Destroying the equation of an A student equals a good student

Five students watch a chorus performance in the amphitheater.

People go to the mall to shop, students go to school to obtain good grades. The lines between earning good grades and acquiring new knowledge are blurred. Society has engraved into young minds that grades are a measurement of success. But that glorious “A” is becoming less appealing when its partner in crime is pressure. 

The “A” is like the most expensive Louis Vuitton bag that everyone wants. Grades are used as a weapon to impress others. The importance of an “A” has become a definition of students. There is no definition of a “good student” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, however, society has built one up. Most people believe a “good student” is equal to a student who earns “A’s”. But grades do not define a person. “It’s not all about ‘looking good on paper,’” said Rachel Chelius, a world literature teacher at Montclair High School. 

An Inc. article, “Why Many ‘C’ Students End up Most Successful” by Izy Pozin explains how many successful figures achieved careers in business and public life after having a lamentable education history. Leaders such as former Vice President Al Gore, former President George H.W. Bush, former President W. Bush and even current President Joe Biden all were not known for being straight-A students.

Fortunately, grades didn’t hinder their careers as public figures. All went on to have long, prestigious careers in public service. President George H.W. Bush even admitted ”I refuse to release my high school transcript because I failed chemistry and I don’t want anyone to know that.”

Grades don’t predict students’ futures. Yes, A+ students work diligently to earn the grade they deserve, but others could do the same and may not fall under the “good student” umbrella.

 Mr. Thomas Risoldi, MHS global studies teacher, said, “In fact, the average grade for students in a class is most likely a “B”.  A good student is a student who reaches their potential. Academically, this might mean a “B”, or “C”, or sometimes even a “D”… Not every student has the aptitude to get an “A” in every class.”

Students struggle with coming to a mutual understanding with the letter A. Many find it difficult to accept that an A is necessary to follow through with their academic journey. Everyone has individual talents that reflect on what they can and cannot do. Grades don’t necessarily reflect a student’s poor performance or that someone is smarter than another. “…a diligent, hardworking student can still get a B if that is what their skills are,” said one teacher. 

Getting good grades shouldn’t be the sole purpose of going to school. Ms. Chelius said “… while grades reward a student’s efforts, they are not the most important part of one’s education. I believe it’s more important to learn to think for oneself. In school, we try to foster this by prompting students to not just take in information, but to discuss and question it while also considering the perspective of others. One doesn’t have to score straight As to achieve these things.”

While society has influenced people to believe that grades are a reflection of one’s future, some students are realizing that a letter doesn’t define them. 

Lulu, a ninth-grader, said, “I don’t necessarily think kids who don’t have A’s are bad, however, you should always try to do your best.” Similarly, another ninth-grader said, “…Everyone learns differently and I think a person showing dedication and participation is a better student.”

There is a fine line between venturing in studies, but missing the A-mark to lousily not trying. Students shouldn’t be judged based on “…letters on a piece of paper from our time in school,” as Inc. Magazine explains, “We all choose to apply ourselves differently and to different things in an ideal world that is how we would be measured.”

Although students should not allow grades to define them, there are certain requirements students must abide by to be academically successful. According to one teacher, students must put in the work, even if they aren’t necessarily fond of the subject. 

However, it’s not always about grades. The phrase “a good student” shouldn’t solely create the image of an A-earning person. Good students are good people too. 

“A “good” student should be courteous and respectful, both to other students and the teacher. Kindness and compassion go a long way to creating a well-rounded human being. Some of my favorite students over the years have been those who always smiled… didn’t make excuses if they weren’t doing as well as they might have,” said Mr. Risoldi. 

Ms. Chelius believes what can hold someone back from being successful isn’t necessarily grades, but a lack of curiosity or not subscribing to the idea that knowledge holds power. She went on to say, “As philosopher George Santayana famously said, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

However, students face pressure to live up to society’s “good student” title. This outside force teaches kids to “obsess over getting into a “good” college, which causes many to put way too much emphasis on test scores and grades. The idea that getting a bad grade can adversely affect one’s future trajectory leads to a fear of failure, a fear of taking risks, and a need to get everything right…” said Ms. Chelius. 

There is agonizing demand from a societal and family standpoint for students to achieve at a rigorous level and receive high grades. Pressure molded the theory that good grades equal a good student. No, everyone can be good students regardless of a grade on a report card.