It’s exam time. You’re stressed and it is hard going. You put in your best effort and hopefully feel some relief when it’s all done—but then the conversations with classmates start. Initially it’s all subjective, ‘how do you feel you did?’, ‘Were you happy with your exam?’, ‘Were the questions what you expected?’
You get your marks back—the subjective moves to reality: what do you do when you find out your grade?
Navigating the minefield
What if you’re really happy with your final grade and just want to shout it from the roof tops? You worked hard and you’re proud of what you’ve achieved. Is it OK to tell everyone just how awesome you are?
Or maybe you bombed. All the questions conspired against you and your grade reflects your lack of study. Is it OK to commiserate with your fellow comrades?
Talking about grades is a potential minefield, spawning jealousy, rivalry, pride, and discontent. Is there grade sharing ‘etiquette’ to help navigate these conversations?
I imagine most people would find it distasteful or terrifying to share grades on social media, but in 2013 a group of Australian high school students thought otherwise.
The graduating students excitedly shared their HSC results with everyone on Twitter and Facebook. While some thought it poor form others interpreted the act of sharing as the celebration of a significant step in the students’ lives.
Our culture makes a difference to the way we feel about sharing grades with others. Redbus.us.com is a blog run to give international students pointers on navigating education in the US. Redbus writer ‘Kumar’ explains it is not OK to ask for grades of other students in the US, and is considered very impolite or even aggressive.
This goes against the grain for many international students who are used to publication of grades. In some countries teachers read out results from the front of class or put them on a school noticeboard, or even print them in the local paper.
How we view these discussions about grades varies from culture to culture, maybe even town to town—so it’s important to consider culture.
Just like a poker game, the higher the stakes the more closely guarded the cards, or in this case, the grades.
Grade sharing is an issue in environments where graduates are pitted against each other for prestigious career or training prospects. Law school students generally suggest keeping grades close to their chest and offering vague responses like ‘I did OK’ to help keep competitors at bay.
The more the grade matters, the more vulnerable you make yourself when you share—so it’s prudent to consider the stakes.
The tyranny of a bell curve
I’ve asked my fellow students for their thoughts on grade sharing, after all, this isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but it is sensitive.
For some, sharing grades promptly leads to pride, while others avoid talking about grades entirely—even staying ignorant of their own marks to keep from pride or despair.
In almost every conversation someone has remarked on the reality all students face: someone is on the bottom. The reality of being a student is being ranked against other students.
Sharing grades with others is neither good nor bad. Etiquette and cultural norms are varied, so where does this leave us?
Without the help of a universal etiquette guide, or a ‘how to navigate tricky discussions about marks without losing face’ self-help manual—let us respond with love.
Keep in mind Peter’s wise advice to the early Church, ‘Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter chapter 4, verse 8). Here are three suggestions for navigating those post-exam conversation bombs:
Don’t put so much value on grades
Let our conversation show there is more value in learning than just a final grade. Let’s discuss what we learnt, rather than how we fared in one kind of assessment.
Remember sharing isn’t always caring
When we are proud of our grades and just want to tell the world, responding in love will mean considering others first. I’ve been challenged to look at my heart motivation: am I sharing marks for me or for others?
I like sharing grades and the thought of sharing less, or not sharing at all, is hard—but love means thinking of others first.
Receive sharing graciously
‘Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep’ (Romans chapter 12, verse 15).
I know I am prone to be jealous and envious when I hear others have done well. We need to remember God gives good gifts to people—the ability to learn quickly, a photographic memory, drive and focus, patience and diligence. Train yourself to be joyful with those who do well. Lovingly celebrate God’s gifts and their hard efforts.
Conversely, when we see others having a hard time we can take the opportunity to care loving by weeping with those who weep; to be a good friend; to bring chocolate and listen without judgement.
As exam results come back think about how you can talk (or not talk) about them with love.