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“A bad grade leads to more.”

That was the response of the parent when we started talking abut grades.

I’m not saying I disagree, but the thought does make me ask questions because that’s what I do.

If your kid gets a bad grade, then what?

Most parents I talk to (and grades are always what parents want to talk about) say that then “the hammer” comes down. They would sit down with their kid and work on the subject, “work the problem”.

Interesting that if your kid gets a bad grade, that means more for you, the parent. So, why is that?

Why? Parents tell me the reason is the above – a bad grade leads to more. If one bad grade happens, it’s a possible sign of future outcome. It could mean they’re not trying, or they have trouble understanding the concepts, or they’re letting other things get in the way.

Fair enough. Suppose any or all of those things are true. Then what?

Most parents (if they are comfortable enough to admit this) talk of transcripts. Bad grades don’t look good on transcripts, and your transcript matters so much. It determines college, it connects to what college you go to, and that affects resumes, graduate school, work…

Again, I’m not saying I disagree with any of this thinking. But.

I’ve said this before, but let’s be clear: I promise that just about all kids are getting into college. There are 2400 4-year colleges in the U.S.; your kid can get into one of them, if that’s what you want. Average to bad grades and all. And let’s be honest, most (again, most) of your kids are not getting really bad grades. Not really.

I received very high grades in high school and college, and some wildly low grades as well. And I work next to people who I can assume never saw a B in their life. I say assume, because the topic of our respective transcripts never comes up. Of course I understand that there are many factors determining why I and my colleagues work where we work, but still.

A bad grade can mean not trying, or trouble understanding the concepts, or letting other things get in the way. Along with a host of other things. It doesn’t have to mean anything more. It doesn’t have to mean a failed transcript. It doesn’t have to mean failed entrance to college. And it certainly doesn’t have to mean an uncertain future.

A bad grade means a bad grade. Or, whatever meaning you want to put on it. Parents have to figure out the meaning for themselves. They have to determine what it means, and doesn’t mean. And nothing more.

Image: http://www.splashlife.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/article_main_image/content_images/College%20Without%20Grades.jpg

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2 thoughts on “What does a bad grade mean?

  1. Rob, this was well reasoned, well written, and a good reminder to every parent today – like your post on “Misguided Improvement”, we are here to help our children grow, not do the growing for them. No wonder it’s so loud at Parent-Teacher conferences from k-12 – it’s the sound of all those helicopters hovering about.

    • Jim

      Thanks. I do understand parents are trying to do the right thing – no parent is trying to make things harder for their kids. The process a parent must make of making sure you’re doing the right thing has to be ongoing.

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