I saw that on a bumper sticker this week and “amen!!”ed it out loud. It’s so true! Now, I’m saying this as I watch my son’s junior year grades. He is gifted academically and since he’s four-year-college bound, we want him to get the best possible grades now so he can capitalize on scholarships and the perks that come with high school achievement. You might be wondering if I’ve forgotten the title of this post. No, I haven’t. This is a fine line to walk as a mom and a teacher. Especially since I was his teacher for three years.
Even though we want our kids to do well, it can be easy to look at those grades, check the progress report and gauge their success based on the numbers. However, that’s a quick path to a bad habit if we make the leap to judge based on the numbers exclusively. One of the joys – and truly, just one- is knowing my students beyond their assessments. In the same way we know our children and can advocate and enlighten their teachers based on who we know that child to be, the wise teacher seeks to know their students. Granted, in my position of having small classes, it’s more feasible. But making this a goal, to look – really look – at our students/children can make all the difference in their learning.
Kids learn early on that that red grade at the top of their paper means something bigger than they’d choose. I’ve seen kids literally deflate when they get a graded paper back; others look to see how their peers did; some share loudly/proudly; others shove that paper into the deep recesses of their binder hoping to hide it or forget it forever. Most kids’ moods are dictated by their grades. Some kids pretend to not care at all. Those that truly don’t care are rare and I’ve met maybe two in my career. However, those that feign indifference are being disingenuous. But I understand why. It surprised me to learn how many parents track their grades daily. Then there are those who have no clue how their kids are doing….not even checking progress reports or report cards. But those spectrums are admittedly extreme.
Most often, kids feel that their grade defines them. I’ve had parents tell me that their kids “feel so dumb.” Heck, I’ve heard kids say that themselves and I want to shake them and yell, “No you’re not!!” But would they believe me? Since teachers are the keeper and “giver” of grades, it feels like we can say little, but the adults in their lives have much, much influence over these kids, whether they want to admit it or not. Since kids can begin to believe that they are not more than a test score, it’s our job to communicate otherwise. But first we have to believe it. Are we talking about their strengths, even if they did get a poor grade? Like, persistence, organization, a strong vocabulary? Are we noticing passions that could be directed towards their learning? (more on that in future posts) Are we not making a big deal out of one poor grade or a little dip in learning?
Kids need us to support them through the ebbs and flows of their educational years. They’re not always going to get A’s….they might not always get C’s. Many parents rejoice in that moment when the lights seem to go on and a kid just ‘gets’ it. Hurray! Let’s make sure we let them know that whether they get A’s or C’s, whether they ‘get’ it or not, we love them, they can be successful and they’re not defined by a letter in red.