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.
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).