A Message for Students was written by my niece, Gwendolyn. She is currently a grade 10 student at the Jubilee Christian Academy. – ROBERT LEE

The Bible tells the story of two men. The wise man built his house on rock while the foolish man built his on sand.  When the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew, it was the house with the solid foundation that survived. Likewise, we need to live our lives with a purpose that is built on rock, one that will keep us motivated even when the going gets tough.

Why do you do what you do? Whether you are a student, entrepreneur or parent, it is important to have a clear answer to this question. Knowing what your purpose is gives you an idea what direction to take in life, what goals to set and what choices to make. It motivates you so that you keep going even in the face of many challenges.

As a student, ask yourself, “Why do I study hard, do my best to perform excellently and endure all the stress that comes with being in school?” Growing up, I too tried answering this question many times. Back when I was still in elementary, my purpose was to get good grades. I’m sure many of you would say the same thing. Is there anything wrong with that? Well, it depends.

Now that I am in high school, my response has changed. I now do what I do for a very simple reason: to learn, and I encourage all of you to have the same purpose too.

What is the difference between aiming to get good grades and to learn?  Is one better than the other?

The Unstable Foundation

There are good reasons why most schools give students grades. Here are some of them:

  • To identify areas of improvement
  • To measure progress
  • To reward hard work
  • To give a sense of achievement

However, they become harmful rather than helpful when:

  • We rely solely on grades to please ourselves and others
  • We use our grades to prove our worth
  • We consider grades as the sole measure of our intelligence

The reality is that our grades will not always be as good as we want them to. They are shaky, unstable foundations that will ultimately fail us if we build our self-worth and happiness on it. Why?

First, we’re not perfect and we won’t always be able to perform at our maximum. There will be times when we struggle to understand a lesson no matter how hard we try. There will be times when we fail to do well on a test.

Second, unforeseen circumstances may happen that we have little to no control over. Maybe you get grouped with people who are mediocre or maybe your printer stopped working just as you were about to print an important assignment.

During these times, putting too much emphasis on grades will take a toll on you. 

The Solid Foundation

Meanwhile, if you aim just to learn, you can save yourself from unnecessary stress and disappointment. Learning, you see, isn’t measured by how good your marks are. It is measured by how much you improve. In school, you fail a test when you do poorly on it. When it comes to learning, failure only happens when you fail to learn from your experiences. Moreover, unlike grades, learning will not disappoint you. It is not affected by what we do or what others say but our willingness to become better people. We can learn something every day, in any circumstance, whether good or bad, as long as we make the decision to.

I understand that for some of you, grades are more than numbers on your report card. They can mean the difference between having a scholarship or leaving school and passing that one last class or graduating a year late. But remember that failing in school is not the end of the world and certainly does not equate to failing in life.

Be Like the Wise Man

Here are some steps you can take to make learning a part of your lifestyle.

Embrace Your Inner Child

As young kids, we were curious and inquisitive, always asking the why’s and how’s, and finding answers to those questions. The next time something sparks your interest, go ahead and learn it! Make a simple Google search, or visit the library. Whether it is a global issue you see in the news, or a sport you’ve always wanted to try, you have so many resources in front of you to utilize.

Handle Failure Positively

Life is how we make of it. You may do your best in school but situations will still arise that set you back. During these times, you have a choice on whether to use the experience to your advantage or disadvantage. In times of difficulty, see the good and make sure not to leave empty-handed. Tell yourself, “I didn’t get the grade that I want but at least I picked up a few life lessons. I may have made some mistakes, but at least I know better and won’t commit them again in the future.”

Aim for the Greater Reward

Grades will not always reflect how much you have learned. Only you can measure that. So, focus on learning and think of grades only as a bonus. The life lessons you pick up, knowledge you gain, values you develop and skills you obtain are greater and more important rewards. They can only be obtained through actual practice, not cheating, and stay with you long after you graduate. So, consider yourself satisfied with these greater rewards, whether you get the grades you deserve or not.

Maximize Your Time at School

While there may be reasons why you don’t like school, try to make the most of your time there. Think about it, isn’t it better to sit through countless lectures and do long assignments, and get something out of them, than endure them and learn nothing? Try imagining school as a training ground for the real world. Here, you develop discipline and time management skills, and learn how to handle difficult situations, for instance. So while you may feel that school is entirely useless, at least allow it to shape you to be a better person.

Learn Beyond the Classroom

Let’s face it. School isn’t going to teach you everything you need to know or want to learn. The good news is that you can do something to shape your education. Don’t simple rely on your teachers. Instead, make opportunities for you to learn, even if you are not in school. Do you want to attend a coding class but lack funds and transportation? Watch videos on YouTube and use websites that give free tutorials. Do you want to stay fit but don’t have time to go to the gym? Use a workout app for 30 minutes each day. Do you want to become a good speaker? Watch powerful speeches and practice in front of a mirror every day. Remember, schooling is only a small part of your education and you have the resources and power to shape it.

Know When to Stop

There’s nothing wrong with studying hard but make sure not to compromise your health. As a student, there will be times when you are tempted to pull off an all-nighter or skip a meal to get schoolwork done. Don’t do it! It’s counter-productive and will hinder you from learning. Not only will your body perform less efficiently, you are also risking different diseases for short-term benefits (a.k.a grades). It simply isn’t worth it in the long run. Make simple lifestyle changes today. Sleep early, eat healthy brain-boosting snacks, drink water and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

A Message for Students

Dear student, what are you building your self-worth and happiness on? Are you founding it on learning or getting good grades? Be like the wise man and choose the stable foundation.

 

34 COMMENTS

  1. Even when I’m no longer at school I can still relate the wisdom of this post with my life, but this time, the “grade” is how people perceive my success. That if I make it appear that I am successful in other people’s eyes then I am all good. But as I grew older, I realized that it is not how I want to measure my success. Sure it feels wonderful to receive other people’s approval but the most important I think is to gain my own approval. Do I really want to be just like this? Can I still learn more? Achieve more?

    And I am working on it, because someday, I want to grow old knowing that I’ve done my best to realize my dreams.

    • Thanks so much for reading my article. 🙂 I agree with you that the world offers many ways to gauge our success, some of which can leave us feeling inferior and unsatisfied. Just like you, I used to rely too much on people for approval, acceptance and confirmation.  I still struggle with that at times but am trying to focus on just growing and improving.

  2. All these coming from a grade 10 stude makes me admire her. She has such wisdom to share. She talks with depth. And I am so impressed. But more than anything, I agree with her.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, especially since this is my first article to be published online. 🙂 I’m glad that some people identify with me and see life the same way.

  3. Well, it’s a great read. Coming from a Grade 10 student sure has been open to various scenarios. But, I wish that majority of the parents would stop using grades as a measure to show time for your child. Nevertheless, I totally agree with the author.

    • I’m glad you appreciated the article. 🙂 It did take a lot of ups and downs over the years before I adopted the mindset I have today.  It saddens me as well when my classmates hear discouraging comments from adults, making them forget how talented and intelligent they are.

  4. Gwendolyn! You are a fantastic writer with wonderful insight on life in Grade 10! I work in a school and have not met many Grade 10 students who have so much advice, thoughts, and motivation with wisdom to share with the world.

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 To be honest, I had always been hesitant to share my ideas because they were always different from the norm. I really appreciate your kind words and hope that you can benefit from my advice even as an adult.

  5. These words coming from grade 10? Wonderful! I am currently in the university but maybe in a different perspective as a Master’s student. However, I find these words really motivating to remind us not just go to school to study and graduate, not just go to work and earn, but to do your part with sturdier foundation and firmer purpose. Hats off to you, Gwendolyn! 🙂

  6. Oh my! I just spoke with my fiancé about this bible story. And the thought behind the story is so true. The lesson we learn from this story. Hard work pays off. Really important for students and motivating as well.

    • Although the original interpretation of the story is a little different, it’s fascinating how there are so many other real world applications. I’m glad I was able to help you see it in a different light and inspire you in some way. 🙂

  7. Sir, your niece is a very wise yound lady. I can see her going places someday. With that kind of attitude towards life, I’m pretty sure she can tough all life’s challenges out. She’s just a teen and she got me super motivated to learn more, live life well, and just keep moving forward.

    • Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m still overwhelmed by all the positive feedback.  Growing up, I have been surrounded by positive, forward-thinking people who encouraged me to have the same mindset as well. I’m glad that it has rubbed off on me and that I can share my insights with the readers of this blog. 🙂

  8. I haven’t read your posts in a while Robert and I actually miss them! It is often hard for us to remember what our efforts are for, but those foundations are what keeps us going when things go wrong. I don’t think I knew this when I was a student but I know now. Very interesting post indeed.

    • Thank you so much!  I definitely agree with what you said. As the school year fast approaches (6 days of summer left!), I’m preparing myself for a lot of stress again but I know that it will be worth it in the long run. 🙂

  9. Lots of good valid points here, though I’m afraid as exceptional as Gwendolyn might be, the average student might read this and take it as one of those textbook essays that they will probably not engrave in their hearts. In my opinion, teenagers still need to be bound for routine and they still lack real reasoning in real life and with what’s in it for them. As something related to one of the things stated above, you don’t learn everything in school because real life and knowledge starts the moment you start your first day at work. As genius as youngsters might be, sometimes it takes a long time before you find what you’re made for. Ultimately, everyone should just have some good parenting.

    • I definitely agree with you. 🙂 In fact, knowing that teens might not be ready to hear my ideas bothered me a lot and almost stopped me from writing this article in the first place.  Even among my circle of friends, I struggle to find like-minded people.  I realized that no matter how hard I try to explain a concept or idea, whether people will be receptive to it and pick something up depends more on the current mindset that they possess. And that, unfortunately, is something I have little control of.

      What inspired me to go forward with publishing this is the wide readership my uncle’s blog possesses which consists of that group of people. I hope that as I share my insights to parents, teachers, mentors, and other adults who visit this page, they too can pass it on to today’s youth. 🙂

  10. I am so impressed with your niece! Such a smart kiddo. I can relate to this so much and I agree to what she points out. Your niece is so promising! Looking forward for more articles to read from her 🙂

  11. True indeed! What students should know is that learning is more valuable in the reality compared to aiming good grades. I hope more students will be able to see the true meaning of studies not just by aiming good grades but for them to learn the purpose why should they study.

    • I’m glad you appreciated my article!  There was a time back in elementary when I just became too grade-conscious. Not only did it stress me out so much, it caused a strain in my relationships with other people. I’m happy that I’ve gone a long way since then and am much happier and satisfied. 🙂

  12. This is actually a good article and what’s best is that it came from a student’s perspective. And from an employee’s perspective, I’ve been attending several interviews and workshops and they are really not particular in your grades. They actually ask about your involvement in extra curricular activities which shows your capacity to be a team member/leader. Though I think we should still do our best in our academics because it will help us in many ways, but other than that just enjoy your student life!

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad that you enjoyed reading this article. 🙂 I agree that students like me should try as much as possible to balance school, after-school activities, family time, etc. It’s also good knowing that employers are looking for people who have this kind of lifestyle.

  13. I’m so impressed on how she writes this. At a young age, she can move and inspire people. I like her topic especially when she said that you should live with motivation so that you could keep on going.

    • Thank you so much!  I’m very happy that readers including you are benefiting from my ideas.  Going through life is definitely much easier when we have a clear, stable purpose to drive us forward. 🙂

  14. Great post! It’s so important to keep motivated as a student. And know what you’re working for. Even if it’s hard to imagine what the rest of your life will look like. I’ve finished university 7 years ago. I studied Arts & Social Sciences. The reason I picked this studies was just because I LOVED what it was about. I had no clue what kind of job I would want to do. I just chose what felt right. And that really helped. I enjoyed my study a lot and it wasn’t hard for me to keep being interested. I was doing what I loved.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so inspired by your story, especially since I’ll be picking out my specialization for senior high school soon. Coincidentally, my motto for the summer was to do what I love so all the activities I did revolved around my likes and interests. This comment is a great reminder that it’s going to do me good in the long run. 🙂

  15. Very wise for a grade 10 student! I think my primary takeaway during that same period of my life is to be who you are. Love what you love, and avoid what you hate. Follow your instincts. And get into sports early!

  16. It was so nice to read your opinions. You are in highschool but think of your future, a thing that students don’t normally do. Yes, studying is very important and this is the time when that foundation needs to be built. You want to finish school and get an internship straight away, and only with good knowledge you will get it in a good company. Or, start your own business.

  17. I handle Junior high school students and how I wish my students can write and share the thoughts you mentioned here. Very clever girl. It’s not that I’m degrading them but they actually can’t even write a simple essay but they’re very grade conscious. I hope they don’t rely on grades. I wish them to rely on the learnings that they get everyday.

    Just follow what your heart wants and let it lead you the way, of course with the guidance of your elders because always remember that they have a lot of wisdom than the younger ones. Thanks for this.

  18. I am a teacher and I agree that having grades can be harmful because students do not always understand what a grade means or how to improve their work based on a grade. I mostly teach literature, so I have my students write their answers to questions as they read. Then we discuss the questions as a group. Afterwards, I have the students improve their answers as they need and then grade themselves. I only say something if I feel a student’s grade for herself is really off-base, but that almost never happens.

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