Teacher’s Corner: Ms. Le’s Take on Grades and Learning

I was a quiet student back in high school. I hated whenever my teacher would make me participate in class. My goal in high school was to achieve as many A’s on my report card as possible. You could say that my friends saw me as a bit of an overachiever.

An ‘A’ meant I was successful at absorbing all the information available. This was very important to me back then as I somehow felt my self-worth was tied to my letter grades earned in school.

That all changed when one of my favourite teachers shared her mantra for learning. She would reinforce the notion that “if you tried your best, that’s enough.”  

It was this teacher that helped me reshape how I saw and valued education. Marks no longer defined who I was. It was important I heard this before going to university because as the courses grew more difficult, I felt more comfortable with just doing my best. The A’s will come with hard work and, if they did not, that was okay. If I did my best, that was enough.

If I had not changed my mindset, I would have added undue stress to an already jam-packed university schedule. This made university enjoyable and allowed me to spend more time observing the culture and norms of university students and faculty.

As I reflect on my youth, I find that observing people has always been a pastime for me. I remember travelling Europe and Southeast Asia with my family and seeing so many types of food and people interacting with each other. I think that’s why I was so interested in history as I grew older.

History class fascinated me because there were so many unique stories and cultural differences. It was so much easier to learn when it was relevant to something I knew or something I saw while traveling. It’s because of this that I will always try to make learning fun and relevant to the student’s perspective. When learning is personalized, engagement goes way up and what you learn is less likely to be forgotten.