B

The Girl tomorrow will be getting the first B she’s ever made on a report card. It’s in social studies, and it weighs heavily on her.

“I got an A on the study guide,” she told me this evening, “but I got a C on the test.”

I don’t remember when I got my first B. Probably on my first report card. I can’t remember when I got my first C, but I think it was in junior high. I do remember getting the one D I ever received: earth science, ninth grade. I think I made all As and Bs in college, but if I had, I would have not graduated simply Cum Laude but rather Summa. Or so it seems to me.

Obviously grades were never all that important to me. Sure, I wanted to do well, but I didn’t beat myself up over it. I sat back and watched everyone who was interested battle for valedictorian and salutatorian honors, and I think I slipped into the top 10% of my class and was somewhat pleased with that.

The Girl’s biggest concern is remaining on the All A Honor Roll. Will this disqualify her for end of year honors? I had to admit that, despite being a teacher, I really didn’t know. Again, I never really worry too much about it.

My own students come to me sometimes worried about their grades. My English I Honors course has had the dubious distinction of being the first B for several students over the year. I express my regret, point out that I don’t give grades but that they earn grades, but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “It’s not such a big deal really.” For them it is: it’s a high school credit course, which means it will count toward their GPA.

I’ve had students’ parents have their children repeat English I in high school to get that A. I’ve even had one mother require her daughter repeat because her A wasn’t high enough. “Your class was much harder,” the girl wrote later in an email.

So I try to comfort L the best I can, suggesting that it’s not the end of the world. She dries her eyes and says, “I know.” But I know that doesn’t help all that much.

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