Letting Your Kids Fail Forward: A Surprising Exchange with a Student’s Mother

I received this somewhat shocking email a while back. A mother contacted me to let me know that, after I offered academic and social safety nets in my college class to her son, “allowing” him to fail was one of the best things that could have happened to him as he transitioned from high school to college.

It contains a powerful message.  This student’s mother who emailed me (possibly unknowingly) has inspired me to care even more for my students by keeping my expectations of students high.  I’ve held on to it privately, but thought it might also inspire others in the field.

This emails along with countless parent teacher conferences, phone calls, and communiques have solidified my view that students should always opt to take “tough” classes in HS and elsewhere.  The alternative, waiting for college to challenge themselves, holds fewer advantages for the kids.

If memory serves, our conversation on this topic continued with a few more exchanges.  I think we witnessed each others struggle and walked away both having a better mindset on the topic of rigor in the classroom.

Mr. Cooper,

As a parent of a former (and current) student, I wanted to express my appreciation of the responsibility and consequences you are teaching your students.  My son, xxxxxxx, had you for government last fall  (as a senior taking a dual credit college course) and had a less than desirable outcome.  By him making a “D”, he was unable to transfer the credit and disqualified him from taking an additional 6 hours in the Spring.  Knowing his receiving 12 hours prior to high school graduation was now non-existent was hard for us and him to swallow.

Although I was disappointed at the situation (loss of $$ and time), I believe it was the best “shot in the arm” you could have given him.  Should he had taken advantage of his resources (such as coming to you or asking someone to look at his paper), the outcome may have been different.  As a parent, you can only talk about how to study, when to study, what happens if you don’t; but we are dealing with kids who think they have all the answers and “everything is fine” mentality.  It is when they live through the experience and walked in “the shoes” that they realize mom and pop have been there and they know what they are talking about!

Today, Xxxxxx is a freshman at Xxxxxx in Xxxxx, getting his basics before he heads off to Xxxxxxx.  Based on his experience in your class, I truly believe he is doing better than if you had “given” him the “C”.  The experience in your class made him realize that nothing is handed and everything is earned.   He is going to tutorials, having his papers looked at by his aunt (who is editor of a small town newspaper!), and has even been on the helping side of a classmate who was having difficulty in math.  He is still learning the process but he is headed in right direction and I have you to thank.

In addition, I believe his experience has trickled down to Xxxxx who witnessed the outcomes of Xxxxxx’s shortcomings and think she is a better student because of it.  I am encouraged she will finish more positively in your class!






About Thrasymachus

2013 Northwest ISD teacher of the year, Humanities Texas 2012 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, and 2011 Outstanding Educator of North Texas Award (North Central Texas College). I'm currently a Regional Digital Learning Consultant with the Education Service Center Region 11 in Ft. Worth, Texas and a college government educator who incorporates philosophy, technology & humor. A student through and through, I walk with my students in their learning. Most importantly, I'm blessed with the 3 most perfect kids eva! I love on them ery day!!!
This entry was posted in In The Classroom. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Letting Your Kids Fail Forward: A Surprising Exchange with a Student’s Mother

  1. Pingback: One things your students and alien jellyfish have in common! | Thrasymakos

  2. Pingback: One thing your students and alien jellyfish have in common! | Thrasymakos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s