The Gift of Failure

Jessica Lahey writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Atlantic, Vermont Public Radio, and the New York Times.

I love it when highly-regarded books bring attention to things I’ve been teaching my study skills students for years. Learn Better, Make it Stick, and Smart but Stuck are three great examples, and The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey is a fourth.

The overall message is that kids are soft, it’s their parents’ fault, but it’s fixable. Lahey is a parent and teacher, so the solutions she offers are practical from the student, family, and teacher perspectives.

She emphasizes the importance of intrinsic motivation, time management, and students’ belief in their ability to succeed. I teach all that stuff, but so do a lot of other people.

My favorite things that ex-teacher Lahey says are two things that I also say in my book but that I don’t find other people saying very often: students should thank their teachers, and they’re lucky if they get one or two transcendent teachers in their lifetime.

Here are some more of my favorite things in this book (because clearly there’s a lot to like about it): students shouldn’t go on service trips until they’ve mastered a healthy slate of chores at home, recess is awesome and necessary, and parents shouldn’t be involved in high school homework at all.

Also, parent-student car rides are gold because they “elicit unguarded conversation”. Lahey doesn’t mention how this sublime conversation happens, but don’t worry, a supermom I know explained it to me recently: “It’s because everybody’s looking straight ahead.”

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