Making Sense of The First Report Card: Five Things to Keep In Mind

By Tim Tibbitts

The first set of report cards have just come out, and parents across the country will be tempted to skip straight to the bottom line in search of one answer: Is it a good report card or is it a bad report card? As with most things in life, you’ll find that taking a more nuanced view is much more helpful than a quick glance followed by either a pat on the back or a scolding look. When done so effectively, it can be beneficial for parents and students to make sense of these first semester results together. Uncovering your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses earlier in the year means you’ll have more time to create a plan of action, and your child will be under less pressure to turn their grades around quickly. When you’re ready to discuss report cards with your child, be sure to keep these five ideas in mind.


1. Find A Reason To Celebrate

If your student continues to get straight A’s report card after report card, don’t take it for granted. On the other hand, if your child tends to struggle in school, find something in that report card that represents effort or progress and notice it out loud. Remember, it’s equally important to honor the effort that goes into achieving a good grade, as it is the good grade itself.


2. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Use these grades to identify their areas of strength and those in need of improvement. It’s easy to respond to a report card with a bunch of “good” grades and one “bad” grade by skimming past all the good grades and focusing on the outlier, but why not focus on both? Consider that report card an opportunity for discussion. Use it to find out why certain courses are going well, and what makes the course with the disappointing result different. After determining which skills and habits create success, brainstorm ideas for implementing them in their weaker areas.


3. Read the Small Print

In some schools, teachers are required to provide additional comments or narrative feedback in connection with report cards. Who better to explain why a student received the grade they did than the person doing the grading? Take advantage of those teacher comments, and if there aren’t any, seek them out. Email can be a great option. The student could email the teacher and cc the parent, or the parent can reach out privately in search of advice for better supporting their student at home. Either way, it shouldn’t be about helicopter parenting or negotiating with the teacher over a grade. Getting feedback in order to help your student make adjustments should be the goal.


4. Make A Plan

Make a very specific, concrete plan for course corrections. Typically, broad, general goal statements aren’t nearly as helpful as highly specific, measurable ones. It’s fine to say, “Let’s bring those B’s up to A’s,” but identifying which specific steps will lead to that outcome is likely to be more helpful.



5. Ask The Question

Last, but certainly not least, ask your child what they need. What can you do that would be the most helpful and supportive for them? Instead of jumping to conclusions about what should be done to make things better, try asking the person in the driver seat what they need.


It might be unseemly of me to list “hire a tutor“ as one of my tips, but tutors can be a great option when it comes to helping a student gain traction in a tough course, and in my experience, it’s better to invest in that support earlier rather than later. The end of the first marking period is a good opportunity to assess whether your student could use a little extra help in getting started and gaining traction. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you think we could be helpful.


Good luck! Tim


The Whole Kid’s founder, Tim Tibbitts, can be reached with questions at 216.235.3115 or by email at tim@thewholekid.com.