Friday, November 29, 2013

A- to Infinity

During my junior year abroad, I had a (British) professor who had never given grades, but my college had asked him to.

He had fun with it. On one of my papers, he had scrawled “A- - - - - - (to ∞)” and then “So close, but not quite.”

Story of my life.

I had an A- average in college over all. Not terrible. Pretty good, really. But not perfect.

Having children is an educational experience. You get to see stuff you went through, from an outside (though loving) perspective. Though, my children, in high school, are running a gauntlet of grading and testing and assessment and judging that didn’t exist when I was their age. Of course, it’s not just educators (and in my daughter’s case currently, college-admissions people) who are assessing and judging, their peers do as well.

I tell my kids, “Don’t turn the power to judge your worth over to anyone else” – not to the art instructor who doesn’t understand graffiti, not to the English teacher who decrees that you cannot use linking verbs or she will mark you off. (What the hell?) Take what they can teach you and move on.

I can see, now, that so many high-school kids see their world as one big competition. Some – bless them – are mature enough to give someone else a compliment or some support. But others cannot. Too insecure. Those catty, gossipy girls, I try to tell my daughter, the reason they attack you is they feel threatened; you could try taking that as a kind of compliment.

Of course, she can’t. I can’t either.

Sometimes you’d just like a yardstick to tell how you’re doing.

But there really isn’t a true one.  And nothing you do will ever be perfect or universally liked. Just keep going.

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