Dennis the Menace, times 35 . . . (and Report Cards)

Hello, blog readers!  

I realize I haven't posted a blog entry in months, so I've decided it's time to discipline myself and just start writing about what I've been up to in the classroom since my last post.  

First of all, I just want to say this: thirty-five students in one first grade classroom is too many.  Do I sound whiny?  Probably.  But the difference between 28 students (last year's class) and 35 (this year) feels exponential.  And, over two-thirds of them are boys.  And, most of them are your stereotypical boys to boot: boys who love to run, talk loudly, and get dirty.   They're all like little Dennis-the-Menaces: adorable and inquisitive, with a knack for messes and mischief.   But as adorable as my class is, and as much as I just can't stay mad at them for long no matter what they've done, I've been working my tail off trying to keep my head above water for the last three months!  More students = more grading, more parent emails to respond to, more reading centers to plan . . . I could go on and on.  My big idea of getting in shape this year, and going to Cardio Barre at least three times a week?  I fell off that wagon the first week of school.  Instead, I've been staying at school until it gets dark outside.

But let's look at the positive: I've just completed my first trimester report cards (woo hoo!), and on time, might I add!  Report card comments always take me forever, but luckily I was able to use a lot of the same comments I used last year for this year's students.  I always write my comments in a Word document before typing them into Gradelink (the online grading system we use at my school), so that I can refer back to them later for ideas when writing comments for the next year.  I realized most of my comments follow a formula: 

  1. State how much you love the having the student in class (with varying levels of enthusiasm depending on how much you truly do love having the student in class).
  2. Write about a strength that the student possesses.  (If said student is struggling in all areas, state which subject areas have shown the most improvement in the last grading period.)
  3. Include an area of growth, where the student needs additional support or increased practice.  Often time, this is where I tell parents that their child "has a tendency to get distracted, which prevents him/her from doing his/her best work." 
  4. Reiterate how you look forward to seeing the student grow over the course of the rest of the year.  


The hardest part about report card comments is making sure you're communicating the areas in which a student needs to grow, while still letting the parent know that you see their child's gifts and care about their child's well-being.  However, I've found that if written well, (and cushioned in the right euphemism), you can tell parents just about anything about their child without them becoming upset with you.  


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For example: 
You WISH you could say: Little Johnny loves the sound of his own voice, especially when it's speaking over yours (the teacher's), and barely stops speaking long enough to take a breath.  

You should say INSTEAD: Little Johnny has strong verbal skills, and enjoys speaking in front of the class.  He has a tendency to talk with his classmates at inappropriate times, however, instead of focusing on his work.  I would like to see Johnny channel that energy into his writing, using his oral language skills to improve his writing by "writing as he would speak." 

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See?  It's all about how you word it.  Both comments communicate the fact that Johnny talks. (All. Day. Long.)  But the second comment shifts Johnny's (oftentimes annoying) talking habit into a positive trait.  Here's another one: 
                                            
You WISH you could say: Little Ralphie fights with other students and cannot keep his hands to himself.  

You should say INSTEAD: Ralphie struggles with impulse control, both in the classroom and on the playground.  A goal for Ralphie this coming trimester is to work on using his communication skills when feeling unfocused, frustrated, or angry.  

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So, with the start of a new trimester on Monday, here's to fresh beginnings, and new resolutions!

1. Go to Cardio Barre at least once a week.  (Baby steps!)
2. Write a blog entry at least once a week.  

While it is perhaps true that the only one who will be able to tell if I've been working out is me when I'm trying on my skinny jeans, it will be quite apparent to my blog readers if I'm not writing blog entries.  Hold me to it, blog readers!  (I just saw that I've reached over 1,500 views so far!  While it may not be in the millions like some of my blogging idols, I'm still flattered and surprised that I've received over a thousand!)