Today, Teen and Parent (TAP) Perspectives focuses on grades. The writing team consists of one adult parent (Em) and three teen writers: J3 – 18-yrs, KAPPS – 16-yrs, and Q-Ball – 14-yrs.
Before continuing, I want to emphasize the focus is grades, not Common Core (the curriculum currently used in US public schools). However, the conversation on grades veered into comments about Common Core, so that will become a separate blog topic in a few weeks.
Grades are a significant piece of students’ lives, and each teen responds to them in different ways. Understanding the pressure they create can help parents respond better to teens experiencing this stress.
The survey format worked well for our last topic, so we’ll continue it.
Q1: What pops into your mind when you hear the word “grades”?
KAPPS: Life or death. They have to be above 95, or I will die.
Q-Ball: I’m confident that I’m “secure.” (Common Core reference.)
Q2: What are your general thoughts on grades?
J3: Should be getting A’s.
KAPPS: Should be above 95, or I will die.
Q-Ball: It’s a bragging right in middle school.
Em: They serve a limited purpose (feedback) for a limited time (while in school).
Q3: How important are grades to you?
J3: Pretty important.
KAPPS: IF I DONT GET ABOVE A 95, I WILL DIE.
Q-Ball: They’re not something I’d devote my life to perfecting, but they’re snapshots of where I am in my learning.
Em: I’ve liked the feedback grades offer, as a student and as a parent. However, grades don’t tell the whole story of a person.
Q4: How important are grades to your parents?
J3: Very important to dad. Mom just wants me to try my best.
KAPPS: Not as important as they are to me!
Q-Ball: My parents want success for me. If they see a low grade, they’ll ask me about it.
Em: When I was in high school, my mom expected me to at least get C’s, because she said I was at least average. I was so offended that I got all A’s.
Q5: What is the point of grades in general?
J3: To show who knows the material and who doesn’t.
KAPPS: To prove you’re not stupid.
Q-Ball: Grades are a signature of approval from teachers.
Em: In theory, they measure what a student has learned. In reality, they’re used to 1) a measure our school systems, and 2) predict a student’s learning potential.
Q6: What are your grade pet-peeves?
J3: When teachers put things on a test they haven’t covered in class.
KAPPS: When teachers don’t allow homework to count toward grades. My grades would be POPIN’.
Q-Ball: When a teacher puts a low grade on your online report card but never tells you about it, so you find out too late to do anything about it.
Em: 1) When grades don’t reflect actual understanding, and 2) when grades become more important than actual understanding.
Q7: Do you have any suggestions regarding grades (for teachers, parents, students)?
J3: Teachers, make it clear what’s gonna be on the test. Parents, don’t put too much stress on your kids but make sure they’re actually working. Students, find a way to study that actually works.
KAPPS: Teachers, please count homework in the grade. Parents, please don’t freak out because your child is already.
Q-Ball: Teachers, don’t stress your students out to the point of them losing sleep.
Em: Teachers, 1) Test and give an objective grade, then allow the kids to learn from their mistakes and RETAKE a comparable test. (One retake, not five, which drains teacher resources.) Life is full of do-overs. Giving up is the problem.
2) Be REASONABLE with grading. One of my kids took a grammar test and forgot 1 comma. She got 10 points off her grade for it. Considering the total possible mistakes she could have made (i.e. misspelled words and screwed up commas, capitals, quotes, etc.), she could have conceivably gotten a -500 for a grade. What kind of grading system is that?
Q8: Share a memorable “grade” story.
J3: I failed a chem test once. That was pretty neat.
KAPPS: I had one teacher who could never put in grades right. I had a 30, then a 57, then an 89, then a 100. It was stressful. And those online changes took place over a matter of 5 minutes. Worst 5 minutes of my life.
Q-Ball: One day, I got a 70 on a test, and I flipped out. I’d been at the top of my class, handing in assignments on time, giving my teacher neat and organized work, and helping teach my peers. SO HOW ON EARTH HAD I GOTTEN A 70?
I’d made a simple mistake and repeated it 3 times. Per classroom policy, I asked for a retake. The teacher wrote down three new problems and told me that if I solved these correctly, I’d get at least get an 85, a “secure” grade.
A few days later, she handed the re-graded test papers back. My answers were 100% correct, but my grade was an 80, a “developing” grade. I asked the teacher why I didn’t get at least an 85 like she’d said I would. She took the paper out of my hand, slammed it on the table and said, “Hon, I guess that’s just how life works.”
I learned life can be disappointing.
Em: On more than one occasion, I’ve experienced grade whiplash. After watching one of my kids pull together a project, I encouraged him to work harder and strive for a higher grade. Then 30 seconds later, a different child entered the room sobbing over a “bad” grade, and I assured her it would be fine.
There’s a balance to grades, and it’s not easy to find. My long-term goal has been for my kids to manage their grades themselves, but it’s taken effort to teach them boundaries: hard work, smart work, and perspective. We’re still working on it.