Good Grades

I was going through some old, old, old papers yesterday and came across a bunch of report cards my mom had saved for me. The ones from 1st and 2nd grade were interesting with some fun comments about who I was as a person at the age of 6, but then I got into some of my junior high and high school grades. I remembered myself as a pretty good student in high school. I saw a lot of Bs and As, but a few Cs also caught my eye.  Oh well, I thought, I graduated 20th in my class. I think I did okay.

Peeling back more layers of papers I found some junior high report cards. Here I saw A LOT less A grades and A LOT more C grades. I even found a *gasp* D in Math with the comment that I needed to apply myself more. On another report card for another class I found the comment that I was disruptive in class and I needed to control myself. Apparently 8th grade was a really hard year for me.

What was interesting was how incredibly bothered I was about the lower  grades (i.e Bs and below) and the comments. I didn’t remember doing so badly in junior high.  I remember that socially it was no picnic for me.  Awkward. Lacking in self-confidence. Confused about what in the hell was going on with the world.  But I had always thought of myself as a really good student.  An avid learner.  Someone who pays attention and can analyze data and inter-personal situations.  These junior high grades were 25+ years ago, my adult self reminded that 13 year old inside me.   But it didn’t matter.  It was a quarter of a century later and these valuations stung me again as if I had just gotten them in the mail. As if they were talking about me.  And I knew I wasn’t any of those things! (Okay.  Maybe I would rather read than do math.  And at times I can be a little disruptive, but it’s in the fun way! )

Naturally I went to the internet to make me feel better. I needed to find psychology article (preferably from a reputable source, but I wasn’t going to be picky ) that would verify to me that grades do not matter. And this is what I found. THANK YOU, PSYCHOLOGY TODAY!

The Fallacy of Good Grades. (This article was originally published on August 15, 2011 by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. in The Moment of Youth)

It reminded me that there are numerous things, important to the make up of a human being, that cannot be tested for and graded.  Things like

  • Effort
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Respect
  • Kindness
  • Capacity to love
  • Social and emotional intelligence
  • Honesty
  • Open-mindedness
  • Initiative

It also reinforced the belief I had when looking at my own children’s grades that being able to measure their memorization capacity is valuable, but it’s only part of the picture and parents must be the ones to assess potential future achievements.

Another good quote,

Children succeed in life for many reasons; grades do not guarantee success. The article, Thinking About Psychological Literacy, explains important aspects of success that are not measured by grades, like the ability to be self-reflective, action-oriented, and connected to work that improves the lives of others. These skills cannot be measured in quantitative terms, nor are they easily compared through testing from one child to another.

You mean that children are individuals that can be compared in some ways and shouldn’t be compared in others?  Astonishing.

And another,

To succeed in the 21st Century, students need a multitude of abilities that go beyond internal character and reading, math, and science skills. Today’s young adults must be able to adapt to change, problem-solve, innovate, and manage large quantities of knowledge. To do so, they must learn to think critically about complex issues. How do we test critical thinking in schools? We don’t. In fact, most schools don’t even teach critical thinking skills, the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a goal of improving it.

Did schools ever teach critical thinking?  Is that something that parents taught children during daily life when they had chores and helped out at the store/farm/home after school?   Before computers and video games?  I’m not sure.  I can’t remember that far back.

Even before I read this article I knew that as I look at the grades of my own children I am seeing just a portion of who they are.  And I should know that the grades I receive so, so, so, soooo long ago are not a reflection of who I became.  They aren’t even a glimmer of who I became.  If I were a chocolate cake and these grades were an ingredient in my cake they would be salt.  Necessary to bring out the flavor and the sweetness, but used in such small quantities it’s not even mentionable when you are naming ingredients used in the making.

And let me leave you with this last thought from the Psych Today article,

It is important to acknowledge the role of grades and test scores in measuring children’s progress throughout school. Parents should support good work habits that help students do their best. While grades may determine who gets listed on an Honor Roll, chosen for a scholarship, or invited to attend a prestigious university, grades are not the end of the story. Grades may motivate some children. For others, particular those with learning differences, grades can discourage and defeat them.

Parents can make a difference by paying attention to the “whole child,” – not just the child who attends school each day but to the child who participants in family life, reaches out to others, thinks creatively, acts wisely, collaborates, and shows respect. Parents have the capacity to nurture these qualities in children, to let them know they are more than a test score.

The End.

I feel better.  Don’t you?

2 responses to “Good Grades”

  1. Really good post, Mindy, Parents are vested in their kids grades, and think they are focused on the right thing because of all the broo-ha-ha around college. Grades are important only as a measure of how well a kid is digesting the narrow scope of what is going on in the curriculum. They are important because, unfortunately, they do give kids more choices when they graduate from college. But the focus on grades is motivated by the wrong things.

    I say this as an educator myself, and as a parent who’s kids are 24 and 20.


  2. Bravo! I couldn’t have said it better myself.


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