Students tend to think teachers give them grades, rather than taking ownership to earn their grades.  This difference could not be more significant.  The former puts the power in the teacher’s hands, where the latter puts the power in the students’.  Grades are earned, not given.  Shifting this mindset is a constant challenge for teachers, and in the end, it comes down to students choosing to take ownership and responsibility for their work and effort, as well as the results of that work and effort – a lesson that will serve them well in their future careers.


College professors can almost put money on the fact that at the end of every semester, there will be a few students who contact them after receiving their grades asking, “Is there anything else I can do?” Students often mention how much they want an A to improve their GPAs, or how much they need an A to stay in school or keep their scholarship. Like throwing a Hail Mary in football, this is a final, desperate attempt to try to make up for the lack of consistency the student displayed throughout the fifteen-week semester. “Is there anything else I can do?” My response to this question is usually, “You had four months to do something. Based on your work this semester, this is the grade you earned.”

Our piano professor at Clemson University and dear friend Linda Li-Bleuel is a huge Green Bay Packers fan. When a student asks her, “Is there anything else I can do?” she turns to another football analogy, the last-second field goal. To paraphrase Linda, “Like in football, I tell students they can’t expect to play poorly the entire game and kick a last-second field goal to make up for it. If they spent more time and effort being consistent throughout the season, it would not come down to the end.”