Powering the Global Education Conversation: About edCircuit

Can Failure Change Perspective in Education?

Jessica Lahey has steadily become one of this country’s preeminent voices bridging educational experiences with parenting and the community. You have probably read her work in the New York Times and The Atlantic. We went down the hall with Lahey to discuss her new book and its place on the bookshelves of school-based leaders. 

Dr. Berger: Your upcoming book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed  (Harper Collins) could be used as the basis for a number of topics in global education. Do you think we are effective, as school leaders, at demonstrating the value of failure to our teachers and students and how could we improve in this manner? 

Jessica Lahey: The complaint that has come up about American students on the international stage is that we tend to raise inflexible thinkers, kids who follow rules well but can’t think independently. This is what I was seeing in my classroom as well.
Early in my career, I remember giving out a purposefully open-ended writing assignment and it really upset some of my students. One girl, was reduced to tears when I would not just tell her what I wanted her to regurgitate on paper. She needed rules, specifics, and a lot of hand-holding on what should have been a freeing, fun adventure in personal narrative. This sort of paralysis came up more and more often, and while my students could hit the target when I gave them everything short of the GPS coordinates, their fear of missing the target was looming larger and larger over my classroom, and was starting to really handicap my teaching.
When I finally realized that it was not just overly prescriptive teaching that was to blame, it was overly prescriptive, directive, and controlling parenting that was at the center of it all. Once I realized this, I set out to ensure that my students and my own children received as much autonomy over the details of their lives as they could handle. And once they learned how to handle that autonomy, I gave them more.


Check out the interview in its entirety at Dr. Berger’s Down the Hall column in the Scholastic District Administrator

Please connect via LinkedIn and Twitter to suggest interview guests and story ideas. If you are the idea you want to float…by all means connect and pitch me your perspective!


Jessica Lahey is an educator, author, and speaker. She writes the bi-weekly column “The Parent-Teacher Conference” for the New York Times, is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, and a commentator on Vermont Public Radio. Her book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can   Succeed, will be published by HarperCollins in August of 2015. 


Dr. Berger  is an education correspondent. As an industry personality Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and other global thought leaders. Dr. Berger is a guest lecturer at Vanderbilt University and resides with his wife and two children in Nashville.

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