Twelve years of formal teaching and decades of tutoring and presentations have not changed my opinion of the emphasis on grades. From children to adults, the idea of going back to school varies from excitement to terror. That is quite a swing in feelings, particularly when the cause usually reflects the emphasis on grades.
You Can’t Buck the System
Sitting at the table to verify my child shows the work on the arithmetic homework is a challenge. Kids want to know why they have to do the process several times if they have already demonstrated they have learned the procedure. The paper is a part of the grade. To pass to the next level, qualify for honors classes and compete for scholarships, grades are important. Quite frankly, you can’t buck the system if those things matter.
Learning is Essential
As a parent, I believe the emphasis should be on learning. Hours spent doing the same steps repeatedly are more valuable when spent on areas that need more skill. I do not want to see my child turn off of math because he never learns anything new. I want to see the excitement on his face as his vocabulary expands, spelling improves and awareness of the essence of art around us increases.
Why I Feel the Way I Do
I loved a lot of things about school when I entered first grade. It was exciting to take blocks and create buildings. I was fascinated with the idea of writing a letter or number on a piece of paper that had a sound in the form of the spoken word. Best singer in the classroom? That was me! Yet, my mother sat me down with tears in her eyes because I was about to become the first child of a teacher to fail the first grade because I could not read.
So began an intensive reading program where I ended up reading better than the second graders in less than a month. It had nothing to do with my ability to read; there had just never been any emphasis placed on that skill.
Should Effort Equal Acceptance?
My philosophy on grades is that they are outdated and overrated. I have encountered teachers that grade according to their impression of the child. If one child tries their best, is the result deserving of an A? If another produces a quality paper without really trying, should it receive a lower grade?
The open classrooms of the 1970s promised a change where learning took priority over subjective grades. Four decades later, I’m still waiting.
Lori is a parent and holds teaching credentials for grades k- 12 and a special education credential for learning-challenged children. An avid reader, she’s had a book in her hand every possible moment since first grade.