You Are Not Your Grade – Grading Systems in Our Schools

By Navraj Narula, SED 2016

I strived to be the straight-A student in high school; not because I wanted my peers to label me as the smart girl who always knew the answers, but simply because I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment that I thought I would never be able to experience if I did not receive a 100% on every single homework assignment I turned in. I did end up accomplishing my goal of receiving the many A-letter grades, and for the most part, I felt satisfied—I was glad that my teachers could see that my hard work paid off.

Artwork by Jason Gan

Artwork by Jason Gan

However, now that I am working towards becoming a teacher myself, I have come to a realization: grades do not matter—at least not as much as I thought they did. Yes, grades are necessary in that they offer educators an easy way to measure student performance. With grades, students are also able to see how well they might be doing in a class or by how much they might want to improve. Grades are important, but grades are not YOU.

I do not want my students leaving my classroom thinking they are just the letters I label their papers with. I have not met a single one of them yet, but I know that my future students are so much more than a D, C, B, or even an A.

In grading assignments, I certainly expect that I will not be able to give all my students the grades they hope to see. I know that some of them will be disappointed in themselves and feel that they have not worked hard enough seeing an “A-” at the top corner of their paper. Others will feel the need to give up because they think that they cannot do better than a perhaps a “C+.” How unfortunate it is that so many young people see so much of themselves in these letter grades! Teachers need to make it an effort to communicate to their students why they might have received such a grade instead of just scribbling some tiny letter down on a notebook paper in red ink and call that “The End.” How are we to motivate students otherwise if we do not explain to them the meaning behind our marks? Or to encourage them to keep up the good work that they have put so much time and effort in without acknowledging it personally?

I am college sophomore now. I do end up receiving a “B” every now and then on assignments, but I no longer find myself upset when I know that I have truly worked my hardest and tried my best. A “B” on a paper, quiz, or even a class may determine the way an institution looks at my transcript, but it certainly does not make a clear statement about who I am or what I am truly able to accomplish. The same goes to my future students.

*Navraj Narula is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education, studying English education.

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