It's report card time in our district. It's the time of the year when our teachers work hard to ensure all of their students' grades are entered on time, and that each student receives thoughtful, reflective feedback on their learning. When I first became principal, I knew I wanted to start a routine at my school involving report cards that dated back to my own experience as a student. When I was a student, it wasn't the grades themselves that were most important to me (although those were pretty important!) Every time my report card came home, I remember my eyes scanning the card to see what was written there. The grade was a reflection of my achievement, but it was the teacher's comments that were so much more meaningful to me. Whatever I found written there had so much more impact on me as a learner than a simple letter. I made a pact with myself: if I ever were to become principal, I would always take the time to review every student's report card and hand-write my comments onto each and every card.
My school is an elementary school for approximately 380 kindergarten through sixth grade students. Reviewing each and every card is a significant investment of personal time. In my view, the investment of time is miniscule in comparison to the magnitude of the message it sends to my students and their families: your principal held this card, reflected upon your progress in your learning, and gave you the feedback and encouragement to help you conquer the challenges that lie ahead. The written words on this card show that there are multiple people here (i.e., your teacher, your principal, the entire school staff) who care about you and your learning and are here to help you achieve your highest potential.
When I first arrived at my school, this routine was a new one for the staff. They had not been accustomed to the principal wanting to review every report card. The idea seemed a bit strange to some at first, but I was thrilled to see that now some of my teachers have started to hand-write their comments on their report cards as well! The impact of these encouraging words on our 380 current students is incalculable. Imagining the future gifts these actions bestow on our students makes the investment of time seems trivial in comparison. As is true with many things in life, it can be the little things that can end up making all of the difference in the world.