GCPTA-Sponsored Community Event - The Gift of Failure
GCPTA-Sponsored Community Event - "The Gift of Failure"
Garden City parents and residents poured into the Garden City High School auditorium on a rainy Tuesday night to listen to Jessica Lahey, best-selling author of The Gift of Failure and contributing writer for The Atlantic and The New York Times. During the hour and half presentation, she shared some practical parenting advice.

The auditorium quietly received the news that we as parents are failing to let our children fail - all in the “name of love for our kids.” Although our intentions are good, by not allowing our children to make mistakes, feel uncomfortable, be frustrated and yes sometimes fail, we derail how they learn and feel about themselves. “A child needs to feel a level of frustration to feel a sense of accomplishment,” writes Jessica Lahey in her book The Gift of Failure.

Through her humor and wit, she provided the audience a peek into her own personal struggles both as a teacher and as a mom raising two sons. She talked about the impact in her classroom as a middle and high school teacher when students and parents defined success by the final grade. Rewards become the goal, rather than the effort to achieve the goal.

She quoted extensive research to provide the audience a clear understanding of how the brain works and the point in which understanding and true learning occur. To achieve true learning children must have autonomy, competency, and connection. Ms. Lahey shared how small shifts in how we parent can make a big impact to our child's development and help us raise intrinsically motivated children through their own achievements.

Ms. Lahey was extremely generous with her time, presenting to students in grades 6-12, teachers and parents over a two day period. She asked the students if they felt pressure to get good grades, and if they felt more loved when they did. Many students agreed. Students were encouraged to email her and share their thoughts so that she could share their feelings anonymously with parents that evening. Ms. Lahey received several emails from children expressing how they feel pressure to be perfect in school, on the field, with friends and their families. She told parents “If a child comes home with an “A,” it’s put on the fridge, posted on Facebook, and Facetimed with grandma. But a “B-” is the new “F” and the grade is ignored.” This gave interesting food for thought. The audience laughed as Ms. Lahey provided us some food for thought. Are we prioritizing certain achievements to prove to ourselves we are successful parents while missing the ones that are best for our kids?

She also presented to the district teachers and staff in an afterschool professional development workshop. She shared with the staff her passion for providing real life connections to learning when teaching that inspire a lifelong love of learning in students. Her message was also well-received by school administrators. According to Dr. Ted Cannone, “By sponsoring Jessica Lahey’s talks with students, faculty, and parents, the Garden City PTA helped to open an important dialogue on a topic that is on the minds of nearly every parent and educator: “How do I know when my ‘helping hand’ might actually make things more difficult for my child to develop a sense of personal agency?” Ms. Lahey’s work has sparked a number of conversations that will help us take an even better look at the unintended consequences of trying to smooth out the rough spots in life’s road.”

The books were flying off the tables in the GCHS lobby after the presentation, as Ms. Lahey made herself available to sign copies. She advises parents to be patient, and trust in their kids as they are writing their own stories.

If you missed this presentation, we hope you pick up a copy of “The Gift of Failure” and take the opportunity to reflect on her message. It’s a powerful one.