Motivation of Sharing Grades

Skyler Shuniu Li, Staff Writer

There is an interesting habit of sharing grades that appears among students in schools. I have participated in this act a lot, and I feel like there are advantages and disadvantages. What is the motivation of sharing grades? How do people feel about it afterwards? 

I grew up studying in China and experienced a full rote learning education and a test-filled culture. All of my teachers that I knew in China would announce everyone’s grades publicly in the class. I didn’t know about other people’s thoughts, but this made me feel horrible and made me think negatively and that my grades were never good enough. They wanted all the students in the class to hear about other people’s grades no matter if you felt upset. Some of the teachers would talk about how bad the grade of a specific student was, and sometimes they would try to use radical or extreme language to “help” students become more motivated about a subject. There are also a few situations when a small group of teachers got together to discuss and sort of make fun of a student. From my experience and hearing from other Chinese students, parents and teachers always had a common group chat. The purpose was to share important announcements at first, but it seemed like it shifted to be a “Secret Grades Discussion Group.” Then, most parents would start comparing us with our classmates, even if you were satisfied with a specific grade. It is true that most hate the feeling of being compared with other students and sharing grades, but what can you do?This situation has happened to me in my school life from my primary school to my middle school, but I wonder if cultural difference can impact how people look at the motivation of sharing grades. I started studying in the United States two years ago and I am seeing different patterns in relation to grades sharing. With this idea in mind, I randomly interviewed 16 students in SSFS from 2 different countries: the US and China. 

The results of the interview on cultural differences were not surprising to me. All the American students agreed that they are growing up in a culture in which people are always aware and mindful about others’ feelings. They are told NOT to question things that might lead to an awkward situation, and NOT to do things either to make yourself or the other person feel bad. It’s pretty common that they share their grades, but mostly in a way that protects each other’s privacy. They ask others’ grades discreetly, and they won’t share a person’s grade to the other.  On the other hand, Chinese students who are currently studying at SSFS complained how the education they experienced before they studied abroad can make students feel more inferior. As I mentioned above, we were seldom satisfied with our grades. People with good grades just don’t take it seriously. However, this will make the poor students worse, and they are afraid to work hard later. This differs from their experience studying America, where they have noticed that almost every single teacher will flip the graded test paper before handing it to the students, which greatly protects students’ privacy, grades, and self-esteem. 

Regardless of cultural differences, however, all students expressed that they share grades with their friends and classmates almost every time. It’s more of a human nature thing of wanting to know where we are in relation to other people, even though we know that a grade itself doesn’t mean that much of a person, but a comparison of grades can mean something to us. Among the 16 interviewees, Mark Yihan Zhang, a Chinese student whom I interviewed said, “Everyone wants to become a better person. However, there is a cause of comparison, and I don’t like it. I think we can definitely be advanced by competing with each other, but it also has negative impacts.” Tenth grader Gus Ross mentioned that, “People want to share grades so they can brag with one another, showing who is smarter.” Isabella Yibei Yu shared her thoughts that, “If you meet someone with a lower grade than yours, you will gain confidence. This is normal. But when you meet someone who has better grades than you, it implies that maybe you need to work harder and encourage yourself to surpass him.” Someone who wants to remain anonymous mentioned that, “I’m always curious about the grades. For people who get low grades, some of them would ask their friends to see if they also get low grades so that they can comfort themselves. Some of them would also talk about the teachers and complain how hard the tests were after they share their grades.”

In conclusion, there are benefits and drawbacks of the motivation of students sharing grades. I feel like we should compare more to ourselves, because everyone’s different and a comparison of grades doesn’t mean anything. We should always look at the good side of everything and try to improve more based on that, this can also help us to build confidence.