Heads Up

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Message from Tanya Sweeney, Head, Preparatory School

Dear UCC Prep families,

Happy New Year and I hope each of you had a pleasant and memorable holiday with your boys. My holiday was quite relaxing and I had a chance to get started on a book I’ve been wanting to read for some time.

In my observational visits Tuesday morning I happened to catch 6B in the Science Lab with Mr. David Ma. To begin their new unit, “Structures,” students were challenged to build the tallest tower possible that would also support a marble, using only two pieces of paper and a small length of tape.

While I watched one team at work, I overheard a conversation about failure and listened in. The two boys were talking openly about making mistakes and learning from them. They were commenting that they could try a couple of strategies and if they didn’t work, they could try something else. I asked them about their conversation and they casually confirmed that they’re aware that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

This reminded me of the book  I started reading during the break, The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed, by Jessica Lahey. Over the past few months there have been a number of articles written on this topic and I find them of great interest. When I came across this title in the fall, I set it aside for holiday reading.

Beginning with a fascinating yet brief history of parenting attitudes in America, Lahey uses anecdotes from her own children and her students, scientific research and a wonderful sense of humour, to speak on how we can raise resilient children who develop healthy self-confidence by independently puzzling through age-appropriate responsibilities and challenges.

A tower-building challenge in science class is of course different than making one’s own bed, developing a plan to share a poor test grade with a parent or figuring out the best way to pack a backpack. However, these are all reasonable challenges whose results are not dire, should the child need multiple attempts to find the best solution. Lahey speaks of the joy a child feels when he or she develops a role in the family, has the “aha” moment while solving a problem, or develop a growing sense of self-efficacy, knowing that they are trusted to handle reasonable challenges and that an adult is nearby if they need assistance.

If you’re interested in borrowing the book, just drop me a line. And if you have read any interesting texts on this topic, I would be happy to know of them and build our knowledge and skills together.

 Tanya Sweeney tsweeney@ucc.on.ca