Failing Forward

I watched a video this week that my employer put together about a service project 25 employees embarked on to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary in November. They went into the poorest zip code in the United States, Hunts Point in the Bronx, and built a space where families with children ages 3-5 could come and partake in a literacy program and just have a generally nice space to learn and play.  In the video, the managing director of the Hunts Point Alliance for Children talked about the importance of breaking the cycle of “failing forward”. She stated that something like only 6% of children entering Kindergarten in that area have the school readiness skills to succeed. She said that even though they are just entering Kindergarten, they are already on their way toward failure, hence “failing forward”.

That phrase really stuck with me. It put words to the fear that I have for Max when he enters Kindergarten next year. I know it might sound superficial given what the children of Hunts Point have to deal with versus Max, growing up in the suburbs, but I’m being honest here. I worry that public school is not the right setting for him. I worry that teachers are not going to understand him and his curiosity, his love of learning is going to be squashed by the fact that he’s expected to sit still and learn at the same pace as all the other kids in the class. I worry that by choosing the wrong setting now, the wrong school or the wrong philosophy that I’m setting him up to fail forward, to be unsuccessful in school forever.

To answer Sarah’s question from Wednesday, I think a school’s goal should be to reach every child in the way he/she learns best; to encourage children to want to learn and to be curious and not worry so much about measuring up to other students, towns, even countries. We’re moving soon and I’m terrified we’ll pick the wrong town, meaning the wrong school system– that we’ll make the wrong choice. On top of all that, this article has me wondering if Montessori is the way to go

I’m interested to hear from other parents of kids with ADHD, or other parents of kids who just have special educational needs. How did your children fare in public school? How did the teachers treat them? How or did their personalities continue to flourish in public school…or did you choose private? Any advice or suggestions appreciated.

6 thoughts on “Failing Forward

  1. For those of you with kids that have any type of needs I want you to now that things can work out in the end. I heard a lot of negative things when my 2 ld kids were going through school. I never liked those words. Don’t ever tell me what my kids can’t do. There is a lot to our story but the end result is that my son now has a PhD. and the daughter that they told me I’d be lucky to get through high school has an associates degree. All of my children have done great things, some have problems some have none. The most important thing you can do is be a strone avercote for your kids and don’t let the system defeqat you.


  2. I have a very active daughter who can’t sit still, but is very smart. She was in a magnet school for preschool and half of kindergarten. Her magnet school used centers for learning and wasn’t as structured as a regular classroom. She did fine in preschool but acted out in K. She didn’t know the difference between playtime and learning time. It was a hard decision but we put her in public school. She needed the structure and defined learning and play times. She still has a hard time sitting still but doesn’t act out anymore. Plus she is being challenged a whole lot more.


  3. I agree that many parents have this same concern. My advice is the same I had in another post ~ you can’t get it wrong and you can always change your mind. Much love to you as you work thru this!


  4. *not just looking at test scores, not “now” just looking at test scores…sorry for the typos! Long weekend here…haha 🙂


  5. My son doesn’t have any special needs and I have the same worries! I think by the sole virtue of your being so tuned into what he needs, things will be just fine. You obviously are really concerned with finding a good fit for him, now just looking at the test scores and “rankings” of schools and choosing that way (which I think is a HUGE mistake and can be really misleading as far as school quality). I whole-heartedly believe in ranking kids against their own growth, of course with an eye to standards and benchmarks and where the should be heading next in their educational needs. I’m sure that your awareness of his needs will mean that he will have a great adjustment 🙂


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