Exceptional Children: Navigating Learning Differences & Special Education

Report Card for Teachers

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The name of this magazine is Children's Voice, and as we begin the new year, let's resolve that will we listen to those voices in new and unexpected ways. If ever there is an environment in which children's voices should be heard, it is in the classroom, and yet often those voices are allowed to speak (verbally or non-verbally) only in response to requests and directions from their teachers. Every nine weeks or so teachers produce an evaluation of their students, perhaps called a report card or a progress report. In this way parents get feedback on how their children are handling the demands of the teacher and the school environment.

But rarely do the teachers seek reciprocal input. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch was famous for his quip, "How'm I doing?" As parents and teachers, it's a question we ask ourselves frequently, but often rhetorically. It may not ever occur to us to ask our children and students, "How'm I doing?" If we did, what might we learn?

My colleague and occupational therapy mentor Veda Nomura* MS, OTR/L gives us ideas for a report card that would help students tell their teachers how they feel about their work. Bear in mind that for many children with language-based learning differences, the text may be more effective if presented with visual backup. The type of visual used should be geared to the child or student's level of representation. Some students relate well to line drawings, while others require photographs or more detailed artwork illustrations. The text vocabulary must also be consistent with the student's current proficiency.

It goes without saying that this type of report card can be successful only when the child is assured that his feedback will carry no punitive or negative consequence, and with teachers who are willing to adapt their materials and their approach to a student who learns differently. This kind of dynamic environment, where information flows both to and from teachers, is where education reaches its highest level of possibility.

*See The Great Indoors: Classrooms that Inspire in the January/February 2008 issue of Children's Voice.

Adapted from 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger's by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk (2010, Future Horizons).

To comment on this article, e-mail voice@cwla.org.

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