Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making the Grade

A  B  C  D  F

A new way to look at the alphabet.  Grades.  I know this is something that will be new for many of you this year in First Grade.  What's in a grade?  What do they mean?  More questions than answers?  Well, I thought I would take a minute to discuss and explain this new and possibly foreign territory.  

In many Kindergarten and Early Childhood classrooms the students are assessed using terminology such as "mastery", "in progress", "not yet achieved".  You may also be familiar with the E, S, N, U grading scale.  Excellent, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement, and Unsatisfactory.  You get comfortable with this, you understand it.  Then you get to First Grade and I pull the rug out from under you!  :)  Suddenly you're thrown back into the same letter grades you may be familiar with from when you were a student or if you have an older child.  So, how do you interpret this?  Easy, support your child regardless of the grades they receive.

Yes, I know everyone, students and parents alike, enjoy seeing that big A+ at the top of the paper.  A sign of victory.  A symbol of achievement.  But it does not define your child.  Everyone wants their child to do well in school, to get good grades.  So do I.  Not only do the grades the children earn reflect what they know and have learned, but also what I have been able to teach them.  Society also pushes good grades, encouraging students to study and work hard to get them.  But exactly how realistic are straight A's?  Does a grade other than an A mean something is wrong?  What is a "bad" grade?  These are all questions that may have popped into your head as we have begun this year, especially this week as I have begun to grade and return the kids' work.  So, let's move on and try to get some answers to them.

Firstly, how realistic are straight A's?  Well, they are certainly possible.  But I must remind you that an A means that the student has mastered the concept, topic, lesson they are being graded on.  Therefore, straight A's mean that the student has mastered everything being taught.  Looking at it this way brings to light the fact that grades other than an A might not be so bad.  This ties into the second question I posed - does anything less than an A mean something is wrong?  The answer to this is simple - no.  Any grade below an A means that the child is learning and working toward mastery.  Isn't that what school is all about?  Learning, working toward gaining knowledge, striving to become better?  I think it is.  

This segues nicely into the final question.  What is a "bad" grade?  Well, like beauty, this is in the eye of the beholder.  Is a B bad?  I don't think so.  Less desirable maybe, but certainly not bad.  Think for a minute about your child.  Their strengths.  Their weaknesses.  What about a child who struggles in Spelling.  It is not a gift that comes naturally and they study and work hard throughout the week.  The Spelling test comes and they get a B.  Is this bad?  Does this mean they haven't learned?  No, and no.  It means that their hard work all week long paid off.  Wouldn't you want to celebrate this victory with your child rather than focus on the fact that the grade wasn't an A?

With so much focus in the modern world on perfection, good grades, and over achievement it is easy to lose sight of the fact that a C is average.  It always has been and still is.  However, to many people a C is that dreaded "bad" grade.  Yet, average is not bad.  Is there room for improvement?  Of course.  But again, isn't that what education is all about?  Plus, when you think about a C as average the B doesn't look so bad anymore does it?  Because it is technically "above average".  Of course everyone wants their child to be successful, I do too.  But, like the children we are talking about, success comes in all different sizes (and grades).  Success is individual to the child and can't always be measured in comparison to the achievement of others.  The best way to see what your child can do and to see how much they've learned is to keep in mind what they can do and what they are capable of.

What can you do as a parent to help your child earn their "good" grades?  Encourage and support them.  Help them to gain a sense of pride and work ethic.  These are the traits that will ensure success.  Don't push them too hard, you don't want them to burn out.  Learn their limits and help them to learn them as well.  Oh, and praise.  Lots of praise.  It comes in many forms.  A thumbs up, a smile, a hug, words, a sticker, sweets, etc.   

So, will there be A's in First Grade?  Of course, lots of them.  Will there be challenges in First Grade?  Of course, lots of them.  I will promise you that we will have loads of fun while learning tons of new and exciting things.  I love teaching and love the "light bulb" moments.  I try to instill in the children the ability to do their best, their own personal best.  Maybe that isn't always perfect.  Maybe that isn't always an A.  But I can guarantee to that the road to their best will always lead to success.  



  1. I applaud this rationale on grades! You are right about kids' feeling so much pressure to strive for those "A"'s, but, it is truly the effort that a child places into his work. As long as he/she continues to do his/her best and gives it his All, that is all that matters!

  2. I remember reading this last year and loving it! (when it was posted by Mrs. Boatman) Thanks for sharing it once again. There are so many important points in it!