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Writing Report Card Comments: A Teacher’s Cheat sheet for SUCCESS

Writing Report Card Comments: A Teacher’s Cheat sheet for SUCCESS


Ahh, the art of writing report card comments. None of us love, but we all got to do it!

When teachers are asked to write report card comments, we know we must oftentimes sugarcoat the reality of a child’s performance as much as possible. There must be a nice, productive way of saying even the worst things, e.g. “Your kid kinda sucks!”.

Does the student sit around all day, staring out the window, eating boogers? Just say that he “Has quite an appetite for life!”.

Do they ask to use the bathroom forty times a day? Try “They make a willing and conscientious effort to maintain good hygiene.”

Or if the student cannot stop yelling out inappropriate comments about the teacher’s body parts, you can say they are “Excellent at self-expression!”.

In lieu of meaningful report card comments (because parents can be a wee bit allergic to the truth), there are plenty of helpful words and phrases for writing reports that we can utilize to obfuscate what we mean. The secret is to dodge, duck, and weave like a pro. Little did you know your life in the teaching profession would be playing the role of a politician and mastering the trade of covert communication!

And much like a politician, you can’t come out and tell the truth. It’s just not allowed.

So instead, to help you figure out how to comment on a student report card, I’ve listed a bunch of tips and examples for teachers in this article. As well as some generally hilarious ones. This article will help you save some time and mental labor, of course, but it should also help you formulate remarks on student performance in a way that lets you keep your job!

So without further ado, here are all the comments that you would REALLY like to write on some student report cards. And more importantly, how to make them SFW.

A student holds up their report card with backhanded teacher comments about them
Master the art of the backhanded compliment.

Teacher Report Card Comments By Category:
How to Dodge, Duck, and Weave

Alrighty, you ready, fellow educators? The art of writing effective report card comments (“effective” meaning least likely to rock the boat) is much like the art of quiet quitting teaching! It takes ingenuity to keep everyone happy while not taking on the stress yourself.

Here’s how you take all those negative comments from teacher evaluations and pad them for parental eyes. I’ve broken it down by category, focusing on:

  1. Student Behavior
  2. Work Habits and Performance
  3. Class and Assessment Grading
  4. Interim and Midterm Progress Reports

So just skip ahead to the relevant topic. Or read them all because writing ANY report card comments is a pain in the posterior! Either way, keep it evasive and remember to DODGE.

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#1: Comments on Behavior

Oh boy, behavior. Does the student have a positive attitude? Does the student follow classroom rules or just behave like an animal?

These are the questions we can’t answer honestly. So instead, try these report card comments for failing students!

  • If the student is annoying, simply say that they are enthusiastic or eager.
  • If the parent’s personality is clearly the reason the kid is awful, just say, “Learning begins at home.”
  • When the student is torturing you during classroom activities with their terrible behavior, try saying, “It’s been an interesting semester.”
  • “Always smiling” is a good substitute for a kid with no idea what’s happening.
  • For students who won’t ever shut up, try writing phrases like “Great language skills” or “Active participant in discussions”.
  • A bossy kid “Has many insightful ideas to share during class discussions,” or has “excellent leadership skills”.
  • If the kid simply farts too much in class, try “Behavior can be a bit unpredictable.”
  • Does the student say, “I hate you” on a daily basis? Just say they are working on having a more positive attitude and better social skills in class.
  • If you can’t find anything constructive to say about a kid, consider this: can they tie their own shoes? Then say, “Problem solves independently.”
A bossy student throws a tantrum about the negative remarks they got from their teacher on their report card.

#2 Comments on Work Habits

Moving away from the ever-worsening crisis of student behavior and over to the ever-worsening crisis of their work habits, let’s look at some more ways to phrase your comments on teacher report cards.

Here’s what to do for kids with crap work ethic!

  • Do you have to write a comment for one of six kids in class with a similar name and you can’t really remember which one this is? Just write, “Follows directions,” or “Turns class assignments in on time,” or even “Uses class time wisely.”
  • Does the kid lose their mind when working on group tasks? Then say, “Works well independently.”
  • Also, “Takes an active role and shows commitment to schooling,” is a nice way of saying they could be absent a bit more.
  • The child “Lacks focus and is easily distracted,” is a cordial way of telling a parent that their kid is lost for hours when a bug flies by the window.
  • You can always say that the child is “Learning how to be a better listener,” when, in reality, they ask what we are doing after you already explained the directions five times in a row.
  • They have “a mature vocabulary” when they curse a lot.
A photo of a 1950s dad receiving his son's report card and unhappy with the negative comments from the teacher's evaluation.

#3 Comments on Grades

Okay, it’s CRUCIAL you get your wording right and use good words in reports about student grades. If there’s one area where parents love shirking responsibility and blaming teachers for their missteps, it’s regarding student grades.

So on that note, here are a few ways you can gently help parents understand their kid’s turd-ness.

If there has been zero academic progress and there’s no way in hell the kid is going to pass, you can say, “I’m not sure passing is possible at this point in the semester.” But of course, assure them that you will do everything you can to help them succeed.

A teacher gives a thumbs up and winks when promising to help a failing student get a better report card.
Wink wink.

If you have given up trying to get the kid to do just about anything throughout the school day, just say that you’re concerned about their ability to complete tasks.

Are you done giving chances to a particular student? Then say, “____ is a great resource for help with this,” and name the library or a random person in the building.

If the kid has lied about their grades, try saying, “I think we are having a misunderstanding.”

#4 Interim and Midterm Comments

Interims are usually issued for a student who is failing or in danger of failing. If you have to write a comment for these, they will expect you to explain why the student has the particular grade they have (although those zeros should be obvious).

You should also outline what the student can do to improve (even though doing the missing homework assignments and paying attention in class should be obvious). Then, list any outstanding assignments the student owes.

You should always throw in the line about doing whatever is necessary to help them succeed because it gives people warm and fuzzy feelings. Maybe some teacher-centric toxic positivity too about being the candle that will light the student’s way in the dark or whatever nonsense satisfies them.

A neon purple inspirational quote fitting for a student getting terrible teacher report card comments.
Nailed it!

If you are stuck using “a pleasure to have in class” too much, here are some more things you can comment positively on:

  • Intellectual Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Academic Motivation
  • Academic Promise
  • Leadership and Involvement
  • Sense of Responsibility
  • Participates in Class Discussions
  • Warmth of Personality
  • Sense of Humor
  • Positive Attitude
  • Concern for Others
  • Energy
  • Maturity
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Self-Confidence
  • Reaction to Setbacks
  • Faculty View of Student
  • Attitude Towards Learning
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Bright Future Ahead

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More General Report Card Comments:
The Good and the Unfiltered

Alrighty! Moving out of the categories now, I want to give you some more generalized comments for teacher report cards.

Some students will be top-notch and probably your favorites too. There are SOME diamonds in the rough.

A teacher struggles to give questionable but honest feedback on a student's report card.

But then, some students will be so shocking that you’ll be tempted to take your professional filter and throw it out the nearest window.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner teacher on their first day or a jaded and seasoned multi-decade veteran of the profession, you will have all kinds of students. And these comments are great for the extremes of that spectrum.

Comments on Student Performance Reserved for Shining Stars

Save these epic soundbites for your favorite students! Parents eat this shizz up.

Om nom nom.

  • They intrinsically seek full understanding and mastery of the subject matter.
  • They are a model for other students to emulate.
  • They initiate and consistently participate in meaningful class discussions.
  • They thrive on new insights and discoveries.
  • They have shown the ability to bounce back from adversity.
  • They demonstrate their thinking in authentic and creative ways.
  • They interact with and appreciate diverse perspectives.
  • They develop original claims and draw evidence from texts to support those claims.
  • They reflect on their learning and use feedback to grow.

Report Card Comments for Failing Students (Unfiltered Edition)

To wrap up, we’re going to have a grand ol’ giggle at my favorite (very) NSFW report card comments teachers wish they could say but don’t.

But on a final note of helpful advice, get out there and cut some shortcuts! Getting sample comments is one thing, but did you know can just get AI to write your comments altogether? Seriously!

A 3D image of an AI chatbot wearing a graduate cap while writing teacher report card comments.
The next generation is here and cutting corners never felt so good.

And now, to make wrap up the post, let’s make you laugh!

And feel seen. Understood.

In the effort of solidarity across the woes of the profession, here are some entirely unhelpful comments that teachers wish they could make but sadly must keep to themselves:

  • When he’s sitting on your couch at 40, please remember I tried!
  • Needs to practice saying, “Would you like fries with that?” as career prep.
  • I encourage him to take more showers. This will lead to better hygiene and improved social skills.
  • Just FYI, she can miss up to nine days this semester without losing credit.
  • Good luck with this one!
  • I have to hold his hand in the hallway because he cannot stop touching others.
  • Hopefully, the family has some inheritance lined up for him.
  • A good kick in the behind would go a long way.
  • She says she will be either a pediatric surgeon or an Instagram influencer. I don’t have much hope for either.
  • I want him in class as little as he wants to be there.
  • I don’t even know what your kid looks like because he has never shown up.
  • He is in an ongoing romantic relationship with the classroom fan.
  • She has a potential future in the custodial arts.
  • Your child is like a blender without a lid.
  • Complete opposite of a pleasure to have in class.
  • Someone’s gotta dig ditches.
  • Has the I.Q. of a chair.
  • He continues to call me “bro” and stares blankly when given simple directions such as “sit down”.
  • She would be a great seat filler at a funeral.
  • Class participation consists mainly of farts.
  • A pleasure to have absent.
  • Annoyingly perfect attendance.
  • He picks his scabs and eats them.
  • Too much body spray, not enough bathing.
  • Your child is the reason alcohol should be a tax deduction for teachers.
  • A very friendly girl who is always willing to share her milkshake with the boys during recess.
  • My heart fills with joy when your child is absent.
  • Great by Friday, but comes back to school a terror on Monday. It’s your fault, Patricia!
  • Has a lot to say but has no sense of timing, appropriateness, or any other social skill required for real-world success.
  • Humps the radiator but pretends he is sharpening his pencil.
  • I hope he’s not afraid of the dark because there are definitely no lights on upstairs.
  • The barking in class has become less frequent, but the howling is problematic.
  • If being a jerk was a skill, your child does it at a mastery level.
  • Least disruptive when sleeping.
  • I think he’d really benefit from homeschooling.
A sleeping student in the classroom napping on her textbooks.
They are the perfect student modelling exemplary behavior and shouldn’t change a single thing.

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Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.