Grades are Not Defining: An Open Letter to Parents, Students, and Teachers

28 October 2017
     Moving from second grade to third grade has been one of the most rewarding, yet one of the most difficult choices I have had to endure. I love teaching, and I love everything about it. The most challenging thing for me this year has been the grades. Not the actual grading, but the giving of grades.
     Not all students measure up to the perfect 100%, and to be quite frank, they shouldn't. What is most difficult is teaching my kids that they are still talented and gifted in so many ways. Grades are not defining of character. They can show different traits such as organized/disorganized, etc., but they don't measure everything about the whole student. It has been such a huge stress for me because this is the first year that my students have received letter grades. Their little hearts have been encouraged with good grades, or they have been disappointed by bad grades. It's been difficult guiding them through their first disappointments.
      I have so much to say, so here's an open letter to parents, students, and teachers.

Dear parents, 
     Watching your child grow up is an exciting adventure that I'm sure you want to be a part of almost every single step of the way. We love our kids, and we take pride in them. We know our children are capable of great things, but when put to the test, sometimes, they don't measure up like they should have. This is especially true in school. It's easy to feel like it's something that we could have done to prevent it. Guilt sets in and we begin the 'If only...' statements. Ignore it and remember these three things:
  1. Grades do not define your child. Your child is worth so much more. Most teachers realize that children bring many gifts and talents that cannot be measured in the classroom to the classroom. There’s the talented storyteller, the detailed drawer, the kid who wants to lead the class in a community project, the kid who always shows compassion to students who are at a disadvantage. There’s the kid that tells hilarious jokes, or sings on key. There’s the kid that always listens to friends, and the kid who is talented at every, single sport. Your child is so much more than a grade.
  2. Grades do not measure your parenting skills. Poor grades do not mean you are not trying. Great grades do not mean that you are forcing your child to study every night. Grades are grades. Children are responsible for their own grades. You are not. Sometimes parents can’t make it home in time to complete homework with their children, and most educators recognize this fact. Many schools are opting for no homework. The most important thing you can do for your child is not homework or studying, but talking about school and making it important.
  3.  Grades do not determine the success of your child in the future. A recent study showed that students who made average grades in school were most successful monetarily as adults. This is because they found their true passion and learned how to thrive in a world full of average. Success is dependent on the actions – not the grades. 

Dear students,
     You are brilliant! Even if your grades are not where they should be, you are still brilliant. This is because you know what mistakes you've made, and you know what you are going to do to keep from making those same mistakes. This is because you are not your grade. I want you to remember these three things:
  1. Grades do not determine your worth. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You’re worth is measured on how you perceive yourself. No one, no grade determines, how amazing you are; you’re already a rock star. Own it!
  2. Grades only measure your mastery of academic content. There’s this huge misconception that all students must have A’s and B’s. That’s just not the case. The average is a C. There, I said it… 70%! My personal goal is to have an 80% or higher. I’m not sure that I have ever achieved this as a teacher, but I’ve set my goal just a little higher than reality so that reality is also just a little bit higher. Just so you know, there are no grades for integrity, cooperation, leadership, confidence, attitude, creativity, loyalty, resilience, etc. Grades only measure the academic content in math, reading, writing, social studies, word study, English, language courses, sciences, etc. Your friendships, your attitude, and your warmth are valued much more than your grade will ever be.
  3. Grades do not determine your success in the future. As a failure of multiple subjects in school, I now own a successful business and am a successful teacher. If I had let my grades define me, I would have placed false limitations on myself. I would have never taken the chance to go to college and earn a degree, nor would I have ever decided to take a chance on owning my own small business. By telling myself that those failures were crap, I moved on, and learned to not make the same mistakes I made in the past. 

Dear teachers,
     You are an amazing teacher! Your grades need not to reflect that; the relationship with your students is more valuable than any grade will ever be. Get to know them, enjoy them, and celebrate their victories in and out of the classroom. Always remember these three things:
  1. Grades do not define your students. Teachers, we are so guilty by saying “These kids are the level J readers”. Know that all of the children in our classrooms are unique. They ALL have their own special gifts and talents – even if it is burping the alphabet. That takes a lot of dedication!
  2. Grades are based on the mastery of the content. Most teachers know that grades should be measured on mastery of content only and not for completion of assignments, but some of us still do it because we feel sorry for our kids who are making D’s and C’s. I know this is true because I’ve been guilty of it too! Just remember to ask yourself the next time you put in a grade, “What standard am I measuring?” This is a game changer!
  3. Grades are not the only measurement of how successful you are as a professional.  In a perfect utopia we want all of our kids to have A’s and B’s, but this isn’t a perfect world we live in. Yes, grades are somewhat of a reflection of who we are as educators, but we all know it is not the end-all-be-all. We are inspiring, mentoring, coaching, and nurturing our students daily to be life long learners. The love your students have for you is, in my opinion, the upmost important measurement.

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