Grade Bullies

I’m coining a new phrase that I know teachers are going to love. The Grade Bully. It’s a new phenomenon most likely driven by a shift in parenting styles beginning in the 1990’s. If you think this corresponds with the emergence of the Millennial generation, you would be correct. I like to call this generation the ‘sticker generation’ where any effort, no matter how paltry, received a happy sticker. Some like to call it the ‘trophy generation’ whereby by small silvery statues which were distributed for doing nothing more than showing up. If you’re reading this and you’ve got a box of trophies in your childhood bedroom, then you may want to take this post to heart as it is most likely impacting your GPA negatively.



Grade bullies are students who communicate to teachers, in no uncertain terms, the grade they believe they deserve. These edicts usually include statements like:


“But this grade is not good enough for me.”


You’re supposed to be making me a better student.”


“My grade doesn’t reflect my efforts.”


“Your job is to inspire students.”


“I don’t like being compared to other students in the class.”


“I’m paying money for this course.”


If you’ve used any of the above statements, please read on.


For the record, I do compare your work to other students and not just the students in your class, but also all the students I’ve had over the years as well as national standards.


I don’t grade on effort. Effort is the sticker or the trophy. I grade on the quality of the finished product – i.e. goals scored, home runs hit and baskets made.


I can’t make you a better student, but I will present you with higher-level concepts that make your brain hurt. And worse – there may be more than one answer. You may not be used to this type of exercise, but it’s imperative that you learn how to think cognitively. Making mistakes is part of the process. That’s why everyone doesn’t get an A. Some students are better at it right out of the gate. Others have to work harder and some never get there.


Your classroom is not a movie set, and I’m not Cameron Diaz or Michelle Pfeiffer playing the role of a teacher. If I inspire you, great and if not, welcome to the real world.


Yes, you are paying for an academic course. You are not, however, paying for a specific grade. If you could, I’d be very rich.


I know all of this sounds horrible to your virgin ears, and it might paint me as an old-fashioned teacher with an axe to grind. Descriptions aside, I do have a goal and that is to prepare you for the work force where any of the above statements will earn you a pink slip.


Your future boss isn’t hiring you to make you a better person. They will hire you to produce for them, and your paycheck will not be delivered with a hug, kiss and endless praise. Your future boss is going to expect you to get the job done with little to no direction. Work is competitive and your boss is evaluating you versus your peers. Whoever is better gets promoted, and your boss is not obligated to explain why.


When employers call me to ask about hiring students the most common question is: “Can they work without supervision? Can they problem solve without direction? Can they take a project and run with it? I don’t want to babysit anyone.”


Normally I encourage students to respond to my posts, but I’d really love to hear from employers. What qualities do you look for when hiring recent grads?



  • Emilie

    I definitely find your view on “Grade Bullies” to be a hundred and ten percent right. I think it’s hard for young adults to take responsibility for their actions. It’s very unfortunate when people blame a teacher or another human being for their lame attempt at a test, school work, or a presentation. Until these individuals apply themselves to something, I think they will never truly understand what the real world has in store for them. It’s crazy to see how many people struggle in life because they lack ambition and motivation to come out on the other side strong. Plenty of my peers while attending school whether it be high school or college, seem to identify with the grade bullies. Many of them are still blaming others and failing to take action for their laziness, which is burying themselves into a hole that they may never come out of. I find this to be very sad and upsetting because if they could change their mindset then their futures would be a lot brighter. Nonetheless, I found your post to be eye opening and I hope more people can shake out of the “grade bully” phase in their lives!

  • Nicole Loscri

    I completely see your viewpoint portrayed in “Grade Bullies”. You have brought a few ideas to light to me that I haven’t thought of before. I believe it’s so true that the quality of the finished product is worth a ‘trophy” as opposed to the effort made along the way. While effort is extremely important, considering the effort put into an assignment typically determines the quality of the assignment’s outcome, students (including myself) should not communicate to teachers in a way where they are blaming the teacher for their grade. In some circumstances, however, it’s definitely worth it for a student to confide in their teacher if something seems way out of context with the grade they have received for an assignment. I agree with this: “Yes, you are paying for an academic course. You are not, however, paying for a specific grade. If you could, I’d be very rich.” I hope I am never a “grade bully” in my educational experience moving forward because I have truly realized after reading this entry that there is no sense in “blaming” my professors for my grade. The true trophy is earned when a student tries their best to earn the best possible grade they can. Excellent entry!

  • Leonard Picun

    Growing up in the 90’s I feel that my parents put major emphasis on school work. If I didn’t bring home anything above a 90 they wouldn’t be upset, but they wouldn’t show the expressions that they usually made when I brought home a 90. This lasted until high school when they couldn’t help me with my homework anymore and I started working. This heavily influenced my work ethic, but at the end of the day it also shifted me away from school.

    I do agree with you on the fact that it isn’t the teachers fault. I can easily say that I know a few “Grade Bullies” and they all have little work ethic and patience. It comes down to how bad you really want it. Your teacher is there to help you.

  • Jacklyn Decker

    I strongly agree with this. I am considered to be within the Millennial generation but I feel like the older portion of our generation didn’t have as much coddling as the younger portion of the generation. I played sports and participated in things where not everyone received a trophy and we actually kept score and sometimes your feelings were hurt but lessons were learned that help to prepare me for the real world. I currently work as a manager of a customer service team and have been in the position where I am interviewing people for positions within the company. I look for people that have a strong work ethic and actually have experience in a position where they are not being handheld the entire time. I also look for people who can take a little push from a customer and not take it personally. This is hard, in my opinion, to find with the younger recent grads because they are used to getting what they want and used to winning in life.