I am not a huge fan of grading, but I am an educator at a higher education institution and with that identity comes grading. I wish I could just give all my students a simple pass or fail based on their commitment and effort, but that just isn’t how it works. They need a letter grade that tells them where they sit relative to others.
Grades are supposed to help measure quality and compliance. They are supposed to help us identify who deserves our accolades and those who can’t cut it. They are supposed to be terribly telling and badges of honor, mediocrity or shame.
While I understand the importance in assessment, I think letter grades are akin to labels…labels that define us in ways that can forever shape our future. I wish I could at least modify my grades with effort markers so that those who try extra hard could be recognized on that level.
Good grades have typically come quite easy to me and I haven’t had to try too terribly hard; but I watched my oldest daughter dedicate a tremendous amount of time to her studies to maintain a “B” average. She put in so much more effort and dedication than I did – it took more for her to succeed and she did what it took. Who is to say that I would have done the same if equally challenged? If it hadn’t come easy to me I may have very well quit.
So I grade because I must, but to mitigate that reality I meet with my students during finals week and talk about their work and contributions in my classes. I want to honor their effort and confirm that a grade is such a limited measure of who they are and what they can do. Perfection on paper is overrated, and effort is undergraded…but if there is one thing I know to be true it is this -belief in potential is never wasted.
Day one thousand and thirty-four of the new forty – obla di obla da