November 25th, 2011



I got the rhythm. I am rocking the joint. I am powering through my to-do lists like a champion productivity QUEEN. I am getting things done. As Megsie said, I AM ON FIRE. Yee-ha!

In front of me on the desk are 5 little slips of paper. One is the list of people coming tomorrow and what they are bringing. One is the list of people signed up for the cookie exchange on Monday. One is a nearly done to-do list of things that needed to be taken care of this past week: 2 things are not yet crossed off and they were not mandatory. One is a NEW to-do list of things that need to be done NEXT week before we leave for Germany. And one is the start of yet another to-do list with holiday-related items on it, all 4 of which start with the word Christmas.

Yesterday, after work, we had Martin's parent-teacher conference with his mentor, and it went really well. She praised him to the skies and said how proud she was of the maturing he has done over this past term. He has been meeting his goals, improving the things he needed to work on, and beginning to really take his place in the class and the school as a voice to be reckoned with. And she said his schoolwork was excellent. But then she followed it up by saying, proudly mind you, that he would most likely be getting at least all C's in his first set of grades at the end of the term. And probably some C+ and maybe even B's!

Excuse me?

I asked her what she meant and she explained that the new grading system, which Martin's 8th grade year is the first to have to deal with, works in such a way that the upper elementary/junior high kids are working toward a final grade that will be given at the end of NINTH GRADE. So the grades they get this year (and ditto for those kids in 6 & 7 grades) will be a milestone on the way to getting an A at the end of ninth grade. Even though they have an A-F scale NOW, in 8th grade, they basically cannot be given an A. Because A's are reserved for THE LAST GOAL.

What exactly is the point of having an A-F scale of grading for 8th grade if you can't even get half the possible grades? I asked. They are not grading on a bell curve. But the actual scale of grading apparently covers the entire 4 years of upper elementary, NOT each individual term or year. She understood my frustration and confusion but couldn't really explain it my satisfaction and even admitted that ALL the teachers are a bit unsure of how to handle the new grading system.

I know this is partially a cultural thing, because Anders and many other Swedes I have talked to seem to be completely on board and understanding about this quintessentially Swedish way of handling a grading system. And putting American competitiveness and both culturally-ingrained and personal OLD experience of how grading systems work aside, I don't think it makes SENSE. I may not be the most logical person on the block when it comes to statistics and math and whatever, but how is this FAIR?

When I worked at Ericsson, my first job in Sweden, I ran into the exact same attitude. My very first performance evaluation was full of EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, OVER & ABOVE, etc., but then I was told that I was only getting what amounted to a C and which meant I was only eligible for a negligible raise. EXCUSE ME? I said then as well. I call bullshit. I argued my case with my boss and after some back and forth, got her to agree: if I was doing grade-A work, I should be getting grade-A compensation and recognition.

Getting an A on your performance report or your school term grade does not mean that you automatically think, "Okay! I'm done now! I can sit back and relax and loaf my way through the rest of my job/life/school career. It's a means of recognizing and REWARDING your level of work. It's an INCENTIVE to continue the trend or level that you are working to achieve.

What is the incentive to continue to work hard through the rest of 8th grade, if you've BEEN working really hard and are told that your performance is worth a C because you are "not mature enough or educated enough yet to earn an A", and a C or possibly a C+ or maybe a B is the best you can get in 8th grade, despite the fact that your grading scale for the term in question is not C-F, it is A-F!?

So, I asked the teacher, what you're saying is, if Martin comes home with a report card full of C's, I should be really proud of him because he is at precisely the grading level he needs to be at in order to achieve an A at the end of 9th grade? Yes, exactly, she answered. I sighed and shook my head. Okay, I said slowly, but damned if I know how I'm going to explain this to his grandmother!