Magazine Feature

Toolkit for "It’s Report Card Time—and I Despise It"

This teacher dreads reducing her students to a few words on a progress report. So what would she rather tell them instead?


In the personal essay “It’s Report Card Time—and I Despise It,” teacher Heidi Ames expresses her misgivings about the limitations of report card comments. Report cards have inspired several other TT contributors over the years. In this activity—which can be done solo or as part of a professional learning community—educators read a handful of blogs inspired by report cards, then reflect on their own feelings or epiphanies about student evaluations.


Essential Questions

  • What role do report cards play in your classroom or school culture?
  • What practices can make report card time as beneficial to students and families as possible?



Report card “season” can be as stressful for educators as it is for students—but it can also inspire reflection. This read/reflect/write activity can help you think more deeply about an administrative task that has profound emotional and pedagogical implications. Follow these instructions by yourself, or print the handout version and share it with your department or professional learning community.

  1. Read how two educators reacted to the dynamics surrounding report cards and grades and how it changed their thinking.

    It’s Report Card Time—and I Despise It
    Labeling Black Male Students ‘Angry’” 

  2. Reflect on what you read. What surprised you? Which author did you find yourself responding most strongly to? What ideas will you take away from this reading?

  3. Take a moment to reflect on your own experience writing report cards, and ask yourself the following questions:
    • What do I remember about receiving report cards as a student?
    • What is the culture of my classroom when report card time arrives?
    • Has writing a report card ever led me to examine or change my practice? Should it have?
    • Do I let my students’ grades influence my feelings about or expectations of them?
    • What do I wish I could assess my students on?
    • What message do I want my report card comments to convey to my students and their families?

  4. Take 15–20 minutes and expand on your answer to one of the reflection questions above. Alternately, do some free writing about report card time, either from your point of view as an educator or as a former student.

  5. Share your written reflection with a colleague or summarize it verbally. If this activity inspired you to change your practice, write down one actionable goal and post it where you can see it.
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