Like many parents, we had our second quarter report cards sent home recently. The grades were no surprise since my children’s teachers use a school system called EdLine. Edline is an online communication management system for schools to keep the lines of communication open in today’s busy world. Through it, teachers send home every test, project, and notice via the website. So I had a pretty basic idea that the grades going on the report card would be good.
Throughout the years, I have stressed how important education is and how trying your best is always the goal. I clearly remember my own school years and struggling through some tough classes, like algebra, studying as much as I could to keep my GPA up. My grades were extremely important to me. I felt that school was the one thing I really excelled at and my education provided me so many wonderful opportunities. So when I had kids, I naturally wanted them to do well in school, in fact, very well. I’m no tiger mom, that’s for sure, but I do expect good grades.
Growing up, my mother was my biggest cheerleader and always told me how proud she was of me, but she also told me she was proud of me even when I blew a test or received a grade lower than I wanted. No matter what, she related that it meant a lot to her when the teachers would say I was a nice girl and a kind person. She said that mattered even more than grades. Back then I thought she was crazy, who cares about goodness when I didn’t get that grade I was hoping for.
You know how they say daughters become their mothers? Well, then you must see me raising my hand right now proclaiming, indeed, I have turned into my mother in many ways. And yes, as a mom now myself, I do now believe that goodness counts for more than grades.
My children did very well on their report cards and as my husband and I looked over them together, I focused on the teacher comments. On a regular report card, the majority of the spaces are reserved for grades with a very small portion for personal progress. That is where they list things like conduct, complies with school policies, and respects the rights of others, but the teachers can write anything they want in the comments section. So when I see the teachers write that they are kind, good-natured, and sweet, it makes me happier than their grades do. I praise them for their grades, of course, but I also make it a point to tell them that I am proud of who they are and how they conduct themselves in school, not just the grades.
Education is vitally important but being a good person is essential in my book. It reminds me of the recent revelation that the tiger mom, Amy Chua’s daughter got into Harvard, and how many parents came out to say it was more important that their kids be happy than get into Harvard. I agree but would take it one step further. Of course, we all want our children to be happy, but how about placing an importance on being a kind, engaged and helpful person? I have known quite a few Harvard grads that I would never want my children to emulate in any way, who may have smarts but lack compassion and decency. Of course, one does not wash out the other. I also know quite a few Harvard grads that possess both sides, who are using their talent to positively contribute to the world. They are people that I would be thrilled to have mentor my kids. You can absolutely be an intelligent and compassionately caring person. That should be the goal.
As parents, shouldn’t we strive to at least equate goodness and grades, so that our kids are just as valued for learning how to be genuinely kind and decent human beings as well as smart and successful?
I admit I am pleased when my kids bring home good grades, but I am even more delighted when I hear that they are thoughtful and considerate people who will make a difference in this world, who will help rather than harm, and who will think about others. I do believe that compassion is taught in many, small ways from infancy on, and we should reward it right along with all those A’s on the report cards.
Like grades, compassion and consideration takes effort and hard work sometimes, especially for young children as they grow up and start to think of others, rather than just themselves. Think of how many adults you know who still do that, and what a better place this world would be if everyone learned compassion and empathy as a child.
Do you value grades over goodness? Do you praise your child for being kind? Was goodness valued in your home as a child? Compassion? Or just grades?