Success-StepsA student progresses through a grade level each year, gradually moving from Prep to Grade 12.  Students receive grades for academic work, including assignments, orals, group projects and exams, with results collated in school reports. Throughout this time parents, teachers and students themselves may be wondering if a student is ‘making the grade’ or achieving at an expected level. These appear to be quite different ways of using the term ‘grade’.

The Latin origin of the word, ‘grade’, is ‘gradus’, meaning ‘step’. When this meaning is understood, the various uses of the word ‘grade’ begin to make sense. A step, a level up, progression or movement forward – these are all related to ‘gradus’, a step, or grade.

As small children learn to take their first steps, there are a number of different physical movements that have to be coordinated. Frequently, children stumble, or fall when taking those first steps. This is how young children learn to establish synchronised movements, transferring weight and moving their body forward in space. Adults expect that there will be stumbles and falls; everyone understands that the process of learning to walk will take young children some time to master.

Never let a stumble be the end of your journeyA similar process occurs when students are learning to take academic steps forward. It can take a while for students to master new academic steps; to acquire new skills; to make progress; to step from one academic grade or level to the next. Many people expect that this academic transition will occur without stumbles or falls; that students will step effortlessly from one grade or level to the next. At any stage of our lives, making progress involves skill development and requires effort. Inevitably, there are mistakes, stumbles, even tumbles. This is a critical part of the learning process and much is learned from mistakes made.

Without taking a risk, moving beyond one’s current skills and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, there will be no progress. To take a step; to move up, out or forward, this all involves exposure to new possibilities, tentatively testing those first steps, the gradual acquisition and incorporation of new skills to a point where the individual feels steady and the next grade is fully attained. This is a process and it takes time to transition effectively from one grade – whether a year level, academic achievement, standard or expectation.

In order to self-actualise; achieve one’s personal best; to attain a higher level; it is critical for students to step up, take a risk, learn from stumbles or mistakes made, expend effort, acquire the requisite skills and to celebrate achievement of the new ‘gradus’.

© Michele Juratowitch