One of my least favorite activities as a teacher is writing report card comments. It used to be worse, though. In my former incarnation as Department Chair, I actually had to read every comment each Upper School teacher wrote to ensure that some slip of the finger, unwanted auto correction, or careless cutting and pasting didn’t send the wrong message:
Harold’s prose feces strong verb selection, but he needs to vary sentence structure. Looking ahead, in preparation for the research papers due November 1st, she should make sure to update her working biography as she adds new sources.
Remember how in the lower grades, you’d pack your book reports with unnecessary prepositional phrases to jack up the word count? Well, some teachers lard their comments with detailed synopses of the course curriculum. Sure, it fills up space but fails to provide any insight into how adept young Anastasia is in synthesizing the various components that led to the Russian Revolution. As a parent, I found these descriptions of the courses’ content boring and skipped down to see how sons Ned and Harrison were handling the material, which reminds me of my favorite report card comment ever.
In the 6th grade, my younger son Ned had taken Jesus for his Spanish name. His end of the year report card started with this not very promising topic sentence: “I’m so disappointed in Jesus.” 
Anyhow, here’s my method. First, I break down their averages into components:
Daily 58 Essays 84 Tests 60 Independent Reading 90
A parent should infer from this information that young Livingston hasn’t been doing his homework. Ideally, the parent would understand the correlation of Livingston’s not doing his homework with his paltry test average. On the other hand, he’s not a bad writer.
Here’s what I might write below the averages on Livingston’s report card:
Livingston needs to make sure that he reads each of his homework assignments slowly and carefully. He should consider, not only the content of the pieces, but also the authors’ techniques.
Livingston’s writing is solid, though he relies too heavily on linking verbs and occasionally mistakes phrases and subordinate clauses for sentences. I encourage him to proofread his essays backwards, i.e., the last sentence first, the second to last sentence second, etc. This method slows students down and helps them to focus on each individual sentence.
Although the administration would probably prefer that I end the comment with something positive like “Livingston is very bright, and I encourage him to cultivate his native talents,” I generally don’t. I’m a busy man. I’ve demonstrated I’m very familiar with their son’s work (or lack thereof) and provided practical suggestions (which of course I’ve already mentioned to Livingston in person several times).
Donald Trump was up this morning at 3 a.m. tweeting. Maybe I could farm out some comments to him.
Lazy Livingston can’t be bothered to read his assignments. He keeps this up and he’ll be flunking out of mediocre UMass next year. That is, if he gets in. Pathetic!
 A very unfortunate auto correction of the intended “features.”
 Which brings to mind a stanza from the Ezra Pound poem “Ballad of the Goodly Frere”:
When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he. (my emphasis)
 Which would result in a 75 for the quarter.
One thought on “Blitzkrieg Report Card Comment Seminar”
Something is so neat about the pic at the top, but I can’t figure out what. Maybe I watch too much PBS, but there’s something about the past I cling to occasionally. It might be wishful thinking bc I remember watching WWII videos in 7th grade. By the way, I really don’t think boarding school worked w/ Donald Trump 🙂