A Comfort's Food for Thought

You Are Not a Grade


A new school year begins, and with it, many students wisely set new goals.  One measurement of a goal achieved is often the report card grade.  What is a grade?  It may be defined as a mark indicating the level of quality or proficiency of a student’s work.  In one sense, grades are objective.  After all, it’s math!  Add up the numbers and divide them to get the percentage, right? But grades take on a subjective, emotional tone when we interpret them incorrectly.  It might be helpful to consider what a grade is not:

  • ·         It’s not a gift.
  • ·         It’s not a reward or punishment.
  • ·         It’s not necessarily an indication of how much or what was learned.
  • ·         It’s also not necessarily an indication of how hard one worked.
  • ·         It’s not a mark of a student’s innate value. 

            A grade is earned by meeting the criteria set forth by the teacher as indicated in the curriculum. Students also are taught and learn many things during class that are not part of the report card assessment.  Teachers present and model concepts such as a commitment to truth, love, self-discipline, and justice. These items do not show up in homework or on tests, but they are probably more important than the academic content of the class. Some grading systems have attempted to include a value for effort, but effort is difficult for a teacher to assess.  Some students excel at memorization and learn with very little effort.  For others, studying is not as easy.  Because a grade does not measure these things, it is important that parents, teachers, and students themselves do not mistakenly regard the grade as a measure of their innate value or character.

            As the 2012 school year begins, I hope students are setting realistic goals, goals that include getting good grades, the best grades they are capable of.  To do this, they should be prepared to attend class, pay attention and take good notes, read the assigned textbook pages, do the homework, and study the material.  If they do all this, they can be justly proud of the grade they receive, whether it is a C, a B, or an A.

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Count it all Joy


The school year is coming to an end.  The seniors had their last day of class today.  I am proud of the class of 2012.  They are finishing well.  However, there is poignancy in the business of wrapping up loose ends and doing things for the last time as a high school student.  Although they look ahead to college and career, my students also are aware that life will never be the same.  Their circle of friends will inevitably change.  Their responsibilities will increase. They will face many challenges.  Independence brings losses as well as gains.

I, too, have been forced to deal with change as Ted has been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  At this point the tumor has been removed and he is facing chemotherapy.  We are hopeful for a cure, but we have to be realistic.  In many ways, being confronted with the inevitability of the end of life—which faces all of us, whether we are forced by the presence of cancer to think of it or not—has brought Ted and me incredibe blessing.   For one thing, we have become increasingly aware that the two of us have become truly one over the almost forty years of our marriage.  And secondly, we have been overwhelmed with the kindness, prayers, and help of friends, co-workers, and students during this difficult time.  Several who have gone through similar situations have given us advice. My brother, who lost his wife to cancer over 11 years ago, told me, “Accept help sooner than later.”  He also encouraged us to wrap up loose ends, especially relational and financial.  A friend who lost her sister to cancer told me to “look for the joy!” and is praying that we will find it daily.

The care of my students has been especially touching.  When I told my English class about my husband’s upcoming surgery, one of the boys asked if I would like them to pray for me and proceded to do so.  Several 9th grade girls are particularly concerned, perhaps because they have faced the death of loved ones themselves, and often ask me how my husband is doing. I have received numerous notes, including one from a girl who is not even in my class this year.  These notes hold depths of wisdom beyond their writers’ chronological ages, encouragement from God’s Word, and assurance of their prayers for us.  How good it is to be part of a Christian community!

It is beneficial to live as though we will die tomorrow while at the same time we live as though we will live forever.  No matter what our stage of life, we should accept—and give—help sooner rather than later.  It is always important to take care of our relationships, keeping short accounts when we offend or are offended.  And we should never forget to look for the joy.  In doing so we will glorify God and will enjoy Him forever.  For ultimately, there really is no end of life for us as Christians.

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I am a Christian, a mother and grandmother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a widow, a friend. . .  My life is first of all defined by relationships–to God, to my family, to my students, to my friends. Of course, I am many other things: a reader, an e-mail writer, a piano player, and a somewhat reluctant traveler, for example.  And now I am a blogger.  I’m not sure why, except it seems to be a logical next step for someone addicted to e-mail.