Dear Teacher: Let My Child Fail.
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.