To a random passerby who might see this grade on a paper, s/he might think that this grade is “not good.” They would perhaps question the intelligence of the student and possibly the teacher. Why on earth would a teacher put a smiley face of all things on a grade that is passing by a hair?

Well, I can tell you that this grade for this particular student is an accomplishment. This student worked hard, studied, and put his/her best foot forward when taking this test.

I can tell you that this student is the farthest thing from unintelligent but rather has many obstacles that make learning a more difficult experience than your average student. This grade is the mark of great intelligence.This grade marks incredible progress.

I would never want my student to sit and look at the other students in the class and their grades and think him/herself unworthy, unaccomplished, or even sad abut the grade in front of him/her.

As I was grading this spelling test, I realized how often I put these “lower” grades on papers and then put a note of excitement for progress made and goals accomplished. How often I put a smiley face next to a grade that we naturally deem “low.”

The thing is, one student’s low is another student’s high and vice versa. My students come from all kinds of backgrounds (their ethnicity, social economic status, home life, and prior education all differ). They can’t all be expected to perform the exact same way.

And while I want all my students to be successful, I don’t want them to all perform the same. What would they learn from one another? The student who earned the grade on the spelling test above is truly the hardest working student I have ever met. Honestly. The students in my room learn so much from watching this particular student. We are all in constant awe of the incredible progress and dedication of our Champion Hatchling.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that perhaps this is the way our Heavenly Father feels about us. As I’ve felt impressed to put this to paper, I’m even more certain that it is how He feels.

My greatest “grades’ might be someone else’s “lowest” grades. And while I’ve known that for a while, I have always let it get me down. “My best is not her best because I’m not where she is,” has always been my mentality. I’ve seen myself as spiritually behind, so to speak.

But if Heavenly Father loves us more than I love my students (which He does) then He honestly doesn’t want us feeling that way about ourselves. He doesn’t want us looking at other people’s papers, he wants us to look at our own and see what He thinks and see how far we’ve come.

There are times that I’ve felt spiritually advanced or superior. As I would caution one of my students to not be arrogant or prideful and to stay focused on him/herself, so our Heavenly Father would caution us to pay attention to only our progress and not to judge those around us–we don’t know what they have stacked against them. We don’t know what battle it is they are fighting.

The beautiful thing is, that it honestly only matters what you’re doing. Your progress is only what Heavenly Father sees, I understand that now. The fact that the student mentioned above is getting D’s and C’s in school right now makes that student no less worthy to be my student, no less responsible, no less of a student.

Yet, there are some students. The ones that make me want to pull my hair out. The students that are capable of more, but do much less. The students who may not be performing to their potential. I still love them, I still teach them, but I still hold them accountable to their potential. If they are performing under their ability, they have consequences.

The next time you start looking at your “grades” and start thinking how far behind you are, ask yourself a few questions:

Are you doing your best?

Do you study? (Read scriptures, attend church, etc.)

Do you ask questions or ask for help when needed (either through prayer or through another person)?

If you can say, yes, to those things. And even when you can’t…if you’re making progress, little though it may seem. Realize that you are never coming up short. Just as a teacher celebrates even the littlest gain; so it is with our Father in Heaven.

“In the meantime, be thankful for all the small successes in your home, your family relationships, your education and livelihood, your Church participation and personal improvement. Like the forget-me-nots, these successes may seem tiny to you and they may go unnoticed by others, but God notices them and they are not small to Him. If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.”

“Forget Me Not”–Dieter F. Uchtdorftf