I have caught myself more than once saying to myself as a parent, “My child would never do that.” This is ironic, of course, because as a principal for 25+ years, I know that great kids are capable of audacious missteps, and that even the most straight-arrow young person occasionally tells whoppers the size of the Empire State Building. And yet, as parents, it is very difficult for us to step back and recognize that sometimes our child, yes, our child, has made a mistake and that they will benefit from learning an important lesson.

We sometimes learn the most from our missteps

Perhaps it is helpful to know that the least fun aspect of my job is working with Middle School students at Colorado Academy when they have gone astray. At the same time, it is some of my most important work. In truth, it is in these moments, when a child is held accountable for their words and actions in a compassionate way that some of the most important learning happens. Sure, we can learn from being told that lies are harmful, but for most of us, it is not until we are caught in a whopper that we “feel” the truth. It is not until we have been hurt by an unkind rumor or been caught saying something mean that we truly understand. The same is true for academic dishonesty, empathy, loyalty, and so many other desirable human virtues.

Schools and parents can make all the difference

Two things can simultaneously be true. Our kids are doing their best to be good, AND they will fall short of being 100% truthful and kind. This is where good schools and good parents can make such a difference in the lives of young people. Parents can support their child on the one hand AND hold their child accountable for a misstep. Moreover, it is an act of educational integrity for schools to help kids learn from mistakes made. More than this, it is an act of civic duty and compassion to help young people develop their moral compass over time through trial, error, and correction.

I look forward to working together

The long and short is that ALL students learn as much, if not more, from the mistakes made during a school year. If asked, I can tell quite a few stories from my youth when I strayed from the straight and narrow. There are stories of when I developed empathy because I was treated unkindly or the times I did the same to someone else and was held accountable. This isn’t the bad stuff from my childhood; this is the good stuff: the learning moments that shaped who I am today. I hope you will join me in supporting our efforts to help kids grow up to be a little wiser and a little more compassionate over time.