I am not My Grade

By Rhianna Womack

I was once one of the “smart kids” who begged for a retake after getting a “B” on a test. I showed no pity to the students who failed time and time again thinking, “They don’t try hard enough” or “They probably just don’t turn in work anyway.”

But one day it all changed. My AP World History teacher was passing back the test from the Friday before. I sat confidently with my lips pursed that held back my fragile ego. My paper went blurry with tears but I managed to see a big fat F. My first one, but certainly not my last.

I thought, “What does this say about me?” I had read the chapter, understood the basics, and expected to get an “A” just like the years before. After a few more months of this superficial learning, I realized that I needed to shift my approach of learning to focus on the process rather than just the product.

In order to retain this new adopted growth mindset, I continued to take more AP classes to challenge myself and focus on the process of learning. Through many cycles of trial and error, I found myself more open to feedback, persistent with obstacles, and understanding of my abilities.

This school year, Thurston High School switched to a 4 point grading scale where we are given a grade of a 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.  Gone are the letter grades and gone are half grades of minuses and pluses. The focus shifted to standards and learning.

Immediately panic unfolded into echos of “What’s my grade?” Up to this point, students have been conditioned to have an obsession with grades. This shift from earning to learning has begun to challenge how students, teachers, and parents view the academic system as a whole.

Traditionally, students have allowed test score and grades to determine their confidence, motivation, and unfortunately, their sense of self-worth. Grades fit the mold of a fixed mindset and teach students the black and white of failure or success.

When I encountered this grading scale, it didn’t affect me because I had already determined that my success is qualitative, not quantitative. I remained focused on the effectiveness of my learning and continued to validate myself internally. No matter what I vowed to let my hard work speak for itself.