Grades don’t define you

Angela Cai, Feature Editor

With AP exams and finals approaching in the near distance, grades are about to be on the minds of many students. Grades are often a significant cause of stress. “I honestly have about 3 anxiety attacks each week because of my grades,” McKenzie Jackson ‘19 said. “At least once a month I’ll get yelled at for having lower grades like a C or a B- or a B+.”

Because of outside pressure from parents, teachers, and in some cases students themselves, a letter grade will often take priority over over other things like whether or not the student is actually learning. “Some people hold you up to a standard letter that you need to earn, but they don’t take into account that every class and every teacher is different,” Aline Teixeira ‘19 said.

When we define ourselves by only one aspect of our lives, we limit our potential and ignore the majority of our character, personality, skills, and talents.

— therapist Amy Ziegenhorn

Grades can be important for the future. For students looking to go to college, grades partially determine which colleges the student is eligible for, scholarship opportunities, and many other things beyond high school. Although grades can be a motivator for some students to learn, many times internal and external pressures will lead students to think that they are defined by their grades.

Language arts teacher Mark Schillerstrom has seen instances in class where students have felt like they were defined by their grades. Recently, one of Schillerstrom’s students came to talk to him about an essay that wasn’t written very well because it had been a busy week for her. “I said ‘well I don’t think less of you as a person because you didn’t do this very well’, and she seemed relieved,” Schillerstrom said. “She was not a grade on that assignment. She’s a real living human being.”

When students allow grades to define them, it is very bad for their mental health. “When we define ourselves by only one aspect of our lives, we limit our potential and ignore the majority of our character, personality, skills, and talents,” therapist Amy Ziegenhorn said. “It is important to define yourself through more than one aspect of your life.”

The idea that grades define students is something fundamentally wrong with our society. There is no easy solution, but there are many steps that can be taken in the right direction.

Something that can very easily be accomplished is that there needs to be more conversations about grades and what they represent. Teachers can help dispel thoughts that grades are what define a person by talking about it in class. Many students truly believe that grades are a factor which defines them, and they would benefit to hear that they are not defined by their grades.

However, if teachers are going to have this conversation about grades, they need to be careful not to say that grades don’t matter. “We work really hard to maintain our grades and then after a test of something, [teachers] will tell us grades don’t matter,” Parul Srivastava ‘19 said. “Then we’re kind just sitting there like, ‘You’re telling us this but we just worked so hard to get a good grade.’ It doesn’t make us feel good.”

It is important to emphasize that grades do not define a person.

It will take a long time to convince students that they aren’t defined by their grades, and it will take an even longer time to convince their parents, but starting with teachers, and classroom conversation, steps can be taken in the right direction.