Grades: Sources of stress or motivation?

Some think that grades act as motivation, while others find them as constant sources of stress and inaccurate indicators of success.

Natalie Anderson

Some think that grades act as motivation, while others find them as constant sources of stress and inaccurate indicators of success.

Natalie Anderson, Staff Writer

Nearing the end of my senior year, I look back at my school career with almost a feeling of regret. I have always been a straight A student, ever since elementary school. I realize now that that was not necessarily a good thing. 

I have grown up with the high expectation of good grades. Since my parents excelled in school, I was expected to as well. I have always had a pressure upon me to do well, and because of that, I have thrived off of academic validation. However, that has caused lots of stress and anxiety in my life. 

Anytime my grade ever dropped to a B, I would be in tears and worried almost beyond reason. Because of expectations that I have placed upon myself and my flaw as a perfectionist, I have deemed it unacceptable to have any grade other than an A. 

This is a detrimental and unsustainable mindset. 

It is important to strive for good grades, but the letter of your grade should not correspond with your feelings of self worth or mental health. One B will not be the end of the world. This mindset of academic validation is one that I am working to pull myself out of.

Instead, the mindset that I am working to have is that as long as I do my best, and I put my full effort into my work, that is all that matters. As long as I know that I strived for perfection, I should not stress if my grade is a B.

That also brings up a debated problem on if grades are outdated; There are many arguments on either side about why grades are either beneficial or harmful. 

Supporters of grades say that they make students responsible for their work, and they are also important for admission into college. However, even this has begun to be disrupted as many colleges no longer require students to submit SAT or ACT test scores in their applications.

Those against grades say that they undermine learning and creativity, discourage challenging work, and that they are not an accurate indicator of the learning or intelligence of a student.

The grading system across America is wildly different. The weight of assignments and tests varies among every teacher and it is up to them to decide how they want to assess their students. This inconsistency in the way assignments and tests are graded do nothing to help with their supposed measurement of success.  

Because the American school system is so grade focused, it teaches students to value the letter of their grade rather than their knowledge. This is how the cycle of stress and anxiety begins as students obsess about what letter their grade is. This is the cycle that I have fallen into, and I am now struggling to pull myself out of it.

Also, grades have been found to have no bearing on performance within a job. Companies like Google have discovered that it is better to focus more on individuality, innovation, and creativity since working within a career requires originality and straight A’s require conformity.

There are some teachers who have been attempting to change the way that grades work. However, the system has been so long ingrained in the education system that it will be difficult to fully upend it for a different approach. 

The best point of view we can take as students is to focus on doing our best. No matter what grade we receive, we should feel okay with the fact that we put in our greatest effort. We should not allow the grade we have to dictate our feelings and how we feel about ourselves. Grades should not become something to obsess over and cause constant stress and anxiety. 

It is okay to want to do good and have decent grades, but it is important to realize that grades do nothing to validate your worth as a person.