Dear Teacher: Let My Child Fail.

upset, mad child

Two nights ago my 7 year old was begging me  to check her backpack for a super important piece of paper.

The paper was detailed instructions on how to sign up for an app, including a code to add my specific child once I did.

I am all about apps. I am all about technology in general. Anything to make things faster, easier, with less paper waste and clip art- I am all in.

But this specific app struck me as strange.

“You can see how I’m doing all throughout the day mommy!” the 7 year old squealed. And sure enough, I could.

I could see how many times she spoke Spanish during the day, how often she completed her work on time, and even how many times she got off task during any given day. (She is my child so there were definitely some bright red “off task” indicators in that mix.) I could even see it real time if I wanted to.

But I didn’t want to.

It didn’t feel exciting or innovative, it just felt intrusive.

My other child’s teacher sends out text messages almost every single day (in both Spanish and English so sometimes I get to test my mediocre Spanish translation skills). Those feel like helpful reminders and I actually appreciate getting them. But this felt so much different.

“So why were you off task today?” I immediately grilled her once I saw her chart. The excitement drained from her face, her hands went to her hips, and she spun a pretty far-fetched tail about every student in class talking except for her yet she somehow got blamed for it.

This app is really helping her develop her already budding storytelling skills.

And then the night went completely downhill from there.

I’ve thought about it, a lot. The intent of this app and the other ways teachers try to engage parents in the education process. I honestly applaud it and I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I especially applaud teachers who are willing to try new technology and tools to stay relevant and engaging. It is very likely this works for some parents but it just doesn’t work for me.

Here is why.

When I am not with my children, it is for a reason. It is because they need to develop as actual people. Not people I take care of 24/7. They need to have their own conversations, make their own decisions, and even (gasp) get off task on their own. I could mentor them in that, but they seem to be getting the concept on their own. They need to fail over and over again,  and then they need to figure out the solution.

I can’t do it for them. App alerts or no app alerts, real-time or later in the day, I can’t swoop in and fix whatever problem they are having. In all honesty, I don’t even want to. It might seem callous to say about a 7 year old, but this is kinda on her. She needs to figure it out without me intervening, and she needs to have the consequences if she doesn’t.

I always feel I can make great progress with a teacher when I am completely honest with them out front. I will say things like “My child can be a real struggle.” Or “I know my kid offers some extra challenges.” They usually look at me with the same expression that the neighbor kid did when she came to tattle on my kid for being mean and I replied with “she is mean to me too.”  I don’t offer the warm and fuzzy things about them (but there are plenty) because I assume the teacher can see those things and that is why they got into the profession in the first place. They get that children are special.  What I really want to get across to them is that I completely understand that my child is going to mess up, and I think that is OK.

So to all the teachers out there, please let my child fail. Let her fail over and over again if necessary. She will figure it out eventually. If she doesn’t, then let me know. Maybe I can recruit the neighbor kid to mentor her. In the meantime, I don’t need to know how every part of her day went. It is hers. She gets to keep it, and share with me what she wants. Hopefully some successes, along with the failures.


  • I’m not sure I understand how the app works. Is her teacher on line during class time and every time your daughter needs to be spoken to she inputs that into the app? And then you see it?


    • I don’t know exactly how she interfaces it, app or computer, but she gives students a +1 for good things and categorizes them and then -1 for bad. Then the app I see shows me all of those and gives me an overall chart of her day. Including times she got + or –

      Liked by 1 person

      • You may see this at some point, but I wanted to ask for a quick moment of your time to look at a comment I made on one of your previous articles.

        Dear Megan,
        I have high respect for your writing, and I really admire that you wrote this piece, but I think some of your ideas are slightly flawed and in a writing sense aren’t really related to your point.
        For one you say that Banning things never works, and you could debate that to some end, but the reality is that bans that uphold physical well-being can become standards that future generations live by.
        And let my hit a point by that, you have very young children who are still developing. I’m sure you hear that a lot and I’m not say “Oh my God you’re destroying your poor children what a terrible mother”. You seem like an amazing mother, any child would be lucky to have you. However technology is not something your children should rely on
        Your second point problem solving hits that you can find a youtube video to help you with drawing skills.
        Yes, but what element of social interaction is lost if this becomes a standard use of tech, and you say that its a controlled use but what are you teaching your children as they age, you become more and more lenient until they develop their own standards which aren’t what you originally set.
        “Tech skills” Ok there are way tooooooooooo many professions and people who get by incredibly successfully without “tech skills” if everyone needed to be 100& proficient in technology then private interests steering away from the tech field would be ignored.
        Your fourth point hits back to what I said earlier about reliance on technology not working, if we base learning and understanding on the results computers tell us from problems that we give them, then someone is putting their believe and reliance somewhere they shouldn’t.
        Number 5 – Interest is possibly your best point, but we don’t need you to say it, it’s good that you do but even accomplished coders say that they don’t like spending hours on their computers, its not a licensed excuse to give a 7 or 5 year old a smartphone when a 35 year old can program an entire video game.
        Caring about their brains is a worthless point, look hon we’ve been having brain development looooong before technology came in, we don’t need studies to tell us that our brains are developing, and we definitely don’t need to make technology allowable, everything makes a reaction in your brain, and video games(WHICH I LOVE DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME BEING BIASED BECAUSE I DON’T PLAY VIDEO GAMES)
        Is number 7 even really a point, yes thank you for clarifying the gender of your children, the point isn’t related to the topic you’re arguing.
        Balanced life, let me tell you that while you make be ok here, the majority of people do not know how to shut out technology and it is becoming a problem with increased levels of obesity and depression coming in with younger generations, so do not use one example(you) to justify a whole generation.
        Literacy – Hard copy books are better for your eyes than screens, books are relics which we have had for ages, and while eventually books may be nonexistent and we’ll only have tech, I think as a librarian you can appreciate the existence of hard copy books. You could argue that books are heavy and take up space, but actually books are praised as decorative pieces and being too weak to hold a book is a problem in itself.
        And finally number ten, its been a long journey through my writing, but I’m finally here. This just goes back to how, being able to explore technology for ourselves typically leads to addiction. I mean don’t get me wrong technology is awesome, but when overused its effects are devastating and too many people make that mistake.

        Thank You for your time and I hope you read this.

        I’m a 16 year-old student just hoping to put some information out there



  • Deborah the Closet Monster

    It feels very intrusive to me, based on your description.

    I, too, welcome my kids’ teachers to let them fail. I want them to learn how to fail on smaller scale so they aren’t daunted by the prospect of inevitable larger failures to come; so they can learn how to navigate the world without me doing it for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This seems like extreme tattling. I hope they don’t make an app for adults and their work days. “Caught Caroline on Facebook.” -1. “Caroline expressed an opinion I don’t agree with.” -1 “Caroline spilled her coffee all over her keyboard.” -1. (Oops.)


  • Reblogged this on I Have a Forever and commented:
    I was nodding the whole way through this as a mom. As a teacher, I am not sure how such an app would work but I adopted a wonderful phrase from my mother-in-law (who was also a teacher) when I started teaching full time:

    “I respect your right to fail.”

    Kids will not succeed or be great at everything in life; they will fail. I will not always swoop in and save Elizabeth from failure. I rather refuse to, honestly. I want help her to learn from her failures, as well as her successes.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Lol! I am a second grade teacher and know about this app! All I can say is there is no way I could do this! My day is so busy I am lucky if I read parents emails and update my website!

    Liked by 1 person

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