Not a Letter, Not a Number

It's report card day in town.  It's the first year that my son received "real" letter grades.  (A-F; as opposed to elementary school where it was N-needs improvement, P-on level, I- above level or something along those lines.)  His report card will be of no surprise to me as I have been (obsessively) following his progress on the parent portal.  (  I watched his triumphs and his downfalls.  I recognized when he needed help and thanks to a recommendation from a friend, found that help in the form of an incredible tutor.  Nonetheless, he still struggles with certain things.  (Especially when it comes to tests and timed quizzes, tests & assessments.)

There is a reason why I call it the portal to hell and I fully admit that I AM too reliant on it as I nervously await postings of grades on projects, tests, etc.  I try, but often fail, not of freak out when I see a grade that is less than I expected.  And sadly, I think I have passed that trait onto my son.

I need to follow my own advice and pass it on and instill it in my son (and his friends).  You need to work hard and do your best, there is no question of that.  While it's nice to get straight As; there is more to life than grades.  Each and every kid is more than just a letter or a number.  (I fully admit that I need to remember that as my son was just one point away from a "better" letter grade in two courses.)  More important than getting good grades is being a good person.  It's more important to care about others and to help others than it is to get an A in math.  Kindness and compassion are more important than any grade in any subject.  As a mom I should be proud of my son for I know he is (for the most part) a very kind and compassionate person.  The fact that he falters in certain subjects, may be a concern, but it does not define who my son is.

But it is easy to forget that there is more to life than numbers and letters.  Nowhere was that more evident that in a social media post written by a high school student that I know who happens to be an active member of my church.    She said she was incredibly stressed out with school work and that she was only one point away from making honor roll.  She was upset that time was running out for the marking period and that her grade in one course would prevent her from reaching her goal.

Now the only context in which I know this young woman is through her service at the church. She is a caring young woman, which is why I thought she would be an excellent choice to be a member of one of the church boards.  Although the boards are usually made up of "adults," youth are encouraged to participate.  I felt that she would be an excellent addition due to her commitment to serving others.  I was pleased when she (after speaking to her parents) said she'd be happy to be part of this board and I know she is an excellent addition.  I asked her not because she was an honor roll student, but because I felt she was qualified.  In observing her over the years, I see her talents and skills and they have nothing to do with a grade.  I know that she can do (will do) great things no matter what her GPA is.  I have seen her work ethic.  I have observed her compassion (especially as it related to the nursery school aged kids).  I KNOW that she is so much more than just a grade on a report card.  I reminded her of that; I hope she takes it to heart.  I hope that she knows that she is so much more than a letter or a number.  (I also mentioned that in my over 20 years of employment no one has ever asked me if I made honor roll and very rarely have I been asked, even in my early years, for my GPA.)

NO ONE should be defined by a grade.  We are all people; not letters or numbers.  I know I need to make a concerted effort to remember that each and every day.  While I need to continue to encourage my son to always do his best, both he and I need to remember that a grade is NOT who he is.  

Whether in kindergarten or graduate school; we are PEOPLE.  We should not be defined by test scores, but by our humanity.  We should be defined by the work we do in the world, not the work we do on paper.  

I'll try to remember that each time I dare to open that "portal to hell" or see a report card.  I hope you will too.


  1. Well said Beth. A good person is much more important. We will all find our strengths and our place to be in this world. No one asks about grades or GPAs. A students do not all do well and all c students do not do poorly in life. For most it is the social skills and moral values that determine our successes and failures in life.


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