G is for Grades
Grades are a massive teaching G for me. In some way, they sum up a significant expectation in my teaching role.
A lot of time is spent on reviewing external exam grades during the first staff meeting of the year in September and this continues through the academic year. Internal exam grades are largely considered in relation to how on course students are towards achieving or exceeding their predetermined target grade for their GCSE or A levels exam.
Children are groomed from the onset of their formal education about the importance of their grades. For most students and at some point, grades determine the groups they are taught within and some of the teachers they have. It partly determines the recognition they get from their peers, teachers, and school; and even future opportunities in different ways.
Incentives are offered throughout the year to encourage students to work towards their target grades. Teachers are pressured in different ways to do all they can to ensure that their students achieve and perhaps exceed target grades determined by organisations like Alps and Family Fisher Trust. I’m expected about 3 to 6 times in the school year to
guess predict and assign grades to my students In the UK, teachers pay progression are now significantly subject to the performance of their students on external exams.
I have personally lived the importance of grades in the modern world. I for example, wouldn’t have gotten into my 2nd secondary school if I didn’t have really good grades … I wouldn’t have made to my 1st university without good SAT scores … I couldn’t have become a teacher without certain qualifications and grades. Those numbers or letters that sums up one’s performance on assessments do mean a lot for one’s future a lot of the time.
I encourage my higher ability students to particularly aim for As and A*s inspite of their target grade, and all my students to do their best.
I am caught up in the circle of achieving more, doing better, and aspiring to get higher grades; and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this in itself. It is however important to remember that
… there is more to our lives than the grades we get …
… grades don’t (have to) define us …
… grades don’t indicate all we are …
… grades don’t specify all we have to offer!
I will always remember one of my ex-students who came to see me a day before her exam. She cried uncontrollably and I struggled to console her. I later found out that she was scared that she wouldn’t achieve an A* grade and thus let me down. This was not good in her view; she felt that I had put so much effort into teaching them and preparing them for the exam. She emailed me about this later on that day and below is an extract from my reply.
Dear .... Whatever happens, you couldn't let me down. I know you want to do well and I know that you've worked very hard on so many levels. So, please please, please, DO NOT WORRY! If you don't get A*, it's not the end of the world. Don't forget that you already have almost 50% in the bank! See me tomorrow and tell me what you think you should know that you don't know. You've been an excellent student, so much so that I am willing to write you a reference whenever you need one from me. You've worked very well in class and also at home. You've been revising for a while now. You have no reason to be worried! Thanks for your kind words; you are a terrific student and I'm so glad to have had the honour of teaching you all these years. If you don't get A*, you will not let me down! Remember your performance on all your end of topic tests! I do hope that you feel somewhat better after reading this; I really don't want you feeling stressed or freaking out because it's not going to do your revision any good. So, my dear lovely student, chin up, cheer up, stop worrying, take a break when you need one and keep going with your revision [just the right amount to, not too much]. From your teacher who believes in you; I believe that you can do this. A* or not, you'll always be one of my top, excellent, conscientious and so much more student :-) Keep smiling. Make sure you spread your revision time wisely between all the exams you've got next week; don't focus too much on any of them, especially when you don't need to. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
I have taken care from that day to tell my students that they are worth more than their grades, whenever I encourage them to aim for the best grades they can achieve.
Everyone is innately valuable inspite any grades.
I will be writing sometime soon about why grades don’t define us, even though they are very important tools on the ‘future opportunities’ road for most people.
How important have your grades been in your life?
#AtoZChallenge: Considering Teaching from A to Z in April 2015