Last night a teacher saved my life: A review of “Teacher’s Report Assistant”

Last night, after a couple of days of report writing, I tweeted this:

reportsdone

What a feeling!  A euphoria akin to having a part of your brain slough off into the sea, no longer needed. I can now launch myself into the Christmas holidays with brainless abandon.

But this year, I had another reason to be feeling particularly happy with my report writing. I have found a report writing tool (written by science teacher, Ray Le Couteur) that has cut the time I spend typing by hours! And what I like most about it is that I do the writing – it is not a crib sheet of impersonal comments, but a means for me to generate comments and select them to drop into a comment box.

Without wasting your time with further explanation, look at the following graphic:

reportkey

As you can see, you drop in the name and gender of the student. You can then type multiple comments using the symbols in the key to ensure that, when you put the comments into an actual report, the pronouns are transformed into the correct gender (for example, “~self” becomes “herself” in the comment box).

Here is a picture of the entire screen so you can get a feel for how the interface works:

reportmain

As you can see, it is quite a simple interface, free of clutter and quite retro (as is Ray La Couteur’s website, from which you can download a PC-only version of his software). What I love most about the application is that you can define the number of sections and the volume of sentences per section. So you are able to generate multiple versions of similar sentences, ensuring that you can tailor sentences to particular groups of students.

Here is a close-up of the sections that come preloaded:

reportcomments

Once you have created a bank of comments, you can save them (as a .tra file) and access them again for the following year. If from time to time, you find that particular sentences don’t say what you want about particular students, you can simply add them to your comment bank and resave it.

Is it really labour-saving? Well that depends on two factors: how well you set up the initial comment bank; and whether you make one imperceptible error in the comment bank. You could find that error replicated across numerous reports.

However, with a little patience and forethought, you should find that the Report Writing Assistant gives you an excellent return on the time invested at the beginning. What’s more, the software is free. Once you’ve got to grips with it and saved yourself several hours of typing, you’ll be seriously considering making a donation to Ray via his website.

I say “considering” because to my shame I haven’t done so yet. In creating this simple tool and making it freely available to teachers, Ray has saved us entire lifetimes, so when I embark on my Christmas razz, I shall raise a large glass of rioja to him.

Last night, a teacher saved my life.

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