The Grading Game

Posted October 27, 2011 by jimhigley

Mistake number one was turning to my high school son for a suggestion about a topic to write on.

“Um, write about grades, Dad,” he tossed out.

“What? You want me to write about your grades?” I responded confused. Surely he didn’t want me to go into detail about all the comments and input I received earlier today during parent-teacher conferences.

“No, no. Just write something about what you think about grades.”

Why couldn’t he suggest nuclear fissure. Or thermal conductivity.  Anything but my thoughts on grades. You see, I really don’t worry (AND AN IMPORTANT SPOILER ALERT TO PARENTS: You may not want your kids reading this!) all that much about grades. I think they are way over-emphasized. And sure, maybe if I had a kid bombing out of biology or tanking in trigonometry, I might feel different.  But trust me, I have had plenty of past experiences with kids who crash and burned a test or simply struggled for a semester in a sticky subject.

And while I care and always try to get my children as much help as I can, I try not to worry or over-react. They’re just grades (and a special shout-out to my oldest son. Yes, I know I threatened to send you away to a military school when you were 15 if you didn’t get your scholastic act together. What can I say? I was young. You were my guinea pig. Sorry, pal.)

Maybe age and experience are finally sinking in. Or maybe I’m just old. Maybe I’ve just heard one too many kids so stressed that they think a “C” in calculus is going to crumble their prospects for the future. And I’m just tired of it.

Let me be clear. I think kids should work hard. Use their talents. And take school seriously.

But more than anything I want my kids to learn how to  learn. To enjoy their education journey. I want them to be exposed to interesting teachers. I want them to love learning. I want them to be open to others’ ideas. And mostly, I want them to have fun.

That might explain to all of my son’s teacher’s today why – in the five brief minutes I had with each of them – I was far more interested in asking them if my son was engaged, kind, inquisitive and happy. I’d much rather hear their perspective in-person on those topics. I’m happy to use email for questions about a test or project.

So, son, if you can break away from your 40 pound backpack of books and homework you brought home tonight, I want to tell you that your teachers think you’re terrific, hard-working, considerate, and fun.

I do too.

Now do me a favor. Take a twenty-minute break from the homework. And enjoy being a kid.