We are telling a student’s story – but who are we telling it to?
Three times a year (more reasonably twice per year) teachers in schools all over the place meditate about their students. They might shuffle through notes, re-read prior assessments, reflect on anecdotes, but ultimately they sit down and bang out narrative reports about each student. These narratives depict some or all aspects of each student’s school life: Social Emotional Development, Literacy, Math, Units of Inquiry, etc. What I think about sometimes when I go through this process is this: who am I writing all of this for? Am I painting a picture for the students’ parents? Are these reports designed to inform the students’ future teachers? Are they official documents that are supposed to accurately and professionally depict the children as learners, in the event that they need to used as entrance assessments by schools somewhere in those students’ futures? In my New York City teaching career we were often reminded that the reports that we wrote could be used to challenge a child’s being held back a year due to a poor test result. Sort of a “this is a legal document ” warning.
Ultimately, we are writing for all of these audiences. Depending on your school and its philosophy, more for one than another. It bears thinking about and discussing. We put lots of hours into these narratives, work that when coupled with a thoughtful portfolio and with a student’s own voice, can really tell a story. Who are we telling the story to?