I am a fortunate mom. I had been proud of the fact that my son always scored straight A’s without much effort. And I had also been claiming that I don’t lose sleep over my kid’s grades. “Oh, don’t you worry so much. They are just grades. You won’t even remember them next year”, you would have heard me saying this to moms whose kids had lesser grades. But my walk of fame and glory came to a halt recently when my kid brought back an evaluation report with an alphabet “B” under the grades column. It was staring right in my face. A big bold B. What followed was a tsunami of mixed emotions, to put it mildly.
As much as I wanted to ignore the fact, that B kept haunting me. Interestingly, my 8-year old was pretty oblivious to the storm in my head and carried on with his chores playfully. But I had to live by what I had been preaching, so I maintained a calm face. However, the façade of composure broke down when my husband used the same justification with me – “Come on. They are just grades. Don’t fuss over them so much”. And with those words, he threw reality in my face, point blank. Was I obsessed about those dreadful grades? Was I being the parent who judged his kid by his grades? It was time for some serious introspection.
Deep-seated in the Indian mindset is the worship for academic excellence. There used to be percentages or percentiles to gauge a kids’ performance till very recently. With an aim to bring uniformity in evaluation system and alleviate the undue pressure on wards, a more evolved grading system was introduced a few years back. A general promotion policy was also announced for junior classes. It did take off some pressure but failed to create the desired impact. Parents found a way to be obsessed with grades and the nightmare continued.
To say that this mindset should change right away would be highly ambitious, even impossible. But there is a need to take small steps in the right direction immediately. The shocking instances of students succumbing to pressure and taking extreme steps are becoming frequent. It is time to do some damage control and save some precious lives from falling prey to the demon of grades. So where and how do we start?
Recently, I attended a talk show where a speaker presented an interesting and innovative idea of education. The idea completely shunned traditional schooling methods and focused on exploring creative dimensions in kids. Though I am not completely convinced with the notion of “no schooling”; it did get me thinking. There has to be a way somewhere in between where the non-negotiability of academics is also respected and the kids’ creative freedom is also not lost. And the first thing that came to my mind was- let go of the grades.
Yes, let go of the grades!
As ridiculous as it may sound, but grades are just…grades. And these petty numbers should not be allowed to evaluate a child’s performance. Concentrate on concepts and leave them free to find their implementation. In fact, the word performance should be replaced by the word understanding.
It is so much better and fulfilling when a kid relates something in the real world to the things he read in the book. The knowledge acquired and retained is way better than a number on the report card. And who knows, you might have both. I have formulated a design to help me let go of the grades and concentrate on the larger objective, i.e., learning.
My 4-pointer rule to “un-care” about the grades:
1. Don’t discuss grades, especially in public.
2. Don’t over-analyze the result.
3. Look at not-so-good grades as areas of improvement.
4. Focus on understanding the concept instead of mugging the words.
I have always believed that if a kid enjoys what he does, it will help him some way or the other. If the A’s and A+s on the evaluation sheet are a result of incessant criticism and come at a cost of unhappy childhood, I would rather be content with a B. And now when I say I don’t care about the grades, I really don’t.
Deepali Joshi Adhikary is a freelance writer/blogger/trainer outdoors and a kick-ass mom at home. Her experiences and opinions turn into words on her blog. She has a diverse writing portfolio which spans from light-hearted humor to the issues affecting the society, her parenting challenges and reviews of books. She also has keen interest in andragogy as well as pedagogy and loves to work with different age groups. When she is not writing or training or doting her kid, she likes to read. Connect with her @deepaliadhikary.