Tuesday, November 22, 2016

You're More than a Letter Grade: Letter to a Discouraged Student

To a discouraged student,

You're discouraged.  I know you are.  Your heart sunk when you saw the grade. But that letter grade doesn't define you.  You did your best... but no one knows, and no one seems to care.  You studied... but your teacher doesn't think so.  She doesn't know what happened at your house last night.  She doesn't know why you didn't get much sleep.

You've never made the honor roll, but you have worked harder for your "C" than some of those other kids worked for their "A". You're kind, but the teacher doesn't have a rubric for kindness.  You smile every morning, but facial expressions don't go in the grade book. You gave a pencil to your classmate, but that didn't earn you any points. You're always on time, and you're never in trouble, but there wasn't a question on the test about that.   I'm sorry we care so much about that letter grade.  It certainly does not represent your hopes, goals, and dreams.  I'm sorry you're embarrassed when the teacher handed the papers back.  You're gonna be fine.  You have potential that is not measured by that last test.  You have gifts that were not assessed by that last quiz.  You didn't make the honor roll... but I still think you're a neat kid.

You're bored, and it's hard for you to care about assignments that don't have anything to do with your life.  You're good at things the teacher doesn't seem to care about.  You're passionate about things that aren't on the syllabus.  You're tired of being compared to those around you. You feel like you don't measure up -- like you are inadequate.  But your grade does not reflect your IQ or your worth.  It is arbitrary.   I'm sorry that the grade is so important to all the adults.  After you graduate, no one will care about that grade.  They will care if you work hard; they will care how you work with other people; they will care about many things... but they will not ask you about your GPA. You may not feel like a good student, but you will be a valuable employee.  You will be a wonderful neighbor. You will be a great citizen.

You're discouraged... but I want you to know I care.  I want you to know I believe in you.  I want you to know that you have a bright future. You have talents and gifts that we may not even know about yet. We haven't found out how to measure them.

But you have them.

One size does not fit all, and I'm sorry we have not figured that out. You are amazing... and your worth will never be encapsulated by a letter grade.  So please don't give up.  Albert Einstein said, "If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life believing it is stupid." I'm sorry you feel so judged.  I'm sorry we keep giving you trees to climb. If you're a fish, forget about the tree -- just keep swimming.

                                                                                  I'm in your corner ...                                                                                  
                                                                                  Danny Steele

12 comments:

  1. This post is so touching.... and so necessary!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it!

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  2. What a wonderful post! Sharing this with my 17 year old son. Thank you!

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  3. Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

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  4. "No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship." (Dr. James Comer)

    Way to lead with this in mind...

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing the post, Dennis. I love Comer's quote ... especially when Rita Pierson says it. :-)

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    2. Yes, and these relationships must be grounded in a learning culture where goals and progress are visible, where effort based on learning is authentic, rich, and means something to the student. Mostly we need to move away from a standardized assessment culture to one which is not punitive based, but formative based. Where teachers and students can partner to build successful learning and get on a learning trajectory of hope. We know how to do this, the know it works much better - this must change.

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  5. You had a great impact on my life. After I came to THS my home life was a mess but you saw through that and still allowed me to come the school I loved. You are an amazing man I was and still am proud to be a warrior

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    1. Terry... your comment made my day. Thank you for reading my blog... and for your kind words. I hope all is well!

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  6. There is a lot of misunderstandings about company characters and many everyone is not sure exactly what a "business letter" really is. Actually, the phrase "business letter" is a very common one that can mean many different particular correspondence kinds. This post opens up up the misunderstandings. crossword puzzle

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  7. I wish my Teacher had told me this... I wish I had someone to encourage me on my potential. And now after reading this letter I would make sure that I won't make the same mistakes with my students that my teachers had made with me.
    Thank you 🤗

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  8. This is what our profession is all about. My heartfelt thanks to you for writing and publishing what I feel so strongly about.

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