Making The Grade

I live in a very competitive community; there are many of them out there in the Northeast. Grades count. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with grades being important. If you ask my teens, they will tell you that my husband and I are very interested in their grades.

My lament is that once upon a time school was about learning, character building, friendship and community. The academic environment has become increasingly more and more about numbers – for students and teachers.

Like any parent, I want my children to perform well and I spent a great deal of time focusing on grades until my daughter taught me something far more important. As she moved from grammar school to middle school, she found her school work increasingly difficult. I became guilty of hovering over her to help, provide guidance and improve her grades. Long nights at the kitchen table spent doing projects, memorizing and reviewing helped but she also became fixated on the numbers. Have you ever heard your child say, “If an assignment isn’t graded, who cares?” I believe the average American student is not experiencing the true purpose of school – which is developing a lifelong love of learning.

Students are over tested. There is no time to think, dwell and relish material. Additionally, the most unfortunate result of this situation is that effort and I mean the effort of each child to work to their potential yields no reward.

Who did I learn this from? I learned this from my daughter. As I backed away, I began to admire her resolve to work hard. She may not have earned the highest grade in the class but the behind the scenes effort was truly inspirational. When she decided on her own to drop out of an accelerated class, I was hesitant. I began to discuss this with other parents and one declared, “Oh those are the kids you want her to be with.” The absurdity of this comment hit home. My daughter is not any less of a person because she is in a regular class.

Our society’s fixation on grades has nothing to do with learning or character. Just think about all the cheating scandals in the media today – high school students cheating on the SAT and teachers rigging standardized tests. This is the run-off when the goal is just the grade.

There are so many dimensions to our children and far more important traits than being in the top of the pack. I’m proud of my daughter and prouder of her work ethic. I’m not sure she’ll realize how great she really is while she’s in high school – but then again who does?




  1. As an educator, I can’t agree with you more. The school environment is too focused on testing and grades rather than the actual absorption of knowledge. More power to you and your beautiful daughter

  2. Great post! As parents we do make it all about us. Sounds like you have a terrific daughter!

  3. I have three, they’re all in their 20s now. I was very hands off when it came to their homework and I always was. In my mind, it was their work, I’d done it already when I went through school.

    All three performed at various academic levels, ranging from A+ to C, depending on the child. All three went on to university, two are working on masters degrees and one is in an undergrad, trying to figure out what he wants to do.

    Yes, we do have a responsibility to make sure our children have a safe place to do their work and that they have the time to do it (which means no overscheduling with umpteen activities), but it’s THEIR work.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: