You Want Me To Let Him Fail?

It is the end of the year. It’s on many parents’ minds. Should I let my student fail?

In the few years that I have been teaching, I have learned some new acronyms. I don’t remember where I picked this one, up but I’ll never forget it.


What Does It Mean To Fail?

Nobody likes to fail. Nobody I know likes to feel dumb in front of other people. The problem is, we don’t really learn until we do something wrong. Once we recognize that we’re off target, we adjust our action and try again. If we don’t meet someone’s expectation we have to decide if we want to try again, or give up.

The acronym is First Attempt in Learning. Is it okay that we try to do something, and not get it right the first time? Of course! How many of us can do things exactly right the first time? How many of us have had to try something, get feedback, and make changes? This happens when we’re babies. It also happens when we start a new job. We don’t know all of the rules and expectations. It’s frustrating to know that you’re capable of doing the job and need someone to help you figure it out.

When it comes to school some students get instructions and what it means to pass a class immediately. They know what the teacher expects and can produce the assignments easily. However, if a student doesn’t care or doesn’t try, they haven’t shown what they are capable of doing in class. Motivation is problem for another day. However, if the student tries and gets it wrong, the teacher should be encouraging and helpful so that the student can adjust what they’re doing.

As the school year gets closer to ending I get more and more parents emailing, concerned about whether their student is going to pass English. I want every student to pass, if they have demonstrated that they can write. If they haven’t submitted work, I don’t know if they can do the work. I can’t sign off that they can read and write at grade level.

So What’s A Parent To Do?

It’s a difficult thing to say, but let them fail. Don’t bail them out. Don’t give them the false message that they are above the rules. If they don’t pass the class make them do the most difficult make-up work possible. Be supportive. Be encouraging. Be helpful. But don’t do their work for them.

What’s the worst that could happen if they have to do the work over again? Maybe they’ll figure out that it’s better to do it right the first time.

What happens if you bail them out? What happens if you manage their work for them? They learn that it’s not really important unless mom or dad is involved. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be involved in another persons adult problems and decisions.

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