I am struggling right now with finding the right amount of stress to place on the value of marks at school. Innately I don't really care much at all about what marks Elli gets. I care that she learns, but if she picks up all the concepts and is happy and developing and gets all Ds that just doesn't bother me. If the reason she is getting Ds is a problem itself I would be concerned, but if it is just that the teacher decides to do that for no reason I wouldn't much care. I care about Elli, not the letters someone attaches to her on a document.
But marks usually do reflect something. They aren't so great at predicting anything but generally it is true that people with higher marks have greater understanding of the subject matter. The trouble is that Elli is one of those kids that has a much greater grasp of what she is being taught than her marks reflect. Her teacher recognizes this and is up front about it - she learns well, but doesn't produce work that he can give her credit for. He knows she gets it, but if she hands in blank sheets he has to give her low marks. If school report cards were divided into "Understanding" and "Does work" she would get a B and a D respectively and it is hard to resolve those when the categories are not organized like that.
I get it. I had trouble in high school in particular with being able to easily grasp all the concepts and do all the work but I just didn't care to push hard. I wasn't interested in getting 99s, though I could have if I had really wanted to. I could have put in four hours a night on homework and studied like crazy but there was nothing in me that wanted to do that so I cruised through. Elli's struggles are familiar to me, which makes me very aware that we can't just find some magical technique that will fix it. My parents never figured out how to get me to work and I don't think there was anything they could possibly have done to achieve that. I think my situation as a parent is very much the same.
I want Elli to have opportunities and many of those opportunities are gated by marks. Learning to produce material even when you aren't interested is a good thing to do. The world is full of work people hate but which has to get done. For these reasons I want her to get good marks, to help her get used to doing things that aren't fun themselves, and so that she will have more choices later in life.
But it is tough to get myself worked up over those grades on the report card when I just don't care. It is sort of like Wendy's PhD - I supported her through doing it but I just never came around to caring about it myself. I care that both of them are happy, that they can pursue their goals, but whether or not they have letters after their name or a report card full of As, Bs, Cs, or Ds, just doesn't matter to me.