Jessica Lahey


Jessica Lahey is an educator, writer, and speaker. She is a contributing writer at the Atlantic, her column, "The Parent-Teacher Conference" appears bi-weekly in the New York Times and she blogs at her website, Her book about why and how parents need to let their children fail will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.

Lahey: Maker Space

Dec 19, 2014
Jessica Lahey

For the past couple of Christmases, we’ve tried to orient our giving toward the acquisition of experiences over things. Either we go away somewhere interesting for a few days as a family, or we give our boys lessons in a skill they’d like to try out. Some experiences bomb, others take hold, but every one is part of our family’s story.

Jessica Lahey

In his book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow, child psychologist Michael Thompson describes a question he poses at his talks. He asks the audience to recall a significant childhood memory, and then instructs them to raise their hands if their parents played a featured role. Very few hands go up.

Mine certainly wouldn’t. My formative memories take place in the woods, at camp, in a barn, or on a bicycle, and while I love spending time with my parents, they don’t even rate a cameo appearance.

Kira DelMar

A couple of years ago, I faced a teacher milestone. One of my students died, someone I'd visited and emailed and laughed with in the weeks and days before his death, and I was at a loss as to how to deal with the odd, not quite parental, not quite friend-shaped hole. In the days after his death, I wrote, "When I had children, I understood that I was opening myself up for a world of pain; that's part of the deal we make with the universe when we become parents.

Lahey: Green Wood

Mar 7, 2014

We are at that point in the winter where our best-laid plans of last fall have become untidy. Orderly rows of seasoned wood, have become jumbled chaos, strewn with weather-beaten tarps and tumbling, unruly, onto the snow. In contrast, the orderly, square stacks of green wood stand tall, and because of poor planning on my part, tantalizingly close to our mudroom door.

Those stacks only hold the promise of heat however, because once inside, the joke’s on us. That green wood barely smolders, mocking our impatience and haste, as water bubbles and steams out the cut ends.

Lahey: The Coat

Jan 24, 2014

New Hampshire is known for many things, but high fashion is generally not one of them. When I head out to the post office or to pick my son up at school, my priorities regarding coat selection center on its appropriateness to the outside temperature and whether there are eggs in the pockets left over from chicken chores the day before. If I’m feeling fancy, I might figure the coat’s color into my calculations, but I’m not usually feeling very fancy.

The phone doesn’t usually ring before six o’clock in the morning, so I knew before I answered it that my grandmother had died. She was in her nineties, and had been in a slow decline for months. Family had gathered by her bedside, and to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, she’d willed away what portions of her were assignable, and our eyes were long since wrung dry

We moved to the woods in search of a home, a place where our sons have space for solitude. I wanted them to know the sudden upwelling of frigid spring water in an otherwise warm lake. The silver underside of leaves revealed by winds before a rainstorm. The ozone whiff of an impending January snowstorm mixed with the comfort of wood smoke.

Lahey: Seen By Saddle

Oct 18, 2013

The trails around my home are so familiar to me that I avoid roots, adjust to slopes, and leap over fallen trees without breaking stride. I know the seasons of my territory; where some paths will be too muddy, when to avoid a mother bear’s favorite scratching tree, and which trails are best left untraveled during hunting season. I’ve been exploring the woods around my home in Lyme Center for years, and I thought I knew everything about them.

A teacher’s year is quantified by the same measures as a layman’s year; it divides up by the same three hundred and sixty five - give or take a leap - then the smaller twenty-four, and more minute sixty, but these measures are where the similarity ends.

Teacher’s lives are cyclic; fall is for new beginnings, winter is for maintaining momentum, and spring is for closure.