You’re not stupid: Grades don’t define you


Numerous notecards and scores lay flat on a table. Photo taken by Jakob Woo-Ming.

The teacher raises the graded tests and begins handing them out row by row.

The students in front of you get their grades first. You hear joyful screams of 96s, 98s, 93s, all high-quality grades. You smile, eager to see your paper.

When the paper reaches you, your smile falters. At the top of the paper, circled in a big red pen, is a big fat B-.

Everyone receives bad grades at one point or another. I should know; I’ve gotten plenty of them.

When the negative emotion hits you, it tends to spin into a downward spiral. There’s that feeling you get when your whole table, or the whole class, did better on it than you. You feel alone, thinking you’re the only one who scored low.

You plea the teacher for test corrections and extra credit. You mourn and look for things to blame to prove it wasn’t your fault.

Whether it is or isn’t your fault is difficult to determine. Sometimes you got stuck in the hospital from an illness or fracture. Other times you spent just a little too much time on Trivia Crack instead of studying. Whatever the reason, eventually you’ll need to accept the hit to your overall grade and move on.

But hold on. Before you drown yourself in ice cream and a Netflix marathon, step back for a second. Look at the whole picture.

Is your future in turmoil because you got a C on your science test, or because you have the dreaded 89.4 grade after a round of weekly quizzes? Your future is not determined by one quiz grade. Or two, or ten, or even 35. It’s your future, so you should be the one deciding it, right? Not some numbers and letters an adult typed out on a computer.

In high school, it is difficult not to let our grades get to us. Our generation is going through a time of tests, standards and benchmarks that lead to competition, competition and competition. Especially when college is on the line for seniors, a single SAT score pits thousands of potential dollars on the line. These tests tell us that we won’t do well in school if we don’t get a high grade.

This results in more stress towards doing well, and more anger and negativity when we are not doing well. Our cultures focuses too much about our ranking in a class instead of what we’ve actually learned in it. We need to realize that our grades do not determine who we are as people.

What does that the grade on your report card tell you? A report card tells you how well someone is at memorizing information and the ability to express it in a writing or speaking format. Aside from a few exceptions, that’s it.

A report card does not tell you about your personality, humor, work ethic, athletic ability, devotion to the arts, or your job experience. A report card does not tell you about your curiosity, compassion, or your friendliness.

A report card does not know about how you flew halfway across the world to help people in need, or how much time you spend putting others before yourself. A report card does not know how much time and effort you put into your assignments and essays.

There are so many wonderful things about every individual person that a report card cannot express.

You don't need to have good grades to feel good. Photo from
You don’t need to have good grades to feel good. Photo from

No matter what grade you get, you’re still you. You’re not hurt. You’re still alive. You still have friends and family.

It may be simple to understand, but difficult to put to heart. That’s okay.

This does not mean, however, that we can forget about grades and party hard through high school. Grades still matter. We just should not use them as the only way to define a person, or to define ourselves.

At the end of the day, we’re all human. We can’t do everything. Earth is full of endless possibilities and we shouldn’t spend our time lamenting over a B-.