Making the Grade: A New Perspective for My Kids

At 33 years old, I am one semester away from graduating nursing school. Before this, I was a teacher. So, I’ve known for years that grades are next to meaningless, yet I didn’t truly understand this concept until very recently when I failed a nursing school class and had to repeat it. That experience has taught me so much going forward; I wish I would have learned these lessons sooner. With my graduation around the corner, maybe I won’t be applying these lessons about grades directly to myself much longer. However, they’ll definitely influence how I handle my kids as they begin their academic careers.

Grades don’t reflect the important stuff.

Grades don’t indicate the quality of nurse I’ll be. I may not be the most book smart of new nurses, but I can learn all that stuff in time. But the things I can’t be taught? I’m already good at those things. I already care about people. I already know how to comfort and advocate and be empathetic. That’s what matters. So, if my kids don’t earn perfect grades, I know they’ll still know the stuff that counts for life. That’s what I’m assessing every day.

Sometimes, you have to move mountains.

I crushed that class the second time. I bombed it the first time, but I came back with a vengeance to earn an “A” on the final. Failure lit a fire under me. I was doing it for me; I had to prove something to myself. A “C” would have sufficed, but I was chasing the “A.” I learned the material backwards and forward, but what I learned most about was perseverance. If my kids don’t excel in certain areas, it’s going to be okay. They will learn to keep going, and when it’s all said and done, they will feel as though they’ve moved mountains. I want them to know that feeling.

Back with a vengeance, twenty packets of notes, and two textbooks the night before my final

Failure reminds us to stay humble.

This was one of the few times that something didn’t come easily to me. I generally don’t have to work to make the grades, even in nursing school. I didn’t really expect to fail the course until it happened. It was humbling. I licked my wounds for a few days, and then I hit the books and restarted the class. This experience was a true testament to my ability to do something hard, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Should my kids should ever struggle in their courses, they will know strife and eventually emerge on the other side humbled yet confident.

Life’s about choices, and that sometimes means not choosing school.

If I’d have studied more, I would have passed the first time. I really only needed two more correct answers on any test. I was so close. So yeah, I should have made a little more effort. But you know what? During that semester, I never missed a kid’s ballgame. I never skipped out on family movie night. I closed the books on date night. I had a part-time job. I had an active social life. I received an award for community service. All of those events were significant. Sure, I wish I could have done it all, but somewhere in there, I made a choice. All of those things were equally as important as my grades. When it comes to our kids, we tend to think, “School comes first,” but I can’t necessarily agree. There are a lot of things tied for first place. School is up there, but it won’t always be the priority.

My grades won’t tell you that I’m a good leader. They don’t reflect my talents and interests. My grades don’t tell you that I love hard and play hard and fight hard. The best things about me can’t be discovered by reviewing my transcripts. My kids earn exemplary grades, and I’m very proud of them. Still, their report cards say nothing of how extraordinary they are.

Alyson Haggerty
Alyson lives in Metairie with her husband, Patrick, their 8 and 5-year-old boys, and their Morkie, Beignet. After teaching for almost ten years, she left a career in education and is now a full-time nursing student. In her hypothetical free time, Alyson would enjoy flipping furniture, writing, dancing, and painting. She is always looking for a racquetball partner and loves streetcar rides and playing board games with her family. A good cook, she is constantly on a quest to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” but has thus far been unsuccessful.

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