Letting Go of Grades

All through high school, I was a straight-A student. It didn’t come easily – I worked hard, stayed up late, went to tutoring (especially for math) in order to maintain that GPA. I went to a school where having a 4.0 meant you were high-average. I was nowhere near contending for valedictorian. It’s a trait my mom still mentions now and then – I was never smart but always a hard worker.

Raising a new overachiever

The downside to being a hard worker is that I would stress about school and grades – to the point of getting migraines right after every major midterm or final exam. (The performer in me never got them before the tests, always right after.)

When I went to college, my perfectionist tendencies followed, until I realized I was missing out on living in Paris because I was so worried about my GPA. So, I stopped worrying. My average slid down a bit, but I learned to be ok with that. I learned that an experience is as important as a grade. (Some would argue it’s more important…)

That’s when being a learner truly became a strength: I learned to learn, not to measure myself against a number but to take in my environment, my studies, my successes and failures. Those lessons have benefited me as an adult far more than any A on a paper or final exam.

It’s far too early to tell how the girls will relate to school, though I’m already seeing those stereotypical firstborn qualities in Bea: Pleasing her teachers, practicing, a love of homework. What I hope to instill in both girls is that, while working hard and grades are important, so is life. Life lived, lessons learned, relationships formed – these are the hopes I have for my daughters. Grades will get you into certain colleges which will, in turn, give you certain experiences, but not at the cost of something greater.

I’m thankful for my overachiever tendencies, for my migraines, and for the lessons I had to learn about setting boundaries for myself. Without those lessons, I’m not sure I’d go into the school-age parenting years with as much thoughtfulness and insight toward those perfectionist traits.

What kind of student were you? Grades-focused or life-focused? Or that magical balance of both? Any suggestions for finding that balance as a parent?


This post is Day 13 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.


Published by

Annie Rim

Welcome! I live in Colorado with my family and have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I reflect about life, faith, and books here on my blog.

6 thoughts on “Letting Go of Grades”

  1. I’ve made it clear that moving every six months through most of my high school years wasn’t easy for me. They were big moves too, from FL to Utah and back to FL and then to TX. I’m a better learner from experience than academics though I did okay in school (firstborn here too). I’ve often considered how the moving has played a part in my understanding of people. We don’t have to like something to learn from it.(said every person in math classes of all kind ;))

    1. I can’t imagine the difficulty of moving so much… But, isn’t it amazing how that so prepared you for the work you do now? Understanding people, empathy toward displacement – that truly can’t be learned without experience.

    1. Hooray for firstborns!! We laugh/cringe that Bea is the product of two perfectionist firstborns – she’ll either be insane or completely rebel! (And Elle is the stereotypical laid-back second child!)

  2. I’m the baby of the family with many years between the older brothers. I think I was focused my whole life on communication and relationships. If a teacher communicated well with me I performed but if that was missing I just didn’t do much more than what was expected to get by. I see that in my middle son and youngest daughter.

    1. Such a reminder that positive affirmation and communication are key to success, right? We all need that, and all perform to the expectations (or lack of) set.

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