Reading Between the Lines

Report cards will be sent home in the near future for many school aged children. That envelope with the enclosed report card represents about 17 hours of collective teacher work– especially if you receive personal comments on your progress report. My son receives comments from 9 separate teachers. Some of the comments are only one sentence long, but if you know how to read between the lines, they say much more than you might think at first glance.

Match your report card comments with the key words and phrases listed below to determine if your kid is an Intelligent Follower or a Friendly Underachiever. Suzy will be playing the part of your daughter; Johnny will be playing the part of your son.

Hard Worker, Reliable, Independent, Intelligent

  • Suzy is organized.
  • Johnny exceeds expectations on assignments.
  • Suzy is an eager participant
  • Johnny is a conscientious student.
  • Suzy often contributes ideas that show an understanding that go beyond the surface meaning.
  • Johnny has consistent work habits.
  • Suzy is a self-starter.
  • Johnny volunteers ideas often that enhance class discussion.
  • Suzy is a pro-active learner and asks questions or seeks help if she needs additional practice with a skill.
  • Johnny meets objectives for the “X” assignment.
  • Suzy has good time management skills.
  • Johnny has creative ideas.

Kind, Thoughtful, Friendly

  • Johnny arrives at school with a smile every morning.
  • Suzy makes an effort to show consideration to others.
  • Johnny is a leader both as a friend and as a student.
  • Suzy is cooperative.
  • Johnny is respectful.
  • Suzy works well during group work.
  • Johnny makes good choices in the classroom.
  • Suzy thinks of others first, and I appreciate her kindness.
  • Johnny goes out of his way to help classmates and teachers.
  • Suzy has a caring attitude.


  • Suzy does not always like to work independently and needs support to start assignments.
  • Johnny has not embraced the effort required to be a successful “X” grader.
  • Suzy does not take ownership of her work.
  • I would like to see Johnny demonstrate more personal responsibility.
  • Suzy is struggling with the amount of time and effort required to complete assignments well.


  • Johnny is capable of making his own decisions.
  • Suzy should consider what she believes is right and not make choices based on her classmates’ decisions.
  • Johnny’s peers have a strong influence on his behavior.

Disruptive, Hyper, Chatty

  • I need to re-direct Suzy’s attention often.
  • I would like Johnny to settle into class more quickly.
  • Suzy’s self control is improving, and I appreciate her effort.
  • Johnny seeks attention that delays instruction.
  • I sense that Suzy is looking for loopholes, so she can create her own set of rules for completing assignments.
  • I want Johnny to focus on classroom procedures.
  • Suzy is enthusiastic in class, but she should give classmates a turn as well.
  • Johnny needs to make sure he is chatting at appropriate times.
  • Suzy needs to focus on the teacher, not classmates, during class instruction.

Know-it-All, Bossy, Bully

  • Johnny is a leader in the class but does not always influence the group in a positive way.
  • Suzy struggles with peer relations.
  • We are working together to make sure Johnny is setting positive examples.
  • I would like to remind Suzy to consider her classmate’s feelings.
  • Johnny is working to improve social skills.
  • Suzy does not need to monitor the activities of classmates.
  • I do have to remind Johnny not to worry about his classmates’ choices.

Underachiever, Careless, Disorganized

  • Suzy does not always show what she knows on assessments.
  • Johnny should carefully read directions.
  • If Suzy will review work before giving it to the teacher, it will reduce errors.
  • Johnny has great ideas even though it might take him some time to organize his thoughts.
  • Suzy has made great efforts to improve her organization and focus in class.
  • I would like Johnny to stretch his abilities.
  • Suzy’s final project was not as polished as I had hoped.
  • I am encouraging Johnny not to rush to finish first.

The positive comments are easy to decipher. Constructive comments are difficult (these are the negative ones). Teachers want to set goals for improvement but let parents know in a way that is not overly confrontational. What kinds of comments do you receive on your children’s report cards? What comments worked well, which ones were confusing, and which ones were so generic they did not give you any insight into your child’s progress at school? Please share.

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