A Report on School Reports

My daughter (a high school junior) has many talents. Putting pen to paper is not one of them.

She is a fantastic writer and has written some amazing poetry and short stories. But the physical act of writing – taking the ideas and knowledge from her brain and making them readable to others – is hard for her. Always has been.

The frustration of it is palatable. I remember helping her with a history assignment as a freshman. The questions required lengthy answers. She could tell me what she read and explain her answer, but having to write it all out reduced her to tears and anger.

We are in a different school, now. When we had a family-teacher conference a couple months ago, the subject of writing came up. My daughter took the opportunity to explain the difficulty. The teacher acknowledged that Catherine knows the material, but she needs to have something tangible so she can grade it. So they came up with a plan.

Catherine still has writing assignments. Instead of writing out the entire report, she can write an outline with her topics and what needs to be covered in the response. Then she sets up a time to talk with the teacher so she can give a complete response to the question. Verbally.

Has it made a difference? YES!

The first thing is Catherine’s confidence. She knows that her teacher is listening to her. The teacher recognizes and is creating success by allowing Catherine to use her natural strength. They’re working together. In return, Catherine is putting effort into writing.

Next up: promoting creative problem-solving. Together, student and teacher are working to reach the same goal and are not wedded to a “right” way to get there. Ultimately, what we are seeing (and I realize it is not just because of one class/teacher) is someone who is starting to look at options for dealing with situations that she might have dismissed or not have seen before.

Last but not least – and this was the most unexpected – is the ripple effect. Outlines for a class report are one thing. Writing – yes witing! – outlines and lists for non-school stuff? Y-E-S! I can’t believe my eyes. I am so excited because these “things” are being created without prompting. This is becoming a habit – a permanent tool in her toolbox.

This isn’t something that can be done in every classroom. Still, I can hope that when the opportunity to listen to – and connect with – a young learner presents itself, that great things will happen.