You are not your grade

November 13, 2014

 “The more we want our children to be (1) lifelong learners, genuinely excited about words and numbers and ideas, (2) avoid sticking with what’s easy and safe, and (3) become sophisticated thinkers, the more we should do everything possible to help them forget about grades.”

― Alfie Kohn

Parent-teacher conferences are tomorrow. It is time for me to hear all about my child’s learning and the evaluations that have been completed for the first nine weeks.

As a middle and high school teacher I hated assessing students through giving out a grade. I loved teaching the subject, I thoroughly enjoyed science and I valued my relationship with my students (most days).

However, I felt uneasy with evaluating students for the work that I had claimed to be important to science and to them. Most of the time, I tried to avoid the process of assessment through using tools that would help students’ reflection on what they had produced. The self-reflection opened up the door for a conversation instead of a one way evaluation. I noticed that the evaluation the students gave themselves were very honest and accurate.

Self-reflection is one skill that is highly needed in today’s fast pace world.


As a culture we are so caught up in grades for school achievement that we lose sight of what are grades really to convey to the teacher, student and parents.

Is the grade really a reflection of what you learned? Or is grade the reflection of your effort put forth in a class? Or is the grade a reflection of what the teacher perceives to be important to the subject?

How often do we sit down and really reflect on our lives much less have our child reflect on their learning?

My son really was taking the low grades that he had on his report card as a reflection of himself.

It took time to help him to know his strengths and to show him that the assessments made in school was not who he is as a person.

As my children travel through the public school system my mantra is “you are not your grades”. Each of my children have a unique set of strengths. It is my belief as a parent that part of helping my children grow is to help them find outlets for their strengths to shine.

No matter what age your child is you can help them reflect upon his/her learning and themselves. Asking open ended questions can start the conversation of helping your child reflect on their strengths.

Here are a few questions to try with your child to assist them in discovering and reflecting on their strengths.

What do you find easy to learn …?

What helps you when something get tricky …?

The most interesting thing about _____________________is …

I prefer to work by myself on activities that …

I like working with others when …

If I can, I try to avoid activities that …

I find it easiest to understand when …

When I don’t understand something, I …

I’m getting much better at …

One good question I asked (or thought of) today was …

One of the things I do best is …

If you would like to know more about how Wildewood Learning services and how I can help your family with a child that is “checked out” of learning, please click to contact me for a complimentary 30 minute trailblazing session.

Thanks to Escuela Atlántida flickr photostream for the photo.

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