“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.”
– J.K. Rowling
1. A bad grade, when given for the right reasons, is a marker that students are being challenged.
If students takes a math test of 10 problems and gets them 100 percent correct, they have shown they know all of the information on the test. They've had no opportunities to push beyond what they know or to show the limits of their ability. Using tests simply to assess student progress is great. Using that assessment as the marker of a student's success can be a recipe for trouble.
2. A bad grade, when a result of appropriate expectations, can teach resiliency. There are few things that teach us how to perservere more than learning to have the confidence to keep at something even when we know we aren't always the best.
My advice is simple. Shelter your kids from harm, do not shelter your kids from failure. Teach your kids that a grade is nothing more than a marker for where they can go next. Encourage teachers to see grades as a way to mark progress not as a way to value students. While I wish I could say that adding my voice to the wave of teachers trying to change the way we evaluate student success would change the tides of grading, the reality is it won't. What I hope will happen is that I might remind others, and myself, to look at letter grades as oversimplified and misunderstood. And to echo the countless reminders that the value of our kid's educations should not be determined by letters and numbers.