Posted: Apr 11, 2014 9:00 AM
 
So many of us felt pressure to achieve in school. Good grades were the pinnacle of scholastic achievement. But do good grades really indicate how prepared we are to succeed in the world?
Photo credit: Jeffrey Coolidge/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

I remember breaking into a cold sweat when the grade cards were passed out. I prayed that somehow there would be a miracle and my teachers bumped my grades a few percentages just because I was so awesome. So what if I didn't turn in my homework and left some answers blank on the test? I knew enough and resented having to prove what I knew to anyone. As you can imagine, my drive to buck the system did not equal good grades.

I was a mediocre student all through high school and college. It wasn't that I lacked the ability to grasp concepts or memorize information… it was my lack of drive to "waste" my energy on things that seemed pointless. It was a question of motivation. The answer? I had none.

I tried to squeeze myself into a shape that would please the system, and I've never been great at conforming.

Fast forward 10 years after my high school graduation, and you would find me rolling out of bed at or before 5 a.m. (yes, this notorious night owl rises before dawn) in order to squeeze in as much work time as I could before my toddler woke up and I was on mom duty. I was under contract to finish my memoir, and suddenly I was a different person. I was focused. I was passionate. I was driven. And it shocked me… it still does. Because I grew up believing that my grades reflected my potential. It felt like that piece of paper I took home to my parents at semester's end was a summary of where my life was headed. I wonder if I would have felt differently had I known that one day my aversion to schedules and rigid structure ultimately would not matter, because I would fall in love with a career that fit. I tried to squeeze myself into a shape that would please the system, and I've never been great at conforming.

"Even for children who perform well on academic tests, an 'A' grade is only one measurement of success," according to Psychology Today.

A few things that school testing cannot measure include:

  • Effort
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Respect
  • Kindness
  • Capacity to love
  • Social and emotional intelligence
  • Honesty
  • Open-mindedness
  • Initiative

"Internal strengths, like those listed above, are far more important to a life of success and well-being than whether a child earns an 'A' on an algebra exam."

Not only do test scores sort of miss all the important stuff, but getting good grades across the board could keep a child from finding the thing they really love.

If a student is focused on performing well in every subject, they will be forced to put much more time and energy into those subjects which do not come naturally. Even I put way more effort into my math homework (which I now rarely use) than I did English (which I now love and call a career) because I didn't have to work at English to get an A… and an A was the ultimate goal, right?

If a student is focused on performing well in every subject, they will be forced to put much more time and energy into those subjects which do not come naturally.

"Could our infra-structure of education be catered to certain types of learners? Very possible," says Mrs. Sundermeyer, a high school language arts teacher from Missouri. "I have a high respect for cultures who encourage these pursuits at younger ages, equipping their young people to follow their passions at earlier ages."

However, she points out that in certain professions, such as education, medicine and law, scores and standards are very important for continuity within society and the well-being of others.

"I believe grades are important... they are a unit of measure, a standard. However, there is a difference between 'achieving' that standard and being a success."

So will I worry if my kids aren't on the honor roll? Definitely not. In fact, I may worry if they are (are these my children?!). My hope for them is that they discover quickly what subjects really interest them, and begin a life-long pursuit of learning for the love of it.

More on school

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Rethinking homework
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