“Reports…… I had a few!” to basterdise a well known tune. (if you aren’t singing it before you are now!)
Because of the situation with the accident I have had my fair share of reports from doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, you name it, I’ve probably have a report done for it, or about to have a report done for it.
But one thing that is consistent through all of this process is how very quickly these so called specialists make their judgement on you in a relatively small amount of time. My allotted time often is no more than 60 to 90 minutes. Yet in that time they make conclusions about both my current physical and mental state.
Based on what?
What I tell them about what has happened to me, how I felt about it at the time, how I feel about it now. The effects it has on me currently or in the recent past. I try to be composed, articulate, not overly dramatic, open and honest in my descriptions, I use my words carefully. Sometimes the tears flow but generally I hold it all together as I recount the impact on my life that one accident has had on me. They nod and prod. Write stuff down.
They have read written records about my past but do not question me on them, however they use that information to determine the effect that may be having on the current situation. They then write their report based on their informed opinion. It takes apparently about 10 weeks for this often to be done (believe me!)
It is amazing though, how when you read the written report, you don’t recognise the person they are talking about. How in merely 90 minutes they seem to have you all figured out. They can put into black and white words on a page, what the issue is, how it is being affected by past trauma, how to treat it now, how long it will take for you to heal. How so many words in a report can tear down every piece of positive work you’ve been doing since the ‘index event’ (their words) to us the accident. How someone who doesn’t know you can write about you and make you feel so small and insignificant.
That with their words, they suddenly make you start to believe that maybe you dreamed it, and actually the pain you feel isn’t real because chronic pain is subjective to the person feeling it. How would they know what you really feel when you spend all day putting on that brave face.
Words are so powerful if you let them be. Reports are just one persons opinion of a situation.
I have to remind myself of that.
I know my reality, my truth.
But this made me start to think about the reports that I have written over the years about my students that I have taught. How maybe my words have had an impact on them.
We all dread that time in the calendar when we see Year X reports due. We know that we have Y number of young people to write about that we only see maybe for 1-2 hours a week. Depending on the type of report we may be writing about Learning Progress and/or behavior for Learning. We may also have to write a Tutor report about that student as well. That is a lot of words.
Some schools use phrase banks, others use behaviour grades or codes, some use colour codes. No matter, we have to put words on paper sometime.
But have we really thought about how these words may really affect the student we write about. How much real thought goes into each individual report. How often do we have standard phrases that we return to time and time again. To save time, make the process less painful for ourselves!
Can we really say that we know our students well enough? Plus are there some students that we kinda only scratch the surface on really knowing. Can we really write great reports on them, that are meaningful and helpful. That will give parents/care givers a real sense of how they are doing in your class, and how they can help their child to reach their potential in your subject. Do our words really show that we know them?
Or are we just churning out reports for report sake, often not thinking about the impact that the words have on the well being and mental health of the student concerned. Or perhaps, they may not actually show that report to those that are at home for fear of the repercussions. Maybe your words might be the ones that tip the scale in the wrong direction finally breaking that students confidence down. Maybe our well crafted report never makes it home at all for what ever reason.
But if we choose our words carefully we can make the difference. We can use our words to encourage higher achievement, bolster self esteem, or just to let a student know that they are doing OK and just to keep going, because we do know them, we see them, we recognise the effort, the achievement, the fact that things are tough but they are there every day. Even if it is only the student that reads it, because our well crafted report never makes it home at all for what ever reason.
I know it isn’t easy when we are faced often with short time frames for turn around and often difficult students with low performance for what ever the reason. Plus a million other things to do.
So all I ask is the next time you have to write a report on student or anyone else.
Think about this:-
Choose your words carefully, as you’ll never know the impact you might have.