More than a mark

It is the time of year when the report card goes out. As a kid I dreaded this moment. A child of the letter grades and percentages I worked hard enough to get by but I was never an over achiever. Solid B- or C+ I was average. My parents always told me I was not an “average” student. I could have done better but my moms proudest moment was not when I brought home a report card full of A’s. My moms proudest moment of me was when my 3rd grade teacher called her at home to tell her how kind and inviting I was to a new student. I had demonstrated a quality that lasts far longer than the tally of A+’s or 100% or 5’s or whatever a report card reports on.

As a teacher we are required to report on what our students have learned and what they still need to learn. As time goes on we move further away from A+ or E for excellent and closer to, “Johnny has excelled in decimals but still is developing in factors and multiples” Descriptive feedback that means something. But as one of my kids pointed out the other day, “this is grade 6 and in the big picture it is not that important” while I disagree I was in grade 6 once and I think I said the same thing.

The marks I get in math might not matter, the percentage of questions I get right on a Science test on trees will not impact my college acceptance. But the skills I learn, the attitude I hold towards education and ultimately the kind of person I am is something that is being developed more at this age.

My goal as a teacher is to help my students see that if at first they are not successful it is ok as long as they don’t think the answer is to quit. When they struggle, that they know asking for help is ok and shows you are strong enough to realize you need it. That treating each other with respect and kindness will make you far more memorable to your peers than having the best report card. Students should strive to be more than a collection of marks.

Don’t get me wrong I think the learning is important, I am thrilled for my students when they reach or exceed their goals but I am more excited when they realize they can be successful and their confidence is bolstered. The R on their reading test is not the important part or that it correlates to a 2 on their report card, numbers and letter are numbers and letters but the smile on a student that gained confidence and the knowledge that they CAN do hard things, that they can learn, that they can grow, that is worth its weight in gold.

Please remember that of course achievement is important but it is only a snapshot. After all it isn’t like we sit around talking about how Johnny won the gold medal in his grade 6 track meet thirty years later but we do remember our friends, the classmates that were kind to everyone. That is what leaves an impression. We are all more than just a mark.

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