On Grades in School: An "A" for character…

Written by Annie, a mom without a blog

As I sat at my desk this week sorting through hordes of papers and registering grades for quarter, I couldn’t help but think about the kids out there who will undoubtedly be in big fat trouble because their marks don’t add up to their parents expectations.

I once had a kid who was in my summer Psychology class who was repeating the course. He wasn’t alone, but he was the only kid there who had taken it and passed it with a “B” mark of 87%. However, in his home a B was not acceptable, so his parents made him dole out the $200 and retake the course on his own dollar.

I have had kids who get good grades, but aren’t always the best people. I’ve also had kids in both regular and special education who have worked their tails off, been to class every day, studied hard, participated, and still gotten a “C” grade. Sometimes “A” grades aren’t always in the cards.

Now, as a parent myself, I want my first grader to get good grades, and I pretty much do expect them to be “A” grades because I know she is capable. However, I don’t think as adults we actually think back to when we were in that desk. When we worked our tail off and still failed a test. When we misread a single word in a sentence and wrote an entire paper on the wrong question. Or when our very best really was just average.

In this day in age, we focus on being the best, and being better, and doing things first and fast. We focus on the tests, and meeting “standards” set up by the government and we compare ourselves to other schools and kids. We do this even though not every kid in every zip code gets the same standard of teaching or has the same opportunities as the kid in the next county.

School just isn’t always fair. And it isn’t always what you as an adult think it is.

What we lack is the ability to realize that overall, most kids want to do well. Most kids, with support at home and at school, put forth their best foot every day. Kids come in all shapes, sizes, and ability levels. And that should be celebrated, not compared. And honestly, we need to be spending more time on character development and on cultivating life skills and student interests instead of focusing mainly on standardized testing.

I have a student who is severely dyslexic. He is a very bright kid who tries hard and when asked questions orally, knocks them out of the park. On written work, he is a bench warmer. But the better test of what he is truly capable of came this year when a new freshman arrived in our class. The student has major anxiety issues and does not really look like many of the kids in school. His jeans are pulled up high, and he still looks much younger than he is. This kid sat alone at lunch every day for nearly a month. One day, my dyslexic, very cool, popular student, invited him to sit with him at lunch. And he has done that everyday since. When I asked the student with anxiety how lunch was going now, he simply said ” It is perfect!” Finally, he was a part of something and he didn’t have to feel all alone.

Now, the dyslexic kid may get B’s and C’s and he may pull off an A or a D every so often, but the true measure of his being is that he is a good human being. He cares about others. He tries his best and as a whole, in school, that makes him an “honor” student to me.

I want my daughter, no matter if she gets A or C grades to do her very best every day. But more importantly, I want her to enjoy school , to find things that interest her, to celebrate the successes of others, to develop character and good morals. I want her to be a bit like Mallory from the video below. I want her to do the right thing, even if it means she sometimes fails.

Class Dismissed,

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