Picture this: It’s finally Friday and you’re ready to go home. At 2:50, right before the bell, your teacher begins strolling between desks, handing back the biology quizzes from earlier in the week, the one that you thought you aced for sure.
Feeling confident, you turn the paper over expecting to see a smiley face at the top right corner, but your gaze is met with a bunch of red x’s and a big letter C instead.
Your first thought is: How will this one bad grade affect your gpa? You immediately think that your future college application is now ruined, and all your plans for the future… gone.
Like many of you, I have always been grade-focused, and it seems like the main goal for many students is to get good marks. Although getting exceptional grades often equates to being a good student, is that all that really matters?
I think oftentimes it’s just assumed whoever got the higher grade is the better student. But, let’s say two students take a science quiz. Student A memorizes every diagram, vocab word, and definition. Student B studied but maybe is a bad test taker because they get nervous or feel a lot of pressure, so they didn’t perform as well. Student A gets a 95% while student B only gets a 75% on the quiz.
Now most would assume that student A is a better student since they got the scored higher. But let’s say that student B went to the teacher everyday after school for help to learn from their mistakes. Although student A got a higher grade initially, student B recognized that they needed help and now has a much better understanding of the material. Is student B still a worse student than student A?
A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that 80% of students “based their self worth on their academic success, leading to low self-esteem and other mental-health issues.” Meaning that the majority of students believe that their grade is what defines them and what gives them value. I definitely understand how these students feel. There have been times where I have gotten a bad grade and I got stressed out. It made me feel like I had disappointed my parents, teachers, and myself. Looking back on this now, I was probably more worried and upset than I should have been.
I’m not saying to get rid of grades at all, since it can be a way to help motivate students to study and work hard. I just think students and teachers need to emphasize focusing more on learning the material, rather than the pure grade.
At some point during school, you’ve probably had a teacher that has told you that what you take away from what you are learning and the knowledge you gain is far more valuable than just a letter that shows up on a transcript. To be honest, I never really took this seriously until this year. I think it’s because I didn’t fully understand the difference between what your grades show and your knowledge. I always thought that my grades were the only thing that really mattered. Although important, they don’t accurately represent everything that you know, or who you are as a person or learner.
I think oftentimes we get the perception that school is all about grades. But honestly, what I believe is even more important is the skills that you learn. Knowing how to solve problems and how to interact with others are the things that you will actually use in the future.
Just imagine that in ten years, you are being interviewed for a job you applied for. Do you really think the interviewer is going to ask you what your gpa was in high school? Or what your SAT was? Or even how many digits of pi you know? Probably not. The interviewer is going to ask you about your life experiences and who you are as a person.
Yes everyone wants to get good grades, but just remember that what you take away from what is being taught is way more important than just a number. What you learn and the knowledge that you have gained is what will help you in the future.