Please let your kids fail.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my students. In fact, one of my cheesy hallmark phrases, when asked who my favorite students are, is “I love all of my students equally.” It’s because I love them that I want you to let them fail, and it’s because I want to see them succeed that I want you to let them fail.
I teach seniors. Seniors who need to pass my class in order to don their cap and gown, walk across the stage, and get their diploma at the end of the year.
And every year, there are a few who don’t get to do that because they didn’t pass my class. And every year, I’m made to feel like the bad guy. How dare I not bump their grade up? How dare I let them fail? Because as the teacher, it must be my fault.
At the beginning of every school year, I tell my students that I don’t bump grades (you’d be surprised how many teachers do). In my class, they need to do the work. If they’re struggling, I will do everything I can throughout the school year to help them, but there is a difference between struggling with the material and just not doing the work.
At the end of every school year, I have students who can’t believe that I’m true to my word. Somewhere along the line, they’ve learned that things will be handed to them if they beg hard enough. If they’re cute enough. If they’re popular enough. If they’re good enough at sports. They’re devastated when they learn that I’m not going to just hand them points that they didn’t earn.
You wouldn’t believe how often I have parents contact me for the first time in May asking what their kid can do to graduate. My honest answer in May? Buy a time machine.
Sometimes, close enough just doesn’t cut it. You have to put in the work if you want the results, and you have to fail to learn what happens when you don’t put in the work. When kids are given space to fail at the little things, they learn the skills they need to overcome failure.
It would be great if students learned this before they got to my classroom at 18 years old before it’s a diploma that’s on the line.
I know it’s hard to see your kids struggle but please, for their own good, give them space to do so.
Let them miss out on a playdate because they didn’t clean their room. Let them figure out what to do when they forget to put their uniform in the wash. Let them get a bad grade on a project that they put off until the night before.
I’m a mom; I get it. It’s so much easier in the moment to come to their rescue than it is to watch them suffer, but this doesn’t help them in the long run. Kids need to learn that there are consequences to their actions. You’d be surprised how many high schoolers don’t understand that concept.
So parents, please let them fail at the little stuff. Don’t always swoop in and save the day. Use failure as a teacher so they can learn how to handle adversity. Be their guide. Love them. Comfort them. Stand up for them.
Help them, but don’t do everything for them.
It’s not all about grades. I hope my students learn how to think critically, to question new information, to communicate well, to be a good digital citizen, to be responsible for their actions, to advocate for their rights, to be kind humans. But the way our education system works, in order to get that diploma, they need that grade.
When kids think that failure isn’t an option because nobody has ever let them fail before, or because they’ve gotten things handed to them in the past because of their name, race, athletic ability, etc. they’re shocked when I don’t bump their grade. So please, teach them that they’re not immune to failure before they get to me.
And if you see that their grades are low during senior year, don’t wait until May to help them do something about it.