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Most teenagers don’t understand why they should work hard to earn good grades, other than mom and dad always say so.
I’ll tell you why students should want to work for A’s and B’s:
In my school days, I was a straight-A student and overachiever. No one forced me to get straight-A’s; the drive was just in my DNA. From working with kids all these years, I know that some kids are fortunate enough to get straight A’s easily, while some have to work their tails off.
Here’s the thing: Grades are largely a matter of effort, not intelligence.
If students do what they’re supposed to do, usually they will prevail.
I know how stressful it is to make straight A’s, so I’m not going to tell you or your kids they have to make straight A’s. I’m telling you that students have to put in the work necessary to make straight A’s.
I’ve seen students who said they don’t turn in work because they don’t like a particular teacher or they don’t like the assignment. That won’t cut it, and let me tell you why. My office is immaculately clean. I don’t even let my staff use sticky notes. And I’m sure I have rules my staff thinks are completely stupid. But I have a reason for them.
If kids get to a point where they ignore their teacher or don’t perform because they don’t like an assignment, what are they going to do when there is a boss that they don’t like? Kids have to equate what they do in high school to real life.
Just like their future bosses, students can’t cherry-pick their teachers. And at the university level, they’re even less likely to have a choice. In some classes, the professors are TBA (to be announced), or a TA is assigned or whoever walks through that door. This gets students ready for life.
No one gets to pick your boss, yet it’s in your best interest to do a good job for him or her. Similarly, no matter the circumstances, students should put their best effort forth in the classroom.
And a final note for parents:
Yes, getting good grades matters, but that doesn’t mean you should be constantly on your child’s back. You’re unlikely to motivate them by frequently checking their grades and nagging them. As your kids will tell you—and they’re telling the truth—a lot of times their grades are low in those online grading systems because their teachers haven’t entered all their information.
Parents may also want to refrain from obsessively checking grades because when the kids go off to college, it’s no longer an option. Under FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974), parents can’t even see their child’s grades without permission.
In other words, you have to let your kids grow up. As long as you’ve instilled a strong work ethic, you can trust that whether or not you know their grades, they’re putting in their best effort in school—and that they’ll continue to do so in the real world.
Jamie Dickenson, MBA, CEP
Independent Educational Consultant specializing in college admissions and financial aid, motivational speaker, business coach and owner of Jamie Dickenson, LLC., IEC Advisors, and Yoga Power, LLC.
Jamie Dickenson is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. Hartford Funds has separately contracted with Ms. Dickenson to provide additional insight about college savings issues.