Raising Learners

A few days ago, our district released report cards for marking period one. In many households, I would bet that report card day carries a lot of weight. Grades have extreme power in our American society. Parents stress that their kids are getting good grades. And, children internalize this stress and they also stress about getting good grades.

When my son came home from school on report card day, I asked if he knew that grades were available. He said, "No." I responded, "Do you want to know what you got?" He said, "Not really."

I tried to keep my cool, but in my head, I rejoiced. To me, that was a parenting win.

You may be thinking that he didn't want to know his grades, because he's a terrible student, and getting bad grades might mean parental punishment. You would be…wrong. My son does well in school.

So why didn't he want to know his grades?

I work very hard to downplay the importance of grades. When graded work comes home from school, I don't necessarily comment on the grade. I comment on what my child got wrong in order to emphasize learning.

We discuss whether they misunderstood the question, didn't know how to get the right answer, or simply made a mistake. If my child truly didn't understand how to arrive at the answer, we will spend some time discussing it until an a-ha moment has been reached. If the question was poorly worded or a "brain fart" happened, then we don't worry at all. It's ok to make mistakes, because we are human.

People seem to think that getting good grades guarantees something. Perhaps entry into a good college. Perhaps status in the school as a superior student. So many discussions about school revolve around grades. In our house, we try to position school and grades a bit differently. School is a place where you spend some time during the day - and you try to make the most of your time there. But grades are not indicative of what you have learned. And learning is a far more powerful goal to aim for.

I'd like to believe that my emphasis on learning has helped my kids reduce how much they stress about grades. In fact, you could say, my son almost doesn't care at all.