What I Value More Than Having a Straight-A Student

Sure, like most parents, I want my kids to do well in school and get good grades. However, there are so many important things I value more than having a straight-A student. Like what, you ask? Keep reading to find out.!

What I Value More Than Having a Straight-A Student

When my son started first grade, it didn’t take long for me to sense that academic performance is what parents are most concerned about. It’s like a non-stop competition to get their kids to score the highest on standardized tests, and always get straight A’s in every single subject.

It seemed like what’s most important for first-grade parents is having their child read and count faster than the rest of the students in the class.  When I went to school meetings, most parents only asked about grades. They didn’t ask if their child was happy and getting along with the other kids in the class. Not a single question about fun activities, why they don’t do enough arts and crafts, or physical education. Just grades.

Flash-forward a few years. My son is middle-school age now, and it’s only gotten much worse. Even in the midst of a giant disruption to the entire education system, many of the parents I meet are still completely obsessed with their children’s grades more than anything else.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my son to do well in school and get good grades. But I’m honestly not obsessed with having a straight-A student. There are other things more important to me than just grades. And I really don’t get parents who put so much pressure on their kids to always score the highest on a “one-size-fits-all” standardized test.

Education is far more than tests and rote memorization

To me, education is more than tests., especially of the standardized variety. Most tests don’t show how well kids understand a subject. They only show how well our kids can memorize key facts. Once our kids pass the test, more often than not they forget the facts.

Think about it. How well do you remember the random stuff that you memorized for, say, a 3rd-grade history test? Let’s find out! The questions below are from an actual sample test.

What was the biggest domestic issue Washington faced while President?

What is the name of the law that allowed people to claim Unassigned Lands?

Who led Union troops on his “March to the Sea”?

Where does the word “okay” originate from?

On what day was William Henry Harrison born?

Who created the automatic shoemaker?

How many can you answer? Okay, if you’re a total history buff, probably all of them. For the rest of us who either didn’t enjoy history or liked it well enough in school but aren’t really passionate about it, I’m betting not many.

Memorizing and repeating random information won’t get anybody anywhere. In fact, it’s been proven that the best students in school are never the most successful in life. Do you know how many number-one high school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world? According to research, the answer is zero.

Are these straight-A students learning to think outside the box? Do they know how to have their own opinions and preferences? Are they recognizing that you can make a difference and leave a better world for future generations?

I’m not saying that your straight-A student will go on to fail in life. Far from it.  Sometimes, kids with perfect grades can answer “yes” to all of those questions. But so can some kids with straight Cs, or even kids who sometimes just barely pass a subject by the proverbial skin of their teeth.

Sometimes, though, kids with straight As feel so much pressure to keep that perfect GPA that they end up letting every other valuable life lesson pass right on by them. If they can’t memorize it and store it in their “SAT fact file,” they don’t bother learning it.

The point is that grades aren’t the only indicator of how smart a kid is, or how well they’ll do later in life. They’re not even a good indicator at all. Besides, long division and chemistry are far from the most valuable things our kids will learn during their childhood. Let’s discuss.

You can’t put a grade on the most valuable lessons our kids learn

There are very valuable lessons we could be teaching our children that could really enrich their lives that go way beyond the Common Core subjects. Like how to care about and be kind to others. To make them understand that everyone has a very unique and special talent. To make them curious about the world around them. Those are just some of the things I value more than having a straight-A student.

Here’s the thing: schools can’t really grade kids on how much they care about others. They can’t assign a fancy rubric to “thinking outside the box.” There’s no standardized test to measure their curiosity. As discussed above, most tests don’t even measure how well kids understand the actual subjects that do get grades, let alone how well they grasp abstract concepts like compassion and curiosity. If it doesn’t have a multiple-choice answer, it’s not included in the official lesson plan.

Now, I’m not saying that our children’s teachers aren’t bothering with these valuable life lessons. I know some amazing educators who spend as much time teaching things like how to be compassionate as they do teaching the ABC and 123s. These teachers spend hours upon hours of their free time (not to mention their own money) coming up with new ways to encourage creative thinking skills, curiosity, and a genuine understanding of a subject (rather than just what they need to know to pass a test).

It’s not really fair to expect our kids’ teachers to impart these life lessons, though. It’s up to parents. We- and we alone- are responsible for raising kids that grow up to change the world. To do that, we have to put less focus on how well they do on a standardized test and more focus on how well they do on what really matters- tests of character. 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein.

Long story short, education to me is more than sitting at a desk for several hours a day memorizing facts that will most likely be forgotten very soon. You will learn your most valuable lessons from spending time with family, social interactions, traveling, being in touch with nature, and caring about the planet.

I want my kids to learn about math, science, and history. But I also want them to learn how to help others. I want them to know what foods are good for them and will keep them healthy and strong. I want to teach them the importance of nutrition and exercise. I want them to value friendship, honesty, and kindness. I want to be proud of my kids for who they are, not just what they do.

One of my main goals as a mother is to teach my kids to be nice, generous, and respectful. I want them to be where they have to be academically, but I value their overall development a whole lot more. And most importantly, I want them to be happy.  After all, mental health is more important than grades, in my opinion. That’s what I value more than having a straight-A student.