I’ve had this post sitting around for a while. Since I’ve written it, I’ve gone back and forth about posting it. I wrote this for me, to sort out my feelings and to serve as a reminder for myself. I’m sharing it with you, because, well, maybe we all need a reminder that grades alone don’t reflect what’s going on with our kids in school.
In my “mom world” report cards are coming out soon. For some families, this is a good time of the year. They see their child’s good grades, pat themselves and their child on the back, and everyone feels good. That’s not the case in every household. Effort doesn’t always translate into good grades, just like for some, good grades come without effort.
We live in a world that looks only at the bottom line and rewards results. Hell, that’s my personal viewpoint, too. Crunch the numbers, examine the results. That’s why this concept is so challenging for me. While I appreciate bottom line mentality, I also realize it’s flawed. Flawed because we aren’t seeing the complete picture.
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting rewarding a lack of effort. I’m not saying kids should never crack a book and be told they’re doing a great job. What I am saying is all kids don’t fit into the “good grades” mold.
We’ve all heard the quote, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This is something I constantly have to remind myself. I understand how important reading and writing are. Schools teach it, kids get their grades, but everyone doesn’t have an easy time with it. For some, simply reading the instructions on a worksheet is an accomplishment.
I have a son who struggles in school. Every grade he gets is through hard work. My son is learning determination. My son is developing strength of character, and while watching him, I’m also learning what character is truly about.
It’s hard to watch him struggle. It’s hard to watch him fight so hard and still fail. Another 60% on a math test. Another failed spelling test. While it’s hard for me to see both the grades and the struggles, I’ve come to realize that my son will be ready for the world. He will appreciate his accomplishments, knowing he worked hard to achieve them.
I can’t take credit for his fierce determination; it’s something he was born with. Something that has been nurtured, yes, but I could never teach that kind of determination.
I can take some credit for his hard work though. Why? I help him every step of the way. I’m his cheerleader. When he cries that he doesn’t understand, I give him a hug, a tissue, a pep talk and let him know I’m there to help him until he does understand. I help him with the work. I help him stay encouraged. I sometimes even help him overlook the disappointing grades and focus on the growth.
I feel his disappointment when another test comes home that didn’t even receive a B. I share his happiness over the 50% on his spelling test because that 50% was the best he could do, and it took hours of work and extreme effort. It was fought for. Like many parents, I cry for him when he’s not around. I worry about him and wish school could be easier for him.
A while ago, my friend Jen at Real Life Parenting shared an amazing post . In that post she says “ I will encourage my kids to give their best effort in everything they do. I will support them in their endeavors and hobbies. I will celebrate their victories. I will tell them I am proud of their achievements. I will build a sense of self-worth and pride in a job well done. I will let them make mistakes and fail. I will hug and comfort them when they’re disappointed. I will allow them to learn the tough lessons. I will help them set realistic goals. I will help them become successful.”
This holds true, not only in extracurricular activities, but also in the classroom. At this point, my son can’t get straight A’s in school, no matter how much effort he gives. It would be unrealistic for me to expect that of him. He could, and should, put forth a heroic effort though. His success, no matter the grades, should be celebrated.
My son has many talents. He is genuinely kind. He is truly empathetic. He can draw beautiful pictures. He has determination and courage. He has a great palate and is adventurous with trying new foods. He enjoys cooking. He is considerate, and thoughtful, and polite. He doesn’t receive grades on these things though. These fall into the “grey” area, but they contribute to the amazing person he is.
Grades don’t matter to me nearly as much as the effort put into getting those grades. Achievement isn’t the same for every person. Some people have to work extraordinarily hard to accomplish something really small, but the small accomplishments deserve to be celebrated. Sometimes, if you knew the whole story, that small accomplishment wouldn’t seem so smalll.