17,318 Words Later…

Comment writing is officially over!

I wrote 9,053 words for 8th grade. This does not count the 11 “Habits of Mind” comments I made for my advisees.

…and 8,265 words for 7th grade.

During the (long, arduous, mentally-exhausting, makes-me-want-to-strangle-myself-with-my-own-hands-if-such-a-thing-were-even-possible) process of writing comments, I try to remind myself: “Yes, Bree; you believe in giving students detailed, specific feedback. This is something you feel is important.” Which is all true, but when it’s three o’clock and your comments are due at 4, and you’re in the middle of ripping your hair out because you haven’t even finished one grade level yet, it’s hard to hold onto this core value in a meaningful way.

This was the first reporting session in the two years I have been writing comments that I turned in my reports late. I was all responsible about it *of course* but it still felt a little gut-wrenching to realize that I hadn’t gotten my work done when I was supposed to. Better to hand in comments late than hand in shitty comments, though.

Anyways, the real reason I’ve gathered you all together today is not to publicly agonize¬†about how difficult my life is, but actually to tell you how I go about writing all of these comments in a ridiculously (says Avery) short amount of time. I started writing my 73 student & advisee comments Thursday evening, and I finished them bright & early, a little after 9:00, Saturday morning. And, yes, I slept both nights.

First off, I have a road-map for my comments. I ¬†put in specific details about each chunk of text, but I work from the same framework for all of my comments. Here’s what my structure looks like:

Napoleon’s goal for the spring trimester was to…conquer all of Europe.

On his self-evaluation, Napoleon reported, “due to a harsh winter and inadequate supplies, I was unable to accomplish my goal.”

Napoleon stated that on the final cumulative test in algebra, …

On the final bottle rocket POW, a joint project between math and science, Napoleon…

Over the course of the year, Napoleon…

As Napoleon moves on to [high school] in the fall, his goal is…

I wish Napoleon the best of luck in high school next year!

[Apparently, Napoleon was an 8th grader during the Russian Invasion.]

As you can probably see, there are numerous instances where I quote students directly and put words from their self-evaluations into the official report card comment. I do this whenever possible. It would have taken me much longer to write all 73 comments without these evaluations, and they would likely have been less specific. Having students reflect on their own work, with a focus on strengths and areas for improvement allowed me to give each student the benefit of a fresh mind, even when my own was fried.

I also experimented this trimester with giving students a “comment template” and telling them that I was having them write their own comment. The template I gave them and the one I wound up using for the actual reports turned out to be a bit different, but I would modify the form and use it again next year.

I make sure to point out in the comment where I disagree with a student’s self-assessment. This usually has to do with the student claiming that they did not meet their goal, and basically being way more negative than I feel is appropriate. I very rarely–not at all in this reporting period–have to disagree because a student overstated their accomplishments. They are pretty much always on the mark.

Next year, I’d like to experiment with using some sort of electronic form (google forms, or a shared OneNote file) instead of paper and pencil forms. My next-year-school uses surveymonkey for the course evaluations, so that’s another route I could go. I actually want to try doing a sort of course-long interactive electronic journal which this would plug nicely into, so if anyone has any suggestions or has been doing something like that, please let me know.