What Do Grades Actually Measure?

What Do Grades Actually Measure?

Because honestly I am still confused...


As of today, I have been a student for the past 14, all the way from Pre-K to sophomore year in college. It has been a very long time with lots of changes, but one thing that has stayed the same has been that I have almost always been graded. It started off with the easy stuff like reading and then got a bit more advanced with the division, and now I am onto the hard stuff like calculus and microbiology. Regardless of the content, a letter was always attached to how well I was doing, A, B, C, etc. But, over time that letter did not only measure my "understanding of the course material" but also my self-worth.

Time and time again I have heard students lament bad grades with statements like "omg my mom is going to kill me" or "wow no one is going to want to hire me if I fail this course." A single bad grade suddenly becomes something that is so much bigger than a class, let alone a single letter of the alphabet. More so, nowadays the expectation and range of which grade to get have gotten narrower and narrower. Now, getting a B is simply average, while getting an A is what is thought to be as the best.

Obviously, within the moment, a bad grade feels like the end of the world. It feels like all of your hard work and effort is not good enough, and will never be good enough. Now clearly this logic is melodramatic but the constant level of stress students face can easily explain why a sudden failure would be so much more painful. If you are on edge 24/7, there comes a moment in which you have to breakdown.

But, as people there is so much to us than what a letter can describe. You can be loud or quiet, artistic or scientific, or maybe a mix of them all. Maybe you are horrible at writing essays but amazing at writing poems. Maybe you love chemistry but hate biochemistry. Maybe traditional education isn't your thing, but instead, you are great at a specific job or hobby.

At the end of the day, a bad grade is something that most people just forget about over time. That specific project or even class blurs away and becomes inconsequential in the long scheme of life. Your mom will still love you, you will still be able to get a job, and you will still be able to be proud of yourself. Think about it like this, are you really going to let such an inconsequential thing like a letter be how you measure your self-worth?

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Avatar: The Last Airbender Is Still Iconic, And Here's Why

Although it's a children's cartoon from the 2000s, ATLA remains one of the greatest shows ever made.


Avatar: The Last Airbender ended in 2008, but I've watched the full series at least ten other times since then. I was a big fan of ATLA when it was first airing, but sometimes I marvel at how lasting it's impact is over a decade later. I've seen ATLA bumper stickers and tattoos depicting the four elements, not mention that I myself have a "Jasmine Dragon" sticker on my laptop resembling the Starbucks logo. ATLA was incredible. It's witty, fun, emotionally impactful, interesting in plot, and filled with relatable characters. "Korra" was a nice attempt to follow up on a passionate fanbase, but it ultimately didn't resonate with viewers to the same degree. That said, sometimes people wonder why I'm still so invested in a kid's cartoon from the 2000s. Here's why.

The show referenced a variety of cultures from around the world

If you've watched the show, you've probably realized that there aren't actually any "white" characters in the Avatar-verse. Not that European cultures aren't valid, but it is notable that the show was created as an appreciation of cultures that often go overlooked. The art and music were heavily influenced by East and South Asia, and the different nations clearly reference Asian and indigenous traditions. Earth Kingdom cities were based off of real cities in East Asia, and the culture depicted drew from various East Asian nations as well. The same applies to the fire nation, which was originally modeled off of Japan and China. The water tribes have their foundations in Inuit and Sireniki cultures, and the air nomads are based on Tibetans, Sri Lankan Buddhists, and Shaolin Monks. There are many other historical references throughout "Avatar," including a nod to ancient Mesopotamia in the Sun Warriors.

The characters were complex and relatable

"ATLA" didn't just give us a typical group of teenage heroes, with each one fitting into a typical mold. They were complex and realistic, and that's what made them relatable. We saw Aang balance his role as Avatar with his personal moral philosophy, all while experiencing the onset of puberty and young adulthood. We watched Katara struggle with responsibility as the main female role model in her family after her mother's death. We observed and related to Toph and Zuko's complex relationships with their families, including the influence that an abusive parent can have on a young life. We experienced the struggles of inferiority to "better" friends with Sokka, and even learned about toxic friendships with Mai and Ty Lee. These were all growing kids and teenagers, and nothing could have been more genuine.

"ATLA" gave us some incredible, strong female leads to look up to

Katara was truly the first feminist I ever encountered on television. Not only did she become a master waterbender in the span of weeks, she also taught the Avatar! And the whole time, she reminded us that strong fighters can be feminine too. Meanwhile, Toph showed us that just because a person has a disability, doesn't mean that they are defined by it. In fact, Toph's blindness only enhances her abilities, rather than holding her back. We also encounter powerful female characters like Azula (I know, she's evil, but that doesn't make her any less of a prodigy), Ty Lee, Mai, Suki (and all the Kyoshi warriors for that matter), Smellerbee, and even Princess Yue (who literally died for her people, mind you).

It made a deep, dramatic topic witty and fun

It occurred to me recently that "Avatar" is basically about imperialism and genocide. The Fire Nation decides to take over the world through military force, and it does so by exterminating an entire people and occupying and colonizing everyone else. For such a deep topic, you wouldn't think the show would be quite as fun as it is, but it is. I've restarted watching, and I find myself constantly laughing. With Sokka's sarcastic comments, Iroh's oddities, and everybody else's regular quips, "ATLA" is regularly lighthearted and never takes itself too seriously.

There's some real wise advice throughout

Finally, what "ATLA" is really known for, is its heart. Uncle Iroh provides us with a regular understanding of the world around us, encouraging us to see the world in balance and look for our true selves. His wise words ring true throughout childhood and adulthood. The underlying themes and messages of the show, including balance, friendship, love, and loyalty, all serve the greater purpose of advising the audience.

In summary, "Avatar" was amazing. If you haven't, I highly recommend you do. If you have, maybe go rewatch!

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