Happy Monday, friends. If you’re a student, you’ve probably had a few days to rest and relax before grades were publicized. If you’re a teacher, you’ve probably been grading and stressing over submitting grades by the looming deadline (forgive my absence, but I was doing the latter). Now, depending on how well you did this academic quarter, you might either spend the rest of your break basking in the sun or sulking in the cold. Regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that students oftentimes go into a bit of a crisis mode when midterm and quarterly/semester grades are due, and as much as you may feel the weight of your academic careers bearing heavily on your shoulders, I have to let you in on a little secret: grades do not define you.
As a teacher, I am caught between a rock and a hard place–I do not believe in using grades to measure student understanding, competency, and intellect, and yet I am forced to grade work on a regular basis. While I see the benefit in providing detailed feedback, the reality is that because of social norms on academia, which posits that the better grades you get, the more successful you are, students seem less interested in learning and improving and more interested in the number or letter grade that graces their paper. What’s more is that student effort is largely motivated by external factors like parental or scholastic stress, and such unsustainable and non-intrinsic efforts cause students to question their own sense of self-worth.
I’m sure you’ve been told the contrary, but as long as you do your best, that’s all that should matter. We have to change our way of thinking, change the way we view education and success, and change the way we place value on things that should not define our worth. If you change your thoughts, you can change your life. Be dedicated, determined, and passionate about learning for the sake of learning, not just because of where it could take you next. If you didn’t do as well as you’d like this quarter, see what you could work on, learn from what went wrong, and try again.
Hone your voice, cultivate your skills, and try not to let the power of grades, school, teachers, friends, and even parents pressure you or reduce you to a mere grade, a grade that has zero weight once you graduate and go off into the “real world.” Recognize that you are more than a grade. In fact, you’re not a grade at all. You are a human being with thoughts, ideas, love, light, and a valid and valuable voice worthy of being shared both inside and outside of the classroom.
So, instead of challenging you to solve a math problem or identify a part of speech, this teacher challenges you to shine brighter than any grade ever could.