottom of a box and ultimately forget about it.  Until you stumble across it again de-cluttering hence I found my old school reports from my days as a student at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

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I quickly flicked through them and then started to read some of the comments reflecting back on my time as a learner at school and the way I must have been perceived by my own teachers.  I enjoyed school and thinking back had good teachers that supported me and tried their best to help me fulfill my potential.  Reading through the comments on the report you can tell which teachers really knew you though and understood your personality, your strengths and also your areas for development.  Being a teacher myself and having written – in fact typed – a great number of reports it is always important to demonstrate the uniqueness of each individual student and make that connection with them and their parents, I believe this provides confidence and reassurance that the learning relationship is genuine and that the teacher is doing the best they can to ensure that particular student succeeds.  Teaching is all about engagement and relationships.

Mr. Westerman, my old Head of Year, obviously knew me well through our learning engagements (he also led the school orchestra – I used to play the saxophone!). Looking back over his comments on my school report I like the way his writing style demonstrated he knew me but is also confident in getting a serious message across.  I am also impressed by his big picture approach with regard to education and learning as he talks about  the ‘package’ that includes good subject passes but also the importance of developing ‘personality’ and ‘appearance.’  How many interviews have you had where the interviewers have asked about your subjects or grades?  They say 33% of bosses know if they will hire someone in the first 90 seconds.

Graduating class from Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Ashbourne, 1995

Graduating class from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ashbourne, 1995

What about my peers who studied with me at the same school?  Where have their subject grades, personalities and appearances taken them?  Which one of those three elements has been the most important factor?  Did or do they ever reflect on their school reports and experiences during random moments of de-cluttering?  I hope they are achieving life success and happiness wherever they are.  Maybe one of them will interview me or you one day…

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You may like to read some funny sentences taken from actual school reports in the UK and submitted to the Telegraph newspaper here.  They made me smile and think about the next set of reports I will have to write.

My last reflection is an acknowledgement to Mrs. Forbes who was my form tutor and Geography teacher during secondary school and I guess a big factor in me becoming a Geography teacher.  Looking back at these reports I noticed that her comments and feedback were always personal with serious targets for improvement and written in a confident manner, she was not afraid to drop me down a grade either.  This must have motivated me as from what I recall she was the teacher I least wanted to let down – and I hope I haven’t… thank you Mrs. Forbes for inspiring me to be a geographer and teaching me how to be a better teacher.


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