Sanity and Cs

I have a confession: I was a good test taker and a terrible student. As late as my second year of college, if the weather pleased me, or if some event drew my attention, I would cut class and do what mattered to me.

I made a few Cs as a result.

But I also managed to retain sanity throughout the most stressful moments of my education. I focused on the classes that interested me most, figured out how to make grades I could live with in the others, and proceeded from there. Part of me does not want my students to follow such a pattern. Part of me does, and here’s why: instead of knowing what interests them, I see way too many students fool themselves into believing that making As is what interests them. An A can be a wonderful achievement. However, it seems a hollow one when it isn’t tethered to a larger goal.

Be deliberate. “Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.” “Be bold, but not too bold.” Be more than your grades and your standardized test scores.

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30 Responses to Sanity and Cs

  1. Geneva Hamilton says:

    This is an important message that many of us did not grow up hearing, and honestly, it made the classroom a stressful environment. School was not about the beauty of learning, but more like a race to an A. Every test was a contest. Who made the highest grade? Who could do it in the least amount of time? Now, I realize being a good student is more than just grades. Its a desire to learn.

  2. David Johnson says:

    The desire to achieve the best grade in the classroom is an issue that many students have to deal with. There are two extremes to this issue.

    There is a lack in the desire to learn and instead to achieve the best grades, which in turn leads to more issues later in a students career. The lack of a desire to learn, a desire to strive to be the best compared to everyone else, rather than striving for YOUR best. This is the issue in the current mindset that most students hold true to.

    Then you have the other extreme, the one where a student will push themselves as hard as possible. Little sleep, caffeine, and never stopping. Always striving to be your best, but then trying to be better than you can be.

    There must be a balance between pushing yourself for every moment of your educational career and you having little care about your education as long as your grade has an A beside it.

  3. Erin says:

    Going through my school system at school, teachers really encouraged students to make the best grade possible at all times, regardless of the sacrifice. I think an important lesson that should be taught to students before college is what you said. People are more important than their test scores and grades. Students should always work hard to do their best but they have to realize that their best is not the same as their friend’s best. My mom always tells me that the people with a couple of C’s get diplomas and degrees just like the people with all A’s.

  4. Ashley Nguyen says:

    I personally feels that we are conditioned to make “good” grades in school, and if not, we are not enough. I cannot count how many times I have felt lesser because of the grades I have received; although I have learned a lot from the experience. My grades do not define me, but rather the knowledge I have retained during the process. I was raised to make A’s and nothing less, but my parents have began to join the journey that I am learning from. The idea of a “good” grades define you is over, and it time to see through it. Being a good student is about the how much you have learned and your willingness to do so.

  5. Samantha B. says:

    I’m not gonna lie, I have always grown up hearing my parents tell me that if I didn’t make A’s then they would not be proud of me. As a result, I would make myself so miserable in school just to make them happy. I would let my grades in the things I did like doing in favor of struggling through things that I found uninteresting or more difficult. Personally, I think that we should stress doing well in the things we like, not just everything. After coming to MSMS I had to learn that it’s okay not to make straight A’s, even though the little voice in the back of my head still likes to tell me otherwise. It’s important to do well in what you love, and if you don’t get the best grades, that’s okay. If you learned something I think that should be all that matters. Schools should put more emphasis on learning instead of trying to make the best grades and be the best student, because grades aren’t for everybody, but learning should be.

  6. X says:

    I do agree that grades and standardized test scores define our intelligence in current day society. Our parents ingrained the need to make perfect grades in order to succeed in life. I feel like their goal is very understandable, to want us to achieve the most we can, and the only way to do so is to study hard and prove it through getting As and 30+s. The system we have is difficult to change; how else do we push ourselves to learn other than giving us tests that determine our acceptances into college?

  7. Ezra McWilliams says:

    Throughout my time in school, I have been encouraged by my teachers to do your best on the MCT2 and AR test, and study this and that, but it was never about your dreams and goals. The only thing that was in the ballpark was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While I agree having 4.0 GPA along with a 36 on the ACT and national merit are invaluable to having best education at your destined institution, it does not define you as a person, rather it is a record of your intelligence.

    I feel that teachers should strive more than high expectations and great consistent academic performances from their pupils. They should teach them about what life has to offer and how to work hard and smart for yourself.

  8. Whitney Fairley says:

    I’m not going to lie, sometimes when I am stressed out and I am given the ultimatum of putting more effort into my schoolwork, or getting more sleep/ rest, I choose the sleep/rest. Let’s be real, it’s all a matter of priorities. There are some students at MSMS that sacrifice sleep and a healthy social life to have top notch grades. Although I admire these people for their dedication, I could never be one of these people. I used to think that if I didn’t have a perfect GPA and make straight As, that I was setting myself up for failure. My mom and I were having a discussion about my grades and an elderly woman overheard us in a grocery store. She looked at me and said, ” Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. ” I told her that I wanted to be a doctor and that if I wanted get into a good college and pass the MCAT I would have to be a top student. She then asked me a question. What do they call a doctor that made Cs throughout med-school? I was puzzled by this question and couldn’t come up with an answer. Finally, she looked at me, smiled, and said,” A doctor!” This is probably one of the most true things I’ve heard in my entire life. The moral of the story is, it is important to find that balance between studying hard and taking care of mental health/social life.

  9. JoJo Kaler says:

    For high school students, our goal is to get to college. We have been preached for all of our lives that every grade matters to colleges. This means that our focus is making sure that every single grade in powerschool has a 9 in front of it. At our previous schools, this accomplishment was not only plausible but came easy to many of us. Here, it is far more difficult. This leads to a loss of sleep and/or a loss of sanity, likely both. As the younger sibling of two college goers, they have also relinquished a dedication to all A’s. MSMS students, however, do not have the same luxury. My goal is to go to college for free which means it is equally as important for me to get an A in my University English class, as it is my introduction to game design class. We are so focused on getting straight A’s that we sacrifice actually learning the material or our sanity. It is extremely difficult to understand 8 courses worth of college material and still have enough time to hang out with friends, play video games, or sleep. What’s the solution? Maybe there is none.

  10. Khytavia Fleming says:

    Before coming to MSMS, making all A’s was a small goal that lead to a bigger goal, attending MSMS. Being that I am not as athletic as some of my peers are, all I had to rely on was my smarts. I had to work for every A I earned although most of the times there was really no hard work involved to make those A’s. However, after coming to MSMS and applying for college and scholarships, I have realized that one’s academics is only a portion of what people look at when judging one’s character and if one would be a perfect fit. Like a wise woman told me, academics is not everything.

  11. Alyssa says:

    From a young age we are told that we should make good grades. It would be easier not to listen to this logic if colleges and scholarship did not want you to have exceptions grades. I guess we could apply to less expensive or selective colleges, but those colleges might have opportunities that we would not get at a regular college. Going to MSMS makes it harder to maintain a 4.0 GPA, but it is worth it because I find more things that I am interested in, and I excel more in those classes than others. When you can’t make A’s in all classes, you strive to prove yourself in the classes that you take interest in.

  12. M says:

    Up until MSMS (even my second semester) my grades defined who I am. I’ve learned that there are things that are much more important than making good grades. I would rather be known as a person who was caring or friendly or funny or kind, than someone who was smart. I think making personal connections with people and being happy are more important than the grades you make (especially in high school). I’m not saying to slack off on classes or to give up in school, but if a friend needs me, I will 100% take the L on whatever assignment I need to turn in. Grades don’t define a person’s capability for intellect or being a good person (which is something I used to think stupid people would say to make themselves feel better about being stupid) In 20 years you won’t remember your high school GPA, but you will remember the frienships you made and the good times you had.

  13. Joshua Seid says:

    Growing up in with Asian parents, academics were never really an option for me… they were always a requirement. Up until MSMS, they’d raise hell for basically anything below a mid-90. Even then, anything above that was criticized because it “could be better.” My dad always said that his father told him that, “when you’re at the top, there’s nowhere else to go but down,” and since, we have always kind of followed this philosophy. However, since beginning MSMS in my junior year, they’ve since become a little lenient on the numerical grade as they understand it is quite a challenge. I still uphold my tendencies to try my best in the classes I’m in, whether like it or hate it… I have to try.

  14. Mykailla Foster says:

    Until I got to MSMS, I honestly never had to work for an A average. When I got here, it definitely showed. I struggled tremendously when it came to studying and teaching myself how to actually study. I even failed a few test during the process, but I learned that test grades do not define me. It’s about much you truly retained and can take into the future with you as you grow and I highly doubt I will need to know the “law of cosine” for my future profession.

  15. Z says:

    This topic has hit me so hard this year. I’ve never had to try to make good grades. I only ever studied because I wanted a perfect score — not just an A. But now, I would kill for just an A in some classes. It’s been the cause of many breakdowns this year. No matter how many times those around will tell me it’s going to be okay and that it’s not the end of the world, the mentality that I was raised with refuses to let me believe that.

    It’s one thing to know that it’ll be okay and another to actually believe it. I don’t know when I’ll actually believe it, but I know the importance of allowing room for error. Grades do not define you, and it is important to simply live life.

  16. ET says:

    The grading system is flawed but necessary for our education system today. I believe giving marks does create an incentive to learn and become more effective. When some would completely disregard a subject as never have seen it before or seems too difficult, grades keep students on working- albeit poorly. This is seen through students who sacrifice sleep and personal time, simply sludging through a year.

    Coming to MSMS has shown me a possibility of my personal capability. With classwork and other projects, the first 9 weeks was a massive struggle. Rather than gritting my teeth, I spiked a massive interest in time management. Eventually, I developed habits that I know will keep me going beyond the work done at MSMS: sleeping and exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, working 25-min sessions (Pomodoro), and especially taking breaks.

    This is just a fragment of being able to really pursue my interest. As post-secondary education is concerned, there is not much of a structured curriculum. Your Ph.D. or master’s thesis will be an independent project, defined by the standards you place. Once people get through the initial stages of tasting each of the subjects and learning good work habits, then I believe people can truly be beyond our grading system.

    *Steve Jobs had a 2.65 in high school, but like other world leaders, this did not define his life. You are not defined by your grades either.

  17. G says:

    I believe that at my previous high school grades were paramount. It was all that the “smart” kids ever talked about. Here I see a similar trend happen amongst the student body. People get so caught up in their grades, or their ACT scores that they begin to let these numbers define their self-worth. As a result of becoming good at school, some people realize that during this time they have not actually enjoyed a subject or developed a meaningful interest in passion. This could in part be due to the fact that some can only find pride in being good at everything, becoming jacks of all trades and masters of none. It is good to understand and be competent at multiple different disciplines, but it is also important and helpful (especially for college searching), to develop a passion or interest. The grades only mean so much. You have to become a defined person with an identity beyond te regular happeneings of school.

  18. Olivia Viguerie says:

    Okay, I’m really only on here for the bonus, and I’m not even entirely sure what the prompt even is, but personally, I believe that everyone should get the chance to be more than their grades. What’s especially difficult as a teenager is a constant pressure to not mess up in fear of messing up chances of my future. Because of this, I feel a constant pressure to not only academically succeed to also be active in my extracurriculars and community as well. While honestly, I would advocate for mental sanity over academic success, for the sake of my own sanity, I would rather be a hypocrite. As odd as it sounds the more breaks I take to try to recuperate or rest, the more stressed I feel. Therefore, I do not follow the model I advocate for.

  19. Amyria says:

    I’m the opposite. I’m a horrible standardized test taker, but I make good grades. I don’t just focus on classes that interest me because I need to train myself to do things that I may not want to do. I mean I understand that A’s aren’t everything, and A’s don’t define you. But an A to me gives me motivation to keep going. If an A in a class drops, then I will lose motivation to try in that class. When I receive an A, I know that I’m doing something right. Anyways, my point is I know there are plenty of other things that would interest me than trying to focus on keeping all my grades A’s, but I find it important because it exercises my flexibility to focus on things that doesn’t interest me and still excel in it.

  20. TL says:

    I never saw a C in my life before coming to MSMS. I came from a low performing school district, so I did not have to work hard to receive an A. Things changed when I got to MSMS. I struggled the first semester trying to pull my C to at least a B before realizing it was too late. I became content with grade, because I realized anything is better than a NC! I try not to stress too much about my grade. I don’t need the negativity in my life. Also, instead of stressing about one grade, I excel in another class to keep a decent GPA. Grades are not the only determining factor when applying to college. The admissions office look at community involvement, extracurricular activities, and resumes. Stick to what you know best, but always try.

  21. Aja Ceesay says:

    A lot, emphasis on A LOT, of students say that “your grades don’t define you.” I understand the truth behind this because I don’t think my grades in powerschool tell people about my personality in itself. But sometimes, I stress. And by sometimes, I mean all the time. I open my powerschool and just get sad looking at it. I hear about all these kids here having A’s in almost every class, and then there’s me, a mediocre A/B student. I do feel that most of my standardized test scores are okay, but I know that it’s not going to be enough for me to fall back on, especially for some colleges. It’s like applying to Stanford with a perfect 36 but a C in trig. It’s just not realistic. I’ve also had someone at this school going to an Ivy League tell me, “Colleges don’t just look at grades. They look at personality.” That’s true, but they’re not just going to ignore a C on someone’s transcript. I don’t plan on relying on my unique personality to ensure my entry into college. It’s important, but I know I still need to get my grades up.

  22. E says:

    For me, I was fortunate to come from a good high school so when transferring to MSMS it really wasn’t that big of a deal academically. In a sense, it was a blessing that I came from a 6A high school so I was not the smartest kid in my classes like most MSMS students were. I had already made a couple B’s and a C in HS, so having a B or 2 at MSMS did not stress me out as much as it did most people. Don’t get me wrong I wanted an A, but some of the classes I have taken was because they were required classes. So the classes that I am not super interested in or passionate about are hard to go the extra mile for and sacrifice either sleep or social time. So no grades do not define who you are, but if you are truly passionate about something I feel like you would enjoy it enough to get a good grade in it. Not that it won’t be hard and that it should come naturally, but we should be willing to go the extra mile for that class and get the best grade possible and to also learn as much as we can.

  23. random says:

    I definitely agree that people should be seen as more than their grades. Like almost all students at MSMS, my parents were always expecting As from me. Up until now, I didn’t mind doing the work to get those As, because quite honestly, it wasn’t that difficult. However, now, getting an A in some classes is really hard. Lucky for me, I have a parent who understands how difficult the workload is here at MSMS and doesn’t expect all As anymore. Not that they want just Bs, but if I do make one B it isn’t the end of the world. I have learned to accept that making a B or two at MSMS isn’t terrible. Of course everyone here wants a 4.0 GPA and a 30 or higher on the ACT, but not everyone can get it. I applaud the people who can, but that doesn’t mean those who can’t aren’t smart. Everyone has their own goal that they are working towards, and as long as they reach that goal through hard work, it seems to me that it doesn’t matter whether you’re the top of your class or not. Perhaps a little too late, I have started to make time for things that I enjoy and not stressing myself out as much.

  24. Bubba says:

    It had always been a minimum to have an A in every class. Before coming here, I would want to do the best in all my classes and maintain a good academic standing. During my time here, I want to at least have an A in every class, which is already a struggle. Although making A’s on standardized tests and classes may not seem as a good accomplishment, it does have a big impact long term wise, in my opinion. Aside from essays to express who you are as a college applicant, college administrators also look at your grades. Without A’s would most definitely have an impact in an applicants admission probabilities, even if its minute or large.

    • E.T. says:

      While I agree with you that A’s may have an impact on college admissions, I believe your argument fails to consider the underlying basis for grading. Having A’s should show mastery of the material, hopefully through active engagement. This would be students who are genuinely curious with the amazing breadth and depth of knowledge available to them on a daily basis. However, this is an idealized situation for colleges to attract the intellectually curious and motivated. Sadly, grades have become a standard at which students throw onto their resume, completely missing the developmental process of learning. As some have stated before, having A’s are not the end goal rather it is a reflection of the wisdom (hopefully) one has gained.

  25. S says:

    All I really have is grades, I’m not good at sports or making friends and being social, I’m not anything pleasing to look at or fun to hang around with, but today I learned I don’t really have grades anymore either. School systems have chiseled into our mind that grades are all that matters, and if you have parents like mine that’s how it is taught too. Without good grades and being smart, you can’t go anywhere in life, at least I can’t. And that has me drowning in fear constantly. I have depression and anxiety and other issues that all revolve around the number on the assignment being handed back to me. It doesn’t help and it’s terrible because at the same time I want to enjoy life. I want to take a nap on a rainy day or watch my favorite show when I feel down or go out with friends. But having a life revolves around how you’re getting by in it…mostly schoolwise and what your grades look like. I don’t know the answer to this. I wish this wasn’t how things were and I wish it didn’t make me like this, but in the end, the focus on grades isn’t going to disappear. Instead, it’ll be me and my personality that fades away to become only grade oriented.

  26. Nathan Lee says:

    To an extent, my academic life is similar in that I try to prioritize not stressing about school or grades. I still do my work, but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t stress me out or make me miserable. School still matters to me, but I don’t let it define my life. However, I know I can definitely achieve a better balance between my stress and grades. As I’ve learned the hard way, too little stress can be just as detrimental. Most importantly, I try to keep learning and improving myself so that I can be a better person, rather than just a better student.

  27. Sam Stokley says:

    I believe I will look back at high school decades from now and laugh thinking about how much effort I put into my grades. Here is a fundamental truth; what good is that A you made in a class if you have no knowledge to show for it. There is such a pressure in our society that pushes us to have all A’s. However if you have nothing to show for your A, then what is the point?

  28. Samaria Swims says:

    I believe that being a good student is far more than getting the best grades. Most people believe getting the best grade is all that matters. By people believing in that results into students being in a stressful environment. Grades are important, but being a good student is more important. Being a good student, helps people have desire to learn things in the classroom.

  29. Josh Bates says:

    As education becomes more accessible in the world, the competition in the employment field has become increasingly competitive. And since the entire purpose of education, being high school or college, is to prepare us for the job that we will hold in the future. This raises the pressure that is put upon students today, for we have to know more and know it faster. Even since my older sister by fours years was in high school, the age to take algebra 1 has decreased by a year in most schools, allowing students to finish high school with credits in more complex math class. If I had to guess, about 15% of students from my old high school graduated with college credit through the local community college, a program that was unheard of when our parents were our ages. It is hard to look at this, to be right in the middle of it, and to not put all your time and effort into grades. Especially at a school like MSMS, it is hard to motivate yourself to engage in an activity that will not further your academic career. I personally used to spend almost everyday writing on my book for the past three years, even writing 10 hours at a time on occasion, yet now I find myself writing about once a month. Its not that I have lost my passion for writing or that I do not have time; it’s because when I do, I have been pressured into feeling guilty for spending time pursuing my passion instead studying. Part of me wants to go head-first into everything that can help me into college, but the other part of me knows that a career as an astrophysicist would never be as fulfilling as seeing this book through to publication. Grades are important and I do not think that anyone could argue that, but there still has to be the few that go beyond and do something that cannot be graded with numbers.

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