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Top 10 "Negative" Report Card Comments & Why They Could Actually Be a Good Thing

It’s here. Moms from coast to coast are trading popsicles and flip flops for packing lunches and helping with homework. The scent of sunscreen in the air. Sidewalk chalk and kickball games till dusk. And for many parents, lingering thoughts about their kid's year-end report card. Sure, grades are important. But what did it say inThe Box.

You know the one, that small rectangular space at the bottom of each reporting period. Teacher comments. What does the person who spent six to seven hours a day with my child really think?

Many are benign (“So proud of Harrison’s math fact mastery!”) Some are comical (“I appreciate Maddie’s enthusiasm for glue.) My mom happened to keep all of my school records and a general theme emerges; it seems young Kathryn was “very social." As an educator fluent in teacher-ese, clearly I couldn't keep my mouth shut (lol).

To be truthful yet kind, is sometimes a difficult job. And unfortunately, honest report card comments, even those embedded within the gentle phrases of a good teacher, can be perceived by parents as disapproval, rejection or dislike. Quite simply, these remarks hold the power to send parents reeling. But take heart. Here’s why a “negative” comment in The Box might not be so bad after all.

1. Big Personality (sometimes referred to as Bossy). This one is used for kids who like to tell others what to do (and not to do). But hold on a sec, isn’t the ability to be assertive a good thing, especially later in life? Like a boy who isn’t shy about telling his peers to stop before going through with a really dumb idea or a girl who is perfectly comfortable talking about what’s acceptable (and what’s not) on a date? You go, big personalities.

2. Strong willed/Stubborn. Now to be clear, defiance or disrespect is never okay. But the ability to make a firm decision or hold an opinion and stick with it will probably come in handy down the road. Chances are a kid that knows how to say no (thank you), will become a grown man who doesn’t get taken advantage of or a grown woman who can decline putting too much on her plate. PTA president, soccer team mom, bake sale coordinator AND making costumes for the school play? No (thank you).

3. Overly Sensitive (aka Dramatic). This one is personal. Our youngest child has always worn her heart on her sleeve. Ever since preschool, she feels all the feels, expresses her emotions without apology and cries at the drop of a hat (or dog commercial). But big emotions can mean huge hearts. Kids who are prone to being sensitive usually grow up with an enormous capacity for empathy, compassion and keeping a keen eye out for those who are hurting.

4. Extremely Shy/Doesn’t Participate in Class. These are the kids who don’t like to raise their hands or speak up in class. They’d much rather sit quietly, take it all in and let others do the talking. But it seems to me these little people are simply practicing the highly valuable capability of being a good listener. Lucky ducks, they've already figured out that we’re born with two ears and only one mouth for a reason.

5. Class Clown. I get it. These kids can be difficult to have in class. With their quick comebacks and witty responses, they draw attention to themselves and away from instruction. Like every day. But the older I get the clearer it becomes that a sense of humor is absolutely essential to living this life to its fullest. Cheers to children who can see the lighter side of things at a young age.

6. Difficulty with Transitions- Here's a comment reserved for kids who become intensely engaged in an activity (commonly referred to as a “preferred task”) and dislike being asked to stop and change gears. Although children do need to develop a capacity for change, remaining focused and concentrating for long periods of time should also be recognized as a talent. Not to mention that children who find passions early in life will have an easier time choosing college courses and picking careers.

7. Messy/Sloppy. Hallelujah! One less perfectionist in the world! Yes, it’s difficult to read these kids’ spelling tests and writing pieces, but students who don’t agonize over perfect penmanship or lose it for coloring outside the lines have a huge leg up on those of us who freak out over the most minuscule of mistakes (ahem, hypothetically speaking, of course).

8. Overly Active. These are the kids who are always on the go. In constant motion. True, they present a challenge in the classroom, but all of that extra energy can eventually serve these children well. Energetic adults are generally productive members of society, go-getters who like accomplishing tasks and dynamic people who enjoy living active, healthy lifestyles.

9. Slow worker. Let’s be real, if you’re going into surgery, do you want a doctor who rushed through her math assignments in third grade or one who took an extra twenty minutes to check every problem? Turned in his science test early or read every question twice? Being meticulous and careful with one’s school work can be an extremely helpful practice in life.

10. Chatty (aka Very Social). Okay, so some of us like to talk. (Apologies, Mrs. Walsh, Mrs. Sarno, Miss Mills, Mr. Skamballone). But on the upside, those of us who love words- speaking them, reading them, writing them- might just grow up to be people who love communicating and connecting with others. Teachers. Writers. Coaches. Talk show hosts. Auctioneers (ha!).

So if your child's end of school report card indicates that he or she is shy or bossy or messy or chatty or anything else that might be deemed as “negative,” don’t despair. Look a little deeper into that Box, it also holds the hope of a bright future.

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