education, Uncategorized

Failing to Fail? Do you let pupils know it’s part of success (but not the only part!)

This week I have been meeting some new classes and part of this for myself is the ability to explain my teaching style to new pupils. Something I find really useful at self assessing what I think of my views. It often involves me stopping mid-sentence to rethink what I am saying.

I am sure this leads my pupils to think I am mad and have a weird pause button attached to me somewhere as I stare into space and “humm” for 30 second.

BUT the benefit is that it shows them the importance of stopping to think before you talk.

Any-who, this year I have been introducing a new topic for Y4 which involves them matching key terms with some images drawn by an artist. They aren’t easy words for their age (Incarnation, Salvation, Creation, People of God, Kingdom of God, The Fall, God) but they have a really good go and I am always impressed with their reasons BUT that’s not the moral of the story.

The point is it’s hard, the words alone are hard but also the images are logo style and so are up to interpretations as many themes have similar points/links. In-fact I actually did this among a large group of RS trained professionals and many of them (and me) got quite a few wrong. So, in essence, the first time the pupils do it they are disappointing because they get a lot wrong.


So I tell them that’s good, it’s good to fail. I then often lighten the mood by say that

I would be out of a job if you all got it right the first time you did it! You aren’t meant to know….yet!

I then tell the story that I failed the first time I did it. The pupils then seem to brighten up, they feel secure in what they are doing. It takes me time though and I really have to keep ensuring them that I am being honest. And this is the point I wonder if they have ever been told that it’s OK to fail. Not just a one off comment but really convinced with specific examples from the adult in front of them.

I also talk about my son riding a bike. He fell off, no one would ever expect to get on and ride off into the sun set first time…it just wouldn’t happen. It also hurt him. Being honest about how failure is going to feel bad some times is important, don’t glorify it. That’s false and we need pupils to be aware of that too so that they can build resilience and cope. Let them know the rewards are great though I remember shaking my sons hands when he finally rode his bike alone and he was so proud of himself. Making them aware of this feeling being pride is the key for them to learn the magic intrinsic motivation.

I do this again in a word progression task I do from lesson to lesson. They are expected to get better each time they do it but I have to make it clear the first time we do it they might not get any right…and that’s OK.

Both are examples in my class about how I show progress, and for me progress means failure at the start for many and improving lesson on lesson (so we do the same bits of these lessons over and over after them having time to forget).

So if you’re new to teaching or have a new class make sure they know it’s OK to fail.


Be careful not to leave it here. Over the summer I saw many posts on social media about pupils taking external exams and teachers/parents/other older pupils/celebs stating – 69c9ea10824629e06863023db8c76999.jpg

So you failed these exams…don’t worry, look how far I went and I got 10 Us at GCSE and 3 Ds at A Level!

I see the reason for this…the idea is positive and it needs saying but maybe just add a disclaimer that the reasons for that was along the line of one of the following-

  • It was a passion and you added in the extra hours.
  • You worked damn hard after you learnt when you didn’t work hard you failed.
  • You had some amazing help along the way.

We really do need to teach children that failure is OK but failing to try isn’t and not learning from failure is even worse. It’s a cliche but sometimes something heard so often it’s easy to forget to say it in the first place.

Takes from this blog-

  1. Let you pupils know it’s OK to fail, take a whole lesson if you need to.
  2. Give a real example from your life, children are more trusting with examples.
  3. Don’t leave it there, give clear explanations that once they have the ability to learn they give it all.
  4. If you don’t try you most likely will fail, if you do try you make set the world alight! (took me till I was a teacher to really believe this myself!)

Link to blogs coming up – 

  • I will be looking into how it important to explain how target grades are populated/gained to pupils and parents.
  • How repeating certain lessons isn’t lazy but necessary.

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