What ordinary phrases on school reports REALLY mean

Private school teacher broadcasts the truth about what sentences on report cards REALLY mean – and why it’s a BAD thing to be a ‘good listener’

  • Teacher Dr. Selina Samuels revealed what phrases in report cards really mean
  • Seemingly positive phrases like ‘good listener’ can have a coded meaning
  • Independents can mean they do not share well, while social can mean distracting

An early learning expert has revealed what teachers really mean when they write ordinary sentences on a report card – from ‘he knows his own mind’ meaning ‘stubborn and uncooperative’ to ‘he has great potential’ meaning ‘ lazy’.

Dr. Selina Samuels, Chief Learning Officer for Cluey Learning explained in a blog posts that many terms that teachers use are disinfected and actually have a much deeper meaning.

The teacher, who spent several years at a private school in Sydney, revealed that even seemingly positive phrases like ‘good listener’ can have a coded meaning – indicating that your child is not contributing to the class.

Elsewhere, ‘independent’ may mean that they do not share well, while ‘social’ may indicate that they distract others, while terms such as ‘sophisticated understanding’ and ‘safe use’ are strong signals that your child is working on an impressive level.

Dr. Selina Samuels, Chief Learning Officer for Cluey Learning explained in a blog post that many terms used by teachers are purified and actually have a much deeper meaning (stock image)

‘Has great potential’

If a teacher says that your child ‘has great potential’, this indicates that they are frustrated, they are bright but lazy, says Dr. Samuels.

The best and worst words to see in your child’s report card

Dr. Samuels explained that the best comments a teacher can write on a report card are comments that are specific to your child and show you that the teacher really knows him or her.

The worst ones, however, are generic, jargonistic and procedural. This may include telling you what the class has covered, but offering very little information about how your child is developing

She said that even if you are told something bad about your child, it is better to have it told straight away so that you as a parent can work with the school to provide support.

Dr. Samuel also notes that report card shouts are not only retrospective, but also “give genuine advice on where their focus should lie for the coming period or year.”

‘Very social’ or ‘enthusiastic’

‘Very social’, ‘bubbly’ and ‘enthusiastically engaging in the discussion’ are all codes for ‘chatty’ and ‘talking a lot’, says Dr. Samuels.

This can mean that they are distracted by those around them – or even make it distracting. This could be helped by moving their seating plan.


Students who are ‘independent’ are probably not good dividers, says Dr. Samuels.

‘Good listener’

If a teacher writes that your child is a “good listener”, it is likely that he or she is quiet, does not ask questions or contributes in class.

‘Knows his own mind’

This can mean that your little one is ‘stubborn and uncooperative’

‘Irregular’ or ‘Inconsistent’

If a teacher says your child’s application is “irregular” or “inconsistent”, it probably means they are playing to their strengths and ignoring anything that is not already easy.

I can also be a veiled request to have a look at the family infrastructure around homework and shop more consistently at home.

‘Lack of focus’

If a child ‘lacks focus’, they seek themselves out.

‘Enjoying skills’

“This tells you that there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon and they have not given up on him yet,” says Dr. Samuels.

‘Joy to teach’

Dr. Samuels says that your child’s teachers end a report with: ‘She is a pleasure to teach’, it’s probably true. Teachers do not use this phrase for free.


“This is not necessarily a good thing,” says Dr. Samuels.

Since it could indicate that they are special about the presentation, or so afraid of taking something wrong that she refuses to send anything for feedback


Leave a Comment