Back to school advice for parents: Let kids deal with mistakes

Coweta teacher Susan Barber offers parents some back to school advice.

As school begins this week, I am delighted to share this back-to-school piece by Coweta County teacher Susan Barber.

Barber chairs the English department at Northgate High School in Newnan and has written some great columns for the Get Schooled blog in the past. You can read them here and here.

You can read her on a regular basis at her blog.

By Susan Barber

Teachers will make mistakes. I make mistakes daily. I have approximately 90 students in a day for which I am responsible for their learning, safety, character development, and I am making split second decisions everyday all day. Does this kid really have to go to the bathroom or does he just want to go text his girlfriend? Should I take longer explaining a concept no one gets or do I move on because I know they just don’t want to go deeper in a lesson and get more homework? Did the dog really eat the homework or is someone trying to pull the wool over my eyes? This is a typical five minutes of my day, and I operate in this mode all day, every day. Please understand that I am doing the best I can and believe the best in me.

Your student will make mistakes. Unless you’re Mary the mother of Jesus, your kid will make mistakes. Some kids don’t work as hard as they should; others will make mistakes which reflect poor character. I generally avoid giving parenting advice to parents of my students.

My blog friends are a different story so here goes. Allow your kid to make mistakes and accept the consequences of his or her mistakes. I am so tired of getting emails from parents of 18-year-olds explaining why they didn’t do their homework or asking them to extend a deadline because their kids were (insert ridiculous excuse here). Learning to deal with mistakes is part of growing up.

I have a life outside of school. Even though many of my students think I pull a George Costanza and sleep at school, I do a lot outside of work. I have a family, attend church, exercise regularly, and just do lots of cool and fun things.  I also do mundane things like cook, clean (I just said this to be relatable to my readers), and drive my kid to and from practice, etc. As much as I love your kids, I don’t want to have a parent-teacher conference in the middle of Publix; I just want to buy my salted-caramel ice cream and leave.

Learning is a process. Reading comprehension and writing are skills which are built over time through practice. I have no magic pill to replace hard work over long periods of time. When I find the worksheet that increases SAT scores by 500 points, I promise not to hold out on you (unless you are standing between me and the salted-caramel ice cream).

I teach more than English. If I am only teaching commas, reading strategies, and A Tale of Two Cities, I would go home and cry every night. (Random fact – I hate A Tale of Two Cities. I’m sorry Mrs. Bilon, but it is always the worst of times reading this book). I teach confidence, responsibility, generosity, perseverance, authenticity, community, organization (well, some teachers teach this, not me), grit, compassion, citizenship, and the list goes on and on and on.  I am on your side in helping you raise a well-adjusted adult in today’s society.

I love your kids; I really do! I would not do this job for the paycheck; it’s too emotionally exhausting. Trust me that it’s not the testing that keeps me coming back every year.  I come to work every day because I believe in the next generation and want to help prepare them for the future.  I will spend my time and money on students and pray for them individually during the year. These things are not burdens for me but rather a joy. I genuinely am concerned for their well-being. Thank you for trusting me to invest in your students! Happy New School Year!

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
Reba Smith3253
Reba Smith3253

We are not congruent.  I agree and repeat the same concept to my juniors and seniors.  However, mistakes are penalties in a classroom.  This year more testing and more data collection is being added.  Data collection on students is dependent on mistakes.


I can say mistakes are learning experiences and then I have to ding them in the gradebook when they make one.


Students striving for honor roll or scholarships can not make a mistake.  The county and state want data, data, data.



Nury Crawford
Nury Crawford

Some of our most valuable lessons come from the mistakes we have made. Personal growth can be challenging.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Yes, sometimes it is best to let the child figure it out on their own and yes, sometimes that means the parent must stand by while the child makes a bad decision or fails.  And yes, as the parent, we are our children's primary advocate and must intercede on occasion.  Knowing when to stand by and when to intercede is the $64k question.

The truth of the matter is that school systems are bureaucratic machines that can, and do, chew up individuals and spits them out.  We've heard countless tales of teachers who got crossways with administration who found their careers ruined.  Students also fall prey to the bureaucracy.


Prime example, the policy of most school systems which punish victims of assault who dare to fight back to protect themselves.  The right to protect oneself is even codified in GA law, but apparently, those protections mean nothing to the educrats who compile the school policy manuals.

palepadre
palepadre

Parents. But so many have only one, or it's Grandma. Their goal is to make money playing sports. Or in the music business. No high school course really relates to their dream. You don't calculate the angle of a jump shot, using geometry. Or wonder what the frequency of the key of "C" is using Physics. Practice not school subjects, they practice perfecting their slam dunk, or their vocals.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings @palepadre


"Your post is offensively racist in its negative generality of thought."


Ummmm. What race is he (or she) "racist" against? I read and re-read that comment and couldn't find one reference to a specific race.It looks like you're the one assigning all of the bad images to a specific group here.

alt.TheAJC
alt.TheAJC

The masterpiece cited should be an essential read for students caught up in the tyranny of modern day campus Jacobins. And the classic 1935 movie rendition is its perfect accompaniment.

DecaturRags
DecaturRags

I have read stuff like this from teachers for years. Kids are set free and they screw up and parents pick up the pieces and it costs money.

DecaturRags
DecaturRags

Parents don't sit back and let your child fail. It costs you $

catmom-scout
catmom-scout

Thank you for sharing this piece, Maureen. Susan Barber has an engaging writing style that's refreshing to read, and I like her common sense approach to teaching.

carglo
carglo

I tell my kid, make mistakes now, what's cute at 17 is not cute at age 40.

Astropig
Astropig

Good, common sense stuff. A good read. Thanks!