I’ll let you in on a little secret…

I might be a little weird for a teacher, but I hate grades.

In fact, as much as I am enjoying writing this blog, I have not written in almost two weeks because the second term was ending, we had mid-year exams, and all those grades to do.

It’s not just the actual grading of papers I dislike, although that really is my least favorite part of my job.

I just hate grades.

I know, I know, how do you “measure student progress” without grades.  I get it.  I understand that grades may be a necessary evil.

But I still don’t like them.

Let me explain.

I feel like so many students care more about their grades than about actually learning.  They are not learning for the joy of it, they are learning so they can get decent grades.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great when kids are conscientious, but sometimes I feel like the concern over the grade gets in the way of what should be the excitement of learning new things.

Do good grades make a good student?  I guess so.

Do good grades mean you are smart?  Maybe, maybe not.  I guess it depends on how you define smart.

Does getting good grades mean you are a creative problem solver?  Maybe, but maybe not.

Aren’t we supposed to be fostering a life-long love of learning in our students?  I think so.  But sometimes I feel like grades get in the way of that.

Like I said, I get that we need some way to measure what students know, I just worry sometimes.  I worry about students who take their grades as a value judgement of themselves.

I have this great class of Calculus students, kids who have always been in AP and honors classes and have always gotten great grades.  We had a conversation about what would happen if they were to get a B in the class – oh my!  The consensus was that this would be tragic.  But, I argued, Calculus is difficult, and it could happen – and it would be ok.  Because even if some of those students actually got a B, they all were working hard and learning some really difficult concepts.  They were making connections to things they have learned in previous years in math and to things they have done in other classes.  Isn’t that more valuable?

I also worry about the kids that typically do not get great grades.  This has been the case for some of my Algebra 1 students.  The sad thing is, some of these kids, with really great potential, let the bad grades they got in the past define what kind of student they are today.  They don’t want to try because they have failed in the past, which sets them up for more failure, which becomes a very sad cycle.

I know we probably will never do away with grades.  I would never even suggest it, I get why we need them, even though I really don’t like them.  I just think it’s important to find ways to show kids that the experience, the struggle, and the joy of working and learning and mastering something difficult is as important as the grade on the report card.