I have a confession to make. I want to confess something that I have kept to myself for a while. I did not want to share it because I know it can be a little controversial in the world of education. Grades are grades, and honestly, when you are an adult, no one remembers or cares what grade you earned in English class during your sophomore year of high school. What people care about and what matters is what type of adult you are.
I have seen both sides. I have seen the high achieving student who graduates top of their class and wins all academic awards and their life falls apart. I have also seen students barely make it out of high school but go on to be productive adults.
As teachers, we tell our students the importance of earning good grades and how good grades will lead to overall success in life. Well, that is not always true. Good grades in school do not promise a better life growing up. What promises a better experience as an adult is interacting with adults who teach you the life skills you need to be successful. Overall, success has nothing to do with grades.
I never wanted any of my students to get wrapped up in their grades. This idea that grades are so important can take away what education means and what learning is all about. I didn’t care too much about good grades for my students. I wanted to make sure I was preparing them for life. It was my job to help them reach their potential. For many of them, reaching their potential was not tied to them earning good grades.
I wanted to make sure I was teaching them, and they were learning. I think being a teacher was about much more than assigning my students grades. It is about so much more than an honor roll award. Being a teacher, your job is to teach your students and help them to know themselves better. When they enter your classroom, they should learn something new about themselves. Education is about learning, and learning does not always mean learning what is found in books, curriculum, or state standards. We should teach them to understand better the world they live in, and maybe we even help them find their place in the world. If I did that, then I believe I succeeded as a teacher, not the fact that most of my students earned good grades.
Now, do not go and read this and think as a teacher, I was not teaching because I did teach. I taught like my hair was on fire. I pushed my students to learn, and I challenged them, but as far as putting grades in a grade book, I feel that isn’t necessary. What was necessary was that my students left my class better than they came; what matters was when they left my class they were on a better path in life.
Whenever I run into former students, I always ask them what are they doing now? For many, the answer that most want to hear is about what college they attended and what type of job they landed. I want to know if my former students are doing their part to make the world a better place. Are they happy with their lives? Did the time they had me as a teacher make them a better adult or not? That is the answer that I am looking for. It is nice to hear about their college, major, and career. Sometimes that does not equal happiness or what type of adult they have become. I feel, as a teacher, we should put out in the world more positive adults to be there for the next generation, and then the cycle can continue.