On Grades: The Parents’ Perspective

Be careful that in encouraging a grade, you don’t shortchange growth; for a grade ought to be a means to growth, helping students—and their parents—see where they are so they can know where to go. Ideally, grades are the beginning of a conversation about what lies underneath the surface: the “why” beneath the “what”. 

In today’s episode, Heights Headmaster Alvaro de Vicente guides us through a nuanced discussion on how parents can understand, interpret, and respond to their sons’ grades while nurturing strong and lasting bonds. Acknowledging that grades serve as a judgment of the quality of a young man’s work at a given time, Mr. de Vicente sheds light on strategies to decipher the meaning behind the letters and numbers. Is it a problem of time, habits, or effort? Is it a helpful indicator of aptitude?  

Regardless of the cause or cure, Alvaro reminds us that even more important than helping to raise a grade, is strengthening the bond parents have with their son. 


  • 2:30 Defining grades
  • 3:30 Grades: more than a necessary evil
  • 5:00 How parents should approach grades 
  • 7:28 Digging into the “why” behind a grade
  • 9:35 Elements of a grade: intelligence, time, habits, effort
  • 14:45 Optimal Work and grades 
  • 16:55 Why boys need to own their grades
  • 21:00 Evolving relationship with grades 
  • 24:00 Growth over grades
  • 26:00 Respecting a school’s professional competence 
  • 29:35 What your tone communicates 
  • 36:35 Internal motivation 
  • 40:00 How to reframe as a parent

Recommended Resources

Punished by Rewards? from The Golden Hour Podcast

Also on the Forum

Handling Poor Grades: Steps to an Academic Reset with Michael Moynihan

Grinders Aren’t Heroes: On Student Motivation by Dave Fornaciari and Michael Hude

Motivation: Encouraging Reluctant Students by Tom Cox

Alvaro de Vicente

About the guest:

Alvaro de Vicente

Alvaro de Vicente has served as Headmaster of The Heights School in Potomac, Maryland since July 2002. Originally from Santander, Spain, Alvaro received some of his secondary education at The Heights and graduated from there in 1983. In 1987 he graduated cum laude from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Philosophy and received his J.D. from Georgetown University School of Law in 1991. As Executive Director of the Tenley Study Center from 1989 to 2002, he organized and managed supplemental development programs to several hundred students and professionals per year. Several of the Center’s programs were replicated and became standard programs for other supplemental education centers in the United States and abroad. While employed full-time by the Tenley Study Center, Mr. de Vicente offered his services on a part-time basis to The Heights School. Between 1992 and 2002, Mr. de Vicente assisted the School in various positions; coaching, establishing and running its college counseling office, school administrator overseeing contracts with vendors, and student advisor. From 1995 to 2001, Mr. de Vicente served on The Heights School’s Board of Directors, the last four years as its vice-president. In addition, Mr. de Vicente also serves on the Board of Trustees of two other educational groups; the Youth Leadership Foundation and the Texas Education Works. In his capacity as Headmaster of The Heights School he spearheaded and supervised the construction of the School’s signature building. But Mr. de Vicente’s most important work is in the classroom where he teaches Catholic Apologetics and in mentoring students daily.

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