When Your Best isn’t an A

Hey student friend 🙂  I have a story to tell you…

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I’m a senior in high school, but I’ve been taking college classes for the past 3 semesters for dual credit. When I started my first class, I was determined to make A’s in every college class I took. So I struggled through workload adjustments, created study habits, asked my professors lots of questions, and spent late evenings reading. By the end of junior year, I had A’s in all three of the college classes I’d taken.

But then this summer, when I took an accelerated History class, my  grades wavered and I struggled with chapter tests. After managing to get my average up to an A, the last test grade pulled my final average to a B. I tried not to let it bother me. I had stressed and sweated and grown some gray hairs, but I’d done my best. My best in History of Civ just happened to be a B. That’s okay, right? Honestly, I still have to remind myself that a B average isn’t a big deal. That I don’t have to have all-stellar grades (which I don’t), to learn or be content.

I thought it was difficult to hold onto those truths this summer, but my lower-than-A average this semester has continued that struggle. And today was no exception.

This evening, when I opened the grade for a recent class assignment, my heart sank to my toes. A giant zero glared at me through the computer screen. I got a  zero on an essay I’d spent 7 hours working on. I hopped on my email to see a message from my professor, explaining what happened: I had not properly cited my sources in the paper and she had to fail me for plagiarism.

I got a zero for plagiarism.  

That word has always made me wince. In my mind, plagiarism is the unthinkable crime of education. And I, having confused a bibliography for citing sources, was guilty of that crime. My professor graciously told me she’d correct my grade if I simply cited my sources, but that didn’t change the way I felt: Discouraged, guilty, and shocked by my now-C-average. Tears filled my eyes as I replied to her email and asked her to help me understand what to correct. But I was convinced the task was too big and I wouldn’t have time to repair my mistakes. I’d have to accept a C average for now, and that crushed my self-esteem. Crushed my desire to work on other assignments. 

So much for all As. 

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. Maybe grades mean a lot to you and you work really hard to make things happen. A bad grade can ruin your day or at least put you in a sad mood for a couple hours. I’m right there with you, friend.

But there’s something we both need to remember:
  • Grades aren’t all that matter in life.
  • Grades aren’t eternal.
  • Grades don’t define intelligence.
  • Grades can be fixed. 
  • Grades are not your identity.

We may all want a good GPA, and it’s not wrong to aspire to be the best. But it is wrong when we let grades determine your emotion or how you think of yourself.

Reading my little story back to myself, I feel pretty silly for all the stock I put into a single grade, and I hope you caught on to the unnecessary drama of it too. Especially since I reacted too soon. Since my professor was understanding and has shown me how simple it is to correct the problem. I can get my grade back, and so often that’s the case with any bad grade. There’s always another chance to pull up your average again.

Sweet friend, bad grades are real. Mistakes are real. Discouragement is real, and I’m not mocking anyone who overreacts to bad marks like I did. But we don’t have to let moments of defeat keep us from trying again. 

We may not have A’s in every class, but at the end of the day, how much does that really matter?

Colossians 3:23-24 says

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (ESV).

Our heavenly Father didn’t ask us to get all A’s in school. He didn’t ask us to be perfect. He knows we are weak, and He’s there to give strength in our short-comings (2 Corinthians 12:9). But He did ask us to work hard. To be diligent and do our best, because we are here to bring glory to Him.

If an A is your best, then praise Jesus! But if a B or C is the fruit of your honest labor, still, praise Jesus. Good grades aren’t what bring God glory–our effort does. How we get those grades does. Our desire to honor Him in all we do brings Him glory.

Maybe I un-purposefully plagiarized because I was hasty and didn’t make sure I understood how to cite a source.  I failed to bring God glory in that aspect, and I can learn from my mistake. But I can take comfort in the truth that I worked heartily on the rest, and wrote that paper the best I knew how.

Life is a learning curve, friend. We’ll hit bumps and we’ll learn things the hard way, but that’s okay. What matters is that we work diligently to please our Savior, and learn from the consequences of mistakes–purposeful or accidental.

Your Father loves you, and He will give you the strength to press on. Your Father cares about you, and He’s there to comfort you when your best is less than perfect. When you’re saddened and disappointed in yourself. Your Father isn’t disappointed in you. Press on.

“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:1-2, NIV). 

Let me close with a few practical tips:

  • Do your best, always.
  • Pray for wisdom and strength.
  • Remind yourself that grades do not define you.
  • Don’t set unreachable expectations. Setting goals for yourself is good—very good! But balance is important. Balance your desires to succeed with prayer and hard work. High expectations can easily be broken, and you’ll only fall into a pit of disappointment.
  • Run to Scripture for help.

I created these verse cards for another school-related post, and I want to share them here. You can take them anywhere and let them encourage you in whatever season you’re in. ❤

Grades may waver, but God never does. Grades may be bad, but God is always good. Delight in Him.

Related post: A Letter to the Discouraged Student 

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6 thoughts on “When Your Best isn’t an A

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