Love them or hate them, grades are an important part of the learning experience. Although an imperfect measurement, grades provide valuable information about comprehension, mastery and areas that need improvement.
But so often, a healthy desire for diligent learning becomes an unhealthy fixation on getting good grades. This can drive students to unhealthy levels of worry and a shift in how they understand the real purpose of education. Grade-focused learning becomes less about seeking to glorify God and more about earning an external reward. Such a view takes the joy out of learning and can distort a student’s sense of value and purpose.
At Wilson Hill Academy, we understand the value of grades, but we also celebrate learning as a life-long process of spiritual formation. If your children are overly-worried about their grades, here are three nuggets of advice from our teachers to consider as you help them cultivate a more balanced perspective.
Mr. Bart Martin: Focus on the big picture
Mr. Martin suggests, “Imagine yourself many years down the road, at your 25th high school reunion. You are married and have several children, and you are enjoying catching up with old friends and sharing memories and the highs and lows of life. Will you or any of your old friends ask about or even think about what kind of grades you got in school? Not a chance. Yes, we should cultivate a love of learning. Yes, we should work hard to develop our intellectual gifts. But there are so many other more important things in life. Grades serve a purpose, but compared to the greatest things in life—like how we love God and how we love others—they serve a purpose that is secondary at best.”
Mrs. Naomi Wise: Remind your children they are loved
Mrs. Wise recommends, “A good conversation with your children about grades may reveal what they think about the relationship between their value as a person and their academic performance. It may reveal some surprising misconceptions about their value. Grades are a measure of learning, but not a measure of a person’s value. I remind parents to make sure they show their children how much they are loved.”
Mrs. Sylvia Chen: Remember that school is also about spiritual formation
“While great grades are always an encouragement, low grades along with an honest effort are not a curse,” says biology teacher Mrs. Sylvia Chen, “but rather could be seen as a blessing to those in Christ. For example, students could see low grades as an indication that this is not the gift God has given in this area for now. They could be seen as a humbling character-building experience or as a growing experience in learning to seek help. Yes, grades are what we humans have for evaluating learning, but what ultimately counts is paying attention to what God is teaching your children through class and study times, through their struggles and triumphs in learning.”
When balanced with a long view of life, an assurance of God’s unconditional love and acceptance, and a good dose of humility, grades reclaim their place as a helpful (but not ultimate) measure of one’s academic efforts. Such a balanced view can help students pursue learning with joy for the glory of God.