By Julia Gorham
A thoughtfully written narrative report is the best way to successfully convey the depth of knowledge you have about the children in your precious care.
Your role as an educator is important!
At our school, we celebrate each child’s uniqueness and celebrate their special qualities that makes them extra special!
We will add “what they say,” “what they love,” “what they do,” “what they say,” “how they interact with others,” “their favourite activities,” “songs,” “reading books,” “food”, “how they contribute to the classroom dynamics” etc.
Here are a few helpful tips for teachers to write children’s progress reports.
Building a strong connection with your parents is an essential ingredient of running a happy, successful School.
Use a narrative format when writing your Montessori progress reports
Parents are eager to know what their children are doing when they are away from them.
A checklist will never fully serve this need. Neither will a few short comments. A thoughtfully written narrative is the best way to adequately convey the depth of knowledge you have about the child.
If you do use a checklist, make sure it is a minor part of the complete progress report package. To most parents, terms such as “broad stair”,” geometric solids” , “ binomial cube” are a mystery. Any list of materials should always indicate where a parent can get more information about the material and how it fits into the overall sequence.
Provide a holistic view of the child’s development rather than focusing only on academic progress
Children are holistic beings and a Montessori environment caters to the whole child. In addition to the academics, be sure to include information about social development, motor development, concentration, independence, work habits, you get the idea!
Make 5 positive comments for every negative comment
Stephen Covey, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, explained the concept of an emotional bank account. Every positive interaction you have with a person makes “deposits” into that person’s emotional bank account. Every negative interaction makes a withdrawal from that account. The more deposits you make before you attempt to make a withdrawal, the stronger the account and the relationship.
It is, however, not quite as simple as that. Unfortunately, even mild negative interactions can pack quite a punch and quickly deplete the emotional bank account you have been building up. When writing progress reports, aim to provide 5-8 positive comments about the child for every single potentially negative comment you make.
Describe your observations; don’t make a diagnosis
Accurately describe your observations of challenging behaviours but refrain from making any diagnostic comments. It is appropriate to say, “Peter often needs assistance to help him stay on task” but not“Peter is hyperactive.”
Accurate, detailed descriptions of a child’s behaviour can be very effective in conveying the essence of a challenging issue. Labelling a child is not your job and can often create distance between you and the parent at a time when you most need to be working together.
Describe the strategies you are using to address any challenges mentioned in your report
Don’t leave parents hanging if you bring up a challenge their child is facing! It is very reassuring to parents when you follow up with a description of the strategies you have been using to address the issue, and the degree of success you have had with them. Whether or not the strategies have been effective, it demonstrates clearly to the parents that you are in control of the situation and that you are not about to abandon their child.
When you simply list a child’s challenges you may be perceived as a complainer but when you describe what you are doing to help, you become an ally in the parents’ quest for doing the best for their child.
This also opens up a dialogue with the parents who will often start thinking of alternate strategies they have been using at home in similar situations.
Of course, detailed information of this type will be of immeasurable help if the parents decide to pursue any external support services as well.
Include memorable anecdotes
Don’t underestimate the value of the “warm and fuzzies” in your Montessori progress report. Parents want to know that you love their child and are as moved by his special ways as they are.
Make it a point to note down one or two specific incidents that highlight the unique way the child would react to a situation. Don’t be afraid of writing down jokes the child has made up, something special he wrote for picture-story, kind words he said to a child who accidentally pushed him, or the day he spent 20 minutes staring out the window in awe at a bird building it’s nest.
Refer to past challenges that have shown progress
Always check back to previous reports and the challenges the child had been facing. Make sure you celebrate the progress that has been made since then. Sometimes children grow so much over the course of a summer or semester that we forget that what seems so easy for them now was causing us concern before. This is particularly important for a child who has many issues. Reassure yourself and the parent that the child is indeed making progress!
Never write about problems that you have not already discussed with the parent face-to-face
That would be the biggest progress report faux pas of all! There should be no unpleasant surprises in a written Montessori progress report. (Pleasant surprises are always welcome) Make sure you have a face-to- face meeting to discuss troubling issues prior to writing the report. Use your body language and tone of voice to be as reassuring as possible. In your report you can refer to the meeting and strategies discussed.
Start and end on a positive note
We tend to remember the things we encounter first and last in a sequence of items. Even if you have a lot of troubling issues to tackle in the report, you can still start and end on a positive note. Remember, you are providing a view of the whole child; this is not the time to emphasize one particular challenge- that is best done face to face. Use this opportunity to convey a well rounded portrait of the child.