My 3rd grader got her first "A" a few weeks ago. She ran down the front steps of school screaming at the top of her lungs, "I GOT AN A!" She did an "A" dance, showed the paper to her friends, a few teachers and called some family members on the phone when we got home. Suffice to say, she was overjoyed.
At first I was confused, it’s not like she’s a bad student that doesn’t do well – why the emotional outburst? Then I realized that it was her first letter grade. She’s gotten 100%s, smiley faces, stickers, countless written compliments like "nice job" and "good work" – but never an actual A. Just yesterday she was telling a 2nd grader that the cool thing about 3rd grade was the fact that you get letter grades. Apparently grades are important to her.
My middle-schooler has the ability to go on-line and check her grades and I mean every grade. How she did last Tuesday with regards to class participation, every homework assignment turned in since the first day of school, quizzes and all tests in every class. She logs on frequently which is how she knew to ask about redoing a homework assignment in math and volunteering for more skits in theatre arts. The downside to this is because she has been getting A’s for 3 years now, seeing a "B" or worse really throws her for a loop.
This led us to the "do your best" and "you don’t need an A to earn our love" talk. She nodded. She got it. Then she slumped her shoulders and slowly walked down the hall like Egor in a black and white horror flick to her room and plopped her unworthy, "I got a D on my math homework" ass onto her bed.
I think being able to know my grades instantaneously would have driven me crazy back in middle school. I would’ve been just like my kid, logging on to see how I did in every class, every day. I would’ve given myself an ulcer. She might give herself an ulcer.
Yet grades are her only measuring stick right now. Her only way to get some kind of feedback from those outside of this house that she’s doing okay. I just wish they’d give a grade for risk taking. Force every teacher, once a semester to give her a letter grade for things like:
Having the guts to make a witty wise crack in the middle of class because even though it was rude, it was accurate, on point, and humorous. Showing up everyday wearing what you like not what everyone else is wearing. Running for student council even through it frightens you to order your own food from the teenager that works at Quiznos. Having the courage to talk to a boy – that you didn’t go to grade school with. Choosing friends based on how they treat you not if they’re considered cool by others.
A risk-taking grade would have been helpful to me – even a bad grade would have helped. As anal as I am, I would studied up on "risk taking" and learned how to do it better. But at least I would’ve had it in my consciousness and made risk taking a part of my life earlier on. I think we should encourage it more such that if it was a mandatory requirement during school hours, it wouldn’t be such an enticing activity outside of school and involve alcohol, drugs and Internet porn.
There’s something about loving yourself through a failure that builds confidence in a way that hating yourself through success can’t give you. A lot of people do the latter. I guess I just want my kids to learn how to do the former because if they can get an "A" in that – they can literally do anything.
When is the last time you took a risk? What grade would you give yourself?