Nobody Cares About My Grades

I’m going to brag a little bit here.  I was a good student.  I mean, really good.  In high school I was that annoying kid who blew the curve and cried over a B+ on my report card.  I was valedictorian of my high school class, and later I graduated college summa cum laude with a 3.92 GPA.  And I will always be proud of those accomplishments.

But I’m about to say something that might get me in trouble with some teachers or parents.  I just ask that you hear me out and read all the way to the end of the post.  Because I have a point.  I really do.  And I think it’s a good one.  So here goes…

You know what life has taught me?

No one cares about my grades.  Seriously.  Now that I’m no longer a student, those letters and numbers on my transcripts mean very little.  With the exception of landing my first teaching job – where I had no prior experience to draw from – people don’t care about my grades now that I’m a professional adult.  When I go into job interviews, they don’t ask me about my GPA.  They ask me about my skills and abilities.  What will I be able to do for them?  What I will I provide?  What need will I fill?  Will I be a good teacher and a good match for their school environment?  Because in the end, that’s what matters – they care about what I can do.

Mathematics homework

Math homework was the worst. (Photo Credit: wikipedia)

Before I go any further, I want to outline what is important about grades, just so no one gets the idea that I’m giving students permission to slack off in school.  I’m not.  Grades are vitally important to move forward in the world of academics.  High school students need good grades to get accepted into college and earn scholarships.  College students need good grades to enroll in specific schools of study within a university, maintain scholarships, earn their degree, and apply to grad school.  Graduate students need good grades to just stay in their programs.  And a strong GPA does look good on a résumé for the fresh-out-of-college applicant who hasn’t developed a strong background of work experience yet.

All that being said, grades do tend to lose their meaning outside the world of academics.  Instead, the knowledge and skills developed through those studies become much more important.  So my employers don’t ask me what grade I earned in my Shakespeare class, but they do want to know if I know understand Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth well enough to teach them.  They don’t ask me what my grade was in my “Curriculum and Methods of Teaching English” class, but they do want to know if I can work well with a wide range of curriculum, adjust my lessons to fit diverse learners, and manage a classroom of adolescents.  In essence, employers want to know that I have the skills my degree implies.

Based on what I just said above, it would be really easy to think “Ok, that means I only need to work hard in the classes that will actually apply to my future career.”  And as we all know, not every class we take is actually relevant to what we want to do with our lives.  So am I giving you permission to slack off in those seemingly pointless classes?  No, I’m not, and here’s why:

As a teacher, I’ve found another thing that grades can teach. Part of being a professional adult is delivering results and fulfilling tasks that you might not enjoy.  Whether you agree with the importance of those tasks or not, it’s your job to do them.  And quite frankly, that’s not an easy habit to develop.  So practice it now.  You may not enjoy a certain class and know for a fact that you will never pursue that as a career, but deliver the expected results anyway.  As a student, that means getting a decent grade.  As an adult, that means doing (and keeping!) your job.  Grades teach an important sense of work ethic that make it possible to succeed in the professional world.

Because like I said, employers don’t care about my grades, but they do care about what I can do – whether it’s teaching a literature class (which I love) or filing all my weekly paperwork on time (which… *ehem* … I’m getting better, I promise).

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4 thoughts on “Nobody Cares About My Grades

  1. I understand what you mean by grades not mattering once you are out of school… I’ve had a similar experience once I graduated from college and massage school at the same time. I had great grades in both, yet, it really didn’t matter at all to employers. I used to include my grades from massage school to jobs but now just have my license, liability insurance, and that’s about it.

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    • Thanks for the comment! Yeah, my GPA has moved from the top of my resume down to the bottom, because it just doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s a fine line, though, because grades are so important within the academic world, so I I still need my students to care about them. I just want them to focus on developing skills and abilities, too, instead of just achieving a certain letter or number.

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  2. The thing I found frustrating in my academic life was that grades were basically all that mattered. I had multiple teachers who didn’t understand how I could get an A and still have a question. My writing skills for example were completely stagnant for most of high school and college. I was already above the level expected for my grade so no one was interested in offering me any suggestions for improving my writing. If I specifically asked for suggestions for improvement, I was told that I “got an A” implying that there was nothing to improve which frankly couldn’t possibly be true. By the time I was in college, I had basically stopped asking those questions. I was tired of being scolded for “arguing for points” when I honestly wanted to understand why a test question was wrong. Now, as you pointed out, no one cares about my grades. However, I’ve also found that many interviewers aren’t very interested in what I can do either. They are only interested in whether or not I have actually done that exact task in a previous position.

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    • Yeah, I definitely encountered similar reactions from teachers who seemed to think that getting an A was enough, even if I knew I didn’t understand the subject. Chemistry was a great example of that. I totally didn’t understand it, but when I went to my teacher for help, she dismissed my questions because I had a good grade. To this day, I don’t get the first thing about chemistry.

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