No Weaknesses. No Problem.

Like other Ontario educators from around the province, I’m in the midst of starting our Communications of Learning: the new name for the Kindergarten report card. I’m even reluctant to write down the word “report card” because I think that the term “Communication of Learning” conveys a very different message. When we hear “report card,” we often think evaluation. Reporting lets parents know how well their child is doing, but also highlights areas of weakness. The “Communication of Learning” is different. We are truly writing a learning story on each child. We are not focusing on what the child can’t do. 

  • We’re highlighting what they can.
  • We’re highlighting the biggest areas of growth.
  • And we’re providing specific next steps that meets the needs of each child.

I know that there are concerns that the “Communication of Learning” does not include weaknesses. I will admit that at first I had some reservations about this too. Shouldn’t a parent know if their child is struggling? But then I stopped and I did some more thinking.

  • For years, on the Kindergarten Report Cards, we were asked not to write about weaknesses: focus on what the child can do and what you’re doing to move the child forward.
  • I also wonder if this decision to avoid highlighting “weaknesses” also aligns with the underlying message in the document to focus on the whole child. If we truly view the child as “competent and capable of complex thinking,” would we not be focused more on abilities?
  • Our finalized document also gives us permission to access the ELECT Document if the curriculum expectations do not match the child and his/her needs. Again, our Program Document gives the important message that each child will meet with success based on expectations that are at his/her developmental level. 

Just because weaknesses are not discussed in the “Communication of Learning,” it doesn’t mean that we can’t speak to parents if we have concerns. I can’t help but wonder if our finalized document though changes the overall message about learning that has not been explicitly communicated until now: learning is developmental, so children progress at their own rate. We can support this progression in the classroom. We can provide interventions as necessary, but we also have to reach and teach each child where they’re at. 

  • So if we have that child that is developmentally like a two-year-old and believes that everything is “mine,” we have to model how to share.
  • And if we have that child that is still exploring cause and effect, we have to let him/her explore the same thing again and again, so that he/she starts to make the connections.
  • And if we have that child that still hits, kicks, and screams because that’s how children communicate until they have the words and the control to do something different, then we have to be there — calmly — to support this student and model other options. We have to give him/her the words that he/she may not already have. 

These may present as “weaknesses,” but if we re-frame, could we instead see them as just developmental realities? Do focusing on these areas become our Next Steps: looking at specific ways to move to the next developmental milestones?

I’ve written report cards for Grades 1-6, and I know how different this viewpoint is from what we’re used to doing. Imagine though if all “report cards” became “Communications of Learning.” We always say that “children matter the most in education”: the Communication of Learning truly supports this belief and views students through an asset lens. If we really stopped to think, why does a statement of “weaknesses” matter? If we consistently highlight for children their individual growth as compared against themselves, how might this change their mindset and their overall growth? As I use this Snow/Ice Day to work on our Communications of Learning, I can’t help but ask myself these questions. What do you think?


2 thoughts on “No Weaknesses. No Problem.

  1. Enjoying your thinking here, Aviva, and the following really jumped out at me, “If we really stopped to think, why does a statement of ‘weaknesses’ matter?” Exactly! We’re just going to talk about what the child can do and what next steps would be so lets cut out the negative messaging and look at our learners through an “asset lens”. 🙂

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