What did you fail at today?

I can’t tell you how many times I see every day a child who fears failure. Outside of my Principal role at Little Voices, I am a teacher in an alternative provision for children who have been excluded and also a Specialist Leader of Education, where I have trained teachers on how to incorporate life skills into the curriculum.

The fear of failure is a problem that isn’t being addressed enough.

I started reflecting on where this comes from. When does it start? Because, when you are a baby you have no fear. You try to learn to walk, you fall down and you get back up again. You keep going.

Where does this fear of failure come from?

Maybe the fear of embarrassment or the feeling of being unworthy. This fear being so strong that you start to avoid doing the task or you self sabotage something to protect yourself. So you stop taking risks, you hold back, making sure you never have that feeling of shame.

Failing would just confirm that you weren’t talented/good enough

But failure shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. Failure should be seen as an opportunity to grow. 

Maybe the questions should turn from “What did you achieve?” to “What did you fail at?” and “How can you improve next time?” Making it ok to fail. Because failing is an opportunity to grow. It’s a discussion to have over the dining table in the evening. It’s something to own and not be scared of.

A growth mindset is something that is a skill. 

At Little Voices this is what we are experts at. The whole time we create an environment that is nurturing and rewarding, while knowing that progress looks different for every child.  We understand that a child may need extra work with their confidence, or another child may need help with their use of dynamics at bar 24. We make sure that no matter where a child is on their journey that they feel successful, because success breeds success. From tailoring our approach with every child, we get the results we want.

How do we do this?

Our group sizes. 8 or less in a class means we CAN do this well. We get to know our learners very well and understand what they need to work on and what they do well at. By emphasizing the successes, and building trust, we can then slowly build up children’s resilience.

So what does it take to get a child to say “I can’t do it!” to “I want to do it again!”

Trust, patience, persistence… and showing evidence that they can! We may not achieve this in one session, BUT there are plenty of opportunities we jump on to prove that our children CAN do it. The process begins soon as they step in the classroom. “I can’t do this..”, “Let’s try anyway. Would you like me to help you? Don’t worry if you get it wrong, we can start again!”

THEN, one of the most important things happen. When our pupils succeed the classroom erupts in applause.

What a feeling… the complete opposite to shame

Then followed up by the tutor saying “See! You said you couldn’t do it. But you did” Then a lovely certificate or sticker to mark the achievement. I have seen pupils nervous (understandably..) about their LAMDA examinations, but coming out smiling shouting “CAN WE DO IT AGAIN!”

That feeling should be experienced again and again, so our pupils want to feel that way. It should outweigh the fear of shame.

What a lesson to learn. A lesson that can be taken into your child’s adult life. This is a lesson that is invaluable.


Maybe, we should first make sure we practice what we teach. Frequently reflecting on our own failures and not beating ourselves up for them. Every failure has a lesson we can take from it, which we can pass on to our children. Then today in our classrooms or at the dining table we should have an open conversation and ask our children “What did you fail at today?” Let’s make it a thing that’s not frightening, but spoken about.

SO.. What did you fail at today?! 


**** If you are a parent who has noticed this is something you would like to develop with your child or if you are school wanting to help a key group of pupils develop resilience feel free to contact me on 07877620340 or ealing@littlevoices.org.uk ****