Think Tank: No one ever whines about the A.

Guess what?  You’re not perfect. 

Shocking, I know.

But I probably don’t need to say that to you.  In fact, as you read this, I would imagine that unless you think you invented aluminum foil, you are probably not delusional enough to believe that I’m lying to you.  You know this about yourself.  You know that you aren’t perfect.  In fact, your response may have been something to the effect of: “Yeah.  No kidding.”  Any logical, normal human being on this planet knows this about themselves, and can rattle off a list of weaknesses (either legitimate or perceived) without even thinking about it.  And a good portion of these weaknesses are public enough that they aren’t a secret to anyone who knows you.  You know about them.  Your parents know about them.  Your friends know about them.  Everybody knows.

But what does this have to do with anything?

At the end of each academic term you come face to face with a little letter that means more to you at the end of a term than it does during the middle of it.  Theoretically, that letter is supposed to represent what you have learned and what your abilities are.  But we both know that isn’t always the case.  Every so often you end up with a grade that doesn’t reflect your abilities one way or another.  If the grade happens to be lower than you believe your abilities to be, you probably complain about it, or argue the grade to your teacher.  If the grade is higher than you deserve, you argue for a lower grade that is more honest.

. . . right?

Of course not.  Because no one ever whines about the A.  Recently I’ve had experiences with parents who have been frustrated with the grade their student received on a project – in some cases, these parents were complaining about a low grade on an assignment the parent had admitted earlier was targeted to skills the student was not good at.  By giving the student a lower than A grade on the assignment, I was agreeing with their assessment – and yet they still complained.  But once term grades came through and, in most cases, their students ended up with decently good passing grades, the complaints stopped.

What changed?  Not the skill level of the student.  None of the assignments was resubmitted.  In every case the parent (or student) tried to blame the subjectivity of myself or of English in general on the poor grade.  Even when the weakness was recognized and understood, it was assumed that I would give an A, overlooking the areas that needed improvement in favor of being “kind”.  Unfortunately I don’t see fake, dishonest grades as kind, and I don’t think you should either.

It would be silly to complain about an A, I suppose.  A’s look good on your report card and help give you that wonderful little GPA that gets you into college.  You want A’s.  But consider for a moment what that un-earned trophy does for your skill level.  Not a
thing.  In fact, in extreme cases, it lies about the skill level you don’t have.  If you were a life-level student, you would complain about this instead.  You would want to put your skill level where your grade is, so to speak.  You would want to demand from your teacher or coach – but most especially from yourself, that you be pushed and made better.  And the only person who can ensure that happens?  Not your teacher.  (They grade differently and weakly sometimes, after all.) Not your parents.  (They think you’re wonderful and that’s nice but not always constructive.)  Only person who can do it – YOU.

– Joni


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