The Decorator’s Dilema

“There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start.” Charles Baudelaire (1821- 1867)

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Another day without pupils (no, not conjunctivitis – just activities week). I took the opportunity to get stuck into writing reports on an industrial scale.

The dilemma of instrumental reporting consists in the tension between similarity of content across reports – particularly where technique is concerned and the right of pupils to be regarded and described as individuals.

My view is this. The development of technique relies upon awareness of quite precise physiological facts. Misunderstandings rarely vary from one pupil to another. Matters of comprehension and behaviour can vary subtly or widely from one pupil to another. The one exception is attendance which is a more binary matter – present or not.

Most instrumental reports are divided into differing categories (attendance; progress; technique; reading; aural; attitude; next steps etc.) and the style of writing is determined by the category.

If you feel that you have wrought a sentence into its most unambiguous expression, then to vary this simply for the sake of variety means that only one report will contain this ideal description. Therefore, I feel quite happy using copy/paste in the description of technical matters.

There is very little chance that a description of the comprehension or attitude of one pupil will truly fit another. Therefore, bespoke sentences are required here.

As for the opening quotes, I like to make a dent in the daunting task of writing scores of simultaneous reports by opening the previous year’s reports and over-writing each category one by one. When this is done for all pupils, I go back to the top of the list and begin the fine tuning. After all, it is impossible to fine tune a string which does not yet exist.

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