After my students get their report cards I ask, “what do your grades NOT say about you?”  The answers are profound in their simplicity.

“I learned so much more than the grades show.”

“How hard I worked.”

“What really interests me.”

“That I love listening to music.”

“That I am a good person.”

“That I love my friends.”

Yes, teens come up with these insights suggesting that they know deep down what is truly important.

Just like kids, we too are not our grades, accomplishments, bodies, possessions or professions.  Yet this is how we often evaluate success. We measure and are measured frequently by: Where we went to school? What awards have we won? How thin are we? How big are our houses? Do we have those designer shoes? 

These external factors do not define us.  Rather, they can be limiting if we tie our identity around them. They can be costly to the soul if we get too wrapped up in comparing ourselves with others and make our sole focus on ideals of the ego.

Becoming keenly aware of the character qualities that show hard work, passion, kindness, compassion, love are worthy measures of success but hard to quantify.  Isn’t it a bit tricky to say, you get a B in loving your friends?  Or, when it comes to passion, you shine.

Grades are necessary. I would not whisk them away. Measurements are a reality that exist in school, work and beyond.  It would be lovely though, if we spent a bit more time celebrating the intrinsic qualities of character. The qualities that light up the world like what the teens mentioned when they are given a chance to answer, “what do your grades NOT say about you?”

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8 Responses to SUCCESS

  1. Jennifer Fry says:

    Teresa, this post is perfectly timed. I just finished writing an email to a parent and student about grades. I often wrestle with what a grade represents. Is it simply mastery of the subject matter? If so, it seems unreasonable to hold every student to the same expectation because despite being grouped by age, students are on a wide spectrum in their development. Does the grade represent effort? If so, how do we account for the inevitable ups and downs of adolescence that make it nearly impossible to be focused and “on” every day, in every class, despite the best of intentions? Does the grade represent growth from where a student started, keeping it relative to each individual? This would mean an A would not represent a fixed standard, but if that’s the case, how do we maintain integrity within our grading practice and keep our expectations high for each student? I don’t have the answers to these important questions, but I do connect with this post’s premise of what grades do not measure. I see too many students (and parents) who believe that a grade is a judgment about them as a person (or as a parent). I am open to possibilities of finding new ways to communicate student progress as we enter the brave new world of education in 2015 and beyond…

    • Teresa Oefinger says:

      Jennifer, It continues to be an ongoing concern. The older I get the more I just try to listen without judgement, and then share honestly. I always try to make it real with the kids and parents, this is a snapshot of a moment in time, an opportunity to grow and learn. You are such an intentional and amazing teacher. Those students are so lucky to have you. T

  2. Gary Oefinger says:

    So true!

  3. You’re an amazing educator, life coach, friend, wife & mother!

    • Teresa Oefinger says:

      You know what a great person does, Lisa? Makes others feel great. And that’s what you do for me. Thank you for BEING great!

  4. Have a beautiful day Teresa! Let’s figure out a time to get together…

  5. Have a beautiful day!!!! You’re a beautiful person Teresa!

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