Forest Grove schools chief tells group to let kids experience failure

The parking lot at Joseph Gale Elementary School filled to overflowing Saturday with parents interested in helping their children succeed in school.

They drove to the local grade school to attend the Forest Grove School District’s second Parent Academy of the 2013-14 school year, where Chief of Staff Connie Potter said that while she had hoped for better attendance at the 19 free workshops, she still felt the day was a success.

“We received great evaluations from the 60 parents who came, with all [of them] telling us they were glad they attended,” said Potter.

Forest Grove parent and private tutor Jennifer Atsma was impressed with the variety of workshops at the three-hour event. “There’s so much to choose from. I think all of us are hoping the workshops will give us information for now and for the future,” Atsma said.

“Personally, I came to learn more about English-language learning, and [Oregon’s] Common Core [standards].”

The morning-long academy opened with a continental breakfast, entertainment and a keynote address by Superintendent Yvonne Curtis, who spoke to parents about the importance of grit, curiosity and character in teaching children how to succeed. She began by urging parents to read the book, “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough.

“What matters is how you treat your children,” Curtis said. “As a parent, grandparent, caregiver or non-biological parent, you can reverse the negative characteristics of a harsh environment by developing close, nurturing relationships with your children.”

Explaining the growth mind-set, Curtis advised parents to tell their children they can get smarter, and they can do better. “Let them know they might struggle, and it may be hard, but that you think they can succeed,” she said. “Go ahead and let them experience failure, give them a chance to fall down and get back up — this produces grit and character.

“But you need to be there to help manage their failures.”

In closing, Curtis challenged parents with the question, “What will your next steps be to help your children succeed?”

Before heading off to workshop sessions in school classrooms, parents were invited to learn about the many resources available to children and families, including libraries and the Family Resource Center in Forest Grove.

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