Grades can only reveal so much about the persona of a high school student
AP US History teacher Steve Labenz has had students with parent’s expectations set so high he thought they had to be joking.
Because Labenz teaches one of the most difficult AP classes at FHC, he understands that everyone’s effort looks different when it comes to academics. At the end of the day, all he hopes for is a student’s best efforts.
“I had a [parent from] a couple years ago with a student with a 97 or a 98, and [they asked] how they can bring their grade up,” Labenz said. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and they were serious. I felt bad for the kid.”
Despite the fact that it’s important to do well in school, getting that desired grade or GPA cannot always accurately reflect students’ capabilities within school.
Although your academic performance and test scores are factors that can help launch you into the next season of your life, there are other aspects to consider regarding what you want to do outside of high school.
“Everything has become so grade-centered,” Labenz said. “Nobody cares about your grade point after you get out of college. A lot of times when people are younger, they [will say] ‘Yes, I want to [do this], and I have [this],’ but if you’re the employer, can you do the job? That’s what [employers] want.”
Aside from the elements that go into grades and how that affects your future, counselor Jodi Arusulowicz believes that there are more important things to target along with academics that might make school a little bit easier.
One of the big elements that teachers and counselors have to keep in mind when seeing how students are doing in school is how their mental health is doing.
“Especially around our environment, students put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform well [when their] definition of well is far above the national average,” Arsulowicz said. “Almost half of freshmen [have a] goal [of] a 4.0. That’s a wonderful goal that’s achievable by some but not by all and [is] definitely higher than average.”
What’s so interesting about this correlation is that grades and mental health can work in reverse order. Whether your grades or your health are declining, they, inadvertently, affect each and are both significant in value and crucial to maintain. But when it comes to improving them by doing tasks, such as setting goals, it’s also key to remember why you’re setting these goals and to not set the bar too high.
“Whenever we set a goal that isn’t realistic or [is] difficult to maintain, that creates pressure and stress [for] everybody,” Arsulowicz said. “There’s a certain level of pressure and stress that’s healthy, but [when] it becomes unhealthy, it can lead to constantly trying to achieve something that doesn’t seem achievable [and] can be a little defeatist, in a mental health way.”
Because no two people are the same, the goals that high schoolers set for themselves can also affect their high school experience. However, the factors they live under can also vary from student to student.
For example, there is a lot of variability in the extracurriculars and classes that are available to us, but the expectations are the same for everyone: wake up at the same time, attend school for six hours, do your homework, and study.
The only difference is how we can make this routine more fun for ourselves, because at the end of the day, everyone can agree that they want to make a memorable high school experience.
“It’s [all] about balance,” Arsulowicz said. “Right now, as a high school student, you’re [accomplishing] a lot of things [and] that student part becomes really important and designing.”
On top of that, everyone has different schedules. This also affects the teachers that are chosen, which can also affect your grade and how you are able to understand the subject matter being taught.
“Grades are also given [and measured] by different teachers in different ways,” Arsulowicz said. “Sometimes, students are motivated by GPA and grades, but there are a lot of students who don’t see that same level of motivation, and I wouldn’t say that their intelligence is anything less.”
Luckily, for some students such as senior Sarah Bethel, she has mostly had a positive attitude about the way she performs in school, but nonetheless is always finding ways in which she can excel in her academic endeavors.
[Grades] really [aren’t] a full reflection of you as a student [because] they don’t show your entire work ethic or intelligence because it just depends on how you learn.”
— Sarah Bethel
“In the beginning of high school, it [felt] a lot easier to get grades when you didn’t have to work as hard because the classes [were] simpler,” Sarah said. “As you get into sophomore, junior, and senior year, I had a lot harder classes, [and] I had to work harder to get those grades, but I feel like throughout [these] four years, I’ve definitely cared about my grades [and] that has never changed.”
Although Sarah’s perception of herself through her grades has been pretty consistent, she would most definitely agree with the fact that grades do not always tell you the whole backstory behind a person because of how our brains function and how we choose to learn.
“I feel like grades are not a reflection of you,” Sarah said. “Sometimes, people are really good at memorizing or understanding things [versus being] good at tests. They really [aren’t] a full reflection of you as a student [because] they don’t show your entire work ethic or intelligence—it depends on how you learn.”
For the majority of students, when it comes to thinking about what they want to do outside of high school, those plans mostly include college but no matter what you plan to do after high school—which looks different for everyone—how you perform in school and on standardized tests won’t always be an accurate indicator of your abilities in the future.
Sarah plans to major in environmental science and finds more value in what she is learning versus the grade throughout these last couple of years, and if she had one word to encapsulate her whole experience with academics, it would be this.
“Incomplete is the best way to describe it,” Sarah said. “Grades do not show you, and I think your whole self is a lot more important than the letter you can get on anything.”