A Few B’s

January 29, 2020

Dear Families,

I intend to start a series of posts addressing grades. The good. The bad. The ugly. I hope to challenge thinking, address fears, and persuade our community to consider a new way of approaching grades.

I acknowledge immediately that the title of my post creates angst for many in our community. The thought of a B results in sweaty palms, thoughts of worry, and fears of failure. For others, it evokes longing and hope. Thoughts that range from “If only we could see a few B’s…” or “Wouldn’t that be nice…”

As I processed my plan and approach to this series, I found myself embracing the writing style of William Faulkner. I paused, reflected, and regrouped. Stream of conscious writing may work for Benjy in The Sound and the Fury, but I believe it will serve to frustrate and jumble my message. So, as I embark on this series, I promise to focus my thoughts, to provide structured content, and to engage and challenge thinking.

I chose to begin the series with this particular topic for several reasons. First, I acknowledge that the series may give many pause in the beginning. I understand that breaking the series up into topics may occasionally result in frustration. From time to time, you may find yourself questioning the purpose of the series. But I promise. There is absolutely a purpose. Thus, I begin with this topic.

As you read each week, I implore you to consider the following questions:

  1. Why do I find myself concerned about grades?
  2. Why is it important for my student to have A’s?
  3. What do grades actually mean for my student(s)?
  4. Do the grades they receive have true significance?
  5. Is it more important for my student(s) to have A’s or for my student’s grades to be valid?
  6. What is grade validity?
  7. What do I believe about myself as a parent if my child doesn’t have A’s?
  8. Do I have a clear understanding the impact of grades on my student’s future?

Consider, perhaps, saving these questions and reviewing them before you read each post.

Back to the topic at hand.

A few B’s.

I obtained permission to share the following communication with you.

One of the greatest privileges of being an educator is investing in the lives of others. Hearing from the students you impact long after they leave your class often provides much needed encouragement. It provides tangible evidence that your investment makes a difference.

Each day, I follow a specific routine. Among other tasks, I check my email for urgent messages or staff needs. One morning this past September while scanning my emails, a familiar name caught my eye.

Morganne Coberly.

The subject line: Thank You!!

This, of course, peeked my interest. Morganne, now a successful college freshman at BYU, found herself in my English class in middle school. Morganne personifies excellence in all she does. Her hard work and diligence earned her excellent grades and the promise of a beautiful future.

I can state with certainty that she remains one of the brightest students I will ever have the privilege of teaching. I enjoyed challenging Morganne’s thinking. She willingly embraced the challenges I presented her and sought to excel beyond my expectations. I recognized in her the ability to exceed grade level standards.

So I pushed.

She embraced the challenged.

Even when she earned a B…or two.

In her email, Morganne wrote, “I just wanted to reach out to you and thank you for helping me establish a solid writing foundation so early in my education.” This alone provided me with encouragement. She went on to share a comment left by one of her professors on one of her tests.

The comment radiated praise for her excellent communication and writing skills.

The next paragraph in her email brought me to tears.

“I immediately thought of you. I know that I am the writer that I am because of how hard you were on me and how thoroughly you taught the writing process. Thank you for caring enough to give me a few Bs and pushing me to improve. Your impact on my life has been huge so from the bottom of my heart, thank you!”

Do you see the line that mattered most to me?

“Thank you for caring enough to give me a few Bs and pushing me to improve.”

I assert that the grades she earned in my class in middle school mattered only so much as they pushed her to improve.

BYU never saw them.

They did not impact her position in high school.

They did allow her the opportunity to grow and to improve.

She embraced that opportunity and chose to grow.

I implore you to ponder the following questions over the next week:

  1. Is it important to me that my student have A’s? If so, why?
  2. Do I have a clear understanding of the impact of grades on my student’s future?

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley