“Sorting Out” Marks and Grades

Dave Harvey, Director of Academics, Middle & Senior School
Last week, the Director of Academics: Middle & Senior Schools, Dave Harvey, addressed the Middle and Senior School students in assembly with a memorable and humorous presentation with respect to their upcoming reports:

You may notice I’m wearing a hat this morning. There are three reasons I’m wearing it. First, I’m bald, and many bald men develop a predilection for hats. They wear them like hair. Second, you will receive your Term One Report Card shortly and, obviously, when I think about reports, I think about hats. The third reason is a secret. If you pop by my office for a chat, perhaps I’ll share it with you.

Let’s go back for a moment to the second reason. At this time of year, my family and I are likely to watch a Harry Potter film. These movies capture the holidays so beautifully and Hogwarts is an entirely seductive school: the quirky traditions, the moving stairs, the magical dining hall…but it is also rather barbaric one. Let me explain.
 
On the first day of Hogwarts—before you have opened a book, attended a class or perfected one spell, you are sat down and sorted by an irritating hat into one of the four houses. Do you remember? Slytherin. We think you mischievous, morally ambiguous and overtly ambitious, so we would like to house you with other morally challenged, egocentric students. Hufflepuff. Oh, you are loyal, hardworking and friendly? Unfortunately, you are inconsequential to the story. We will call you when we need a character to die.

Thankfully, we are not that kind of school. I’m wearing this hat this morning not to sort you, but to sort you out about what your grades and report mean. Here are a few tips.

1. You are not your report.
Unfortunately, some students confuse themselves for their grades: “I’m a ‘B’; she’s an ‘A’; he’s an A+ - oh how I wish I were him”! Your grade signifies the level of achievement you have attained on the work you have produced. It is not a symbol of your inner being or of what you shall become. Don’t make the mistake of confusing the two.
 
2. We are only partway through the story.
If this year were a narrative, we are still in the rising action. This report is not the climax nor the denouement. If your grades are not what you hoped for, there will be ample time in the new year to show your teachers what you know and are able to do.
 
3. Reflect on your results.
Unlike Harry Potter, there is no magic lurking in your report, although we know that some of you treat it that way—you gingerly open it up and hope, through some process of wizardly enchantment, that the mark you desire will magically appear. When it doesn’t, you try to make it disappear. Take the time to consider what your teachers have said about your current achievement, the areas for improvement and next steps. Really, there should be no surprises; you should be well aware of how you are faring in each of your courses.
 
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
If there is a disconnect between your idea of your grades and their reality, you need to reach out to your teachers and advisors to explore the situation. There is no shame in sharing with your teachers your academic goals and working with them to develop strategies to achieve them. If your grade is causing you mental anguish, and sometimes this happens, then please reach out to your councillor. Likewise, if you are in your last couple years, be sure to touch base with Mr. Huckvale, our Director of University Admissions.
 
Finally, let’s take a moment to address the students in the balcony - our GYs. Five short years ago you were sitting in this front row – shiny and new – and look at you now, as you prepare to exit CDS for university. We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that you are in somewhat of a different position in that you can’t help but listen to the sorting hat. Listen and you can hear it shouting out, “Queens, McGill, Western”. We know that this is a challenging time for you, and you need to know that we are all here to support you and help you find your way.
 
Hopefully, however, you are not only listening to the voice of the sorting hat. There are other voices deep within you that are equally demanding of your attention—the voice that helps you to figure out how you are built, for example, or the voice that challenges you to dream big but dig deep.
 
Dave Harvey
Director of Academics, Middle and Senior Schools 

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13415 Dufferin Street King, Ontario L7B 1K5
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Founded in 1972, The Country Day School is a co-educational private school offering programs in JK-12 and located on 100 acres north of Toronto in King.