“Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”

Stanley A. McChrystal

Teachers should let pupils fail in a safe environment, letting them pick themselves up, so they come out on the other side having learned with feelings of pride about what they achieved. There is an element of trust in such a relationship, however, and not all teachers will help you if you fail. The bottom line is that we don’t learn when we don’t trust: it is a crucial aspect of information exchange and negotiation (Rettinger, Nickles & Tresp, 2007).

That said, trust is not a given; trust has to be earned and not just by the teachers, but the pupils also, otherwise the relationship that is supposed to be facilitating learning, becomes stagnant.

The education system must have a shared purpose and consciousness if it is to progress and succeed; yet we all have different life experiences making us who we are. In terms of digital media, children have different skill sets and quite different vocabulary, in comparison with older generations, yet we still need to have a shared sense of trust in each other, something that is lacking in the current system (Gregory & Ripski, 2008).

Nowadays, there are so many changes in the lower levels of technology – using books, computers or a state-of-the-art tablet – that suddenly things that the teachers grew up doing are not what children are doing todayHow can a teacher still credibly and legitimately teach a class when they themselves haven’t trained in the aspects of learning that their pupils already know and understand? There is an inversion of expertise.

Cooperative behaviour between students and staff is important in facilitating a high-functioning classroom, where students trust teachers and feel able to actively engage in their work. If you go to a teacher with questions about an exam, and the help given turns out to be inapplicable, you feel a sense of disappointment. You have put yourself (and possibly your grades) on the line by trusting their expertise and it has come to nothing. Many adolescents reject teachers’ authority and expertise (Franse, 1990) because they have been let down; we need to rebuild that trust, working towards a sense of shared purpose towards educating the future generation. The trust I speak of could be referred to as role-based trust, where it is the role of the person and the system of expertise which they belong to that you trust, as opposed to the person themselves (Kramer, 1999).

If children are raised and educated in a system that doesn’t trust one another, then what does that teach them about the real worldLee (2007) examined the student-teacher relationship regarding trust, and highlights that this relationship is positively correlated with school success, academic motivation and academic performance, emphasising just how important trust within the education system really is.

Trust is important not just between pupil and teacher, but also between teachers, parents and the board of directors.  Bryk and Schneider (2003) found that social trust between these parties improves the workings and routine of the school. Relational trust among teachers also gives an imperative to reform and develop their teaching. Teachers with high relational trust were also found to go the extra mile for the children. The researchers found that schools with high relational trust were more likely to demonstrate marked improvements in student learning. Of course, this trust takes time to form; a simple workshop will not initiate trust within an entire staff body, it has to be earned and worked at through day-to-day social exchanges. Results of da Costa and Jose (1995) indicate that trust and respect between teachers is a prerequisite to effective collaboration, and that without trust and respect, collaboration is futile.

CHALLENGE FOR TEACHERS: be more willing to be reverse-mentored by the children.

Both parties learn when they can input into a discussion equally.

There must be a new kind of leadership where there is an element of trust within the teacher-child relationship, which could hold this system together.



Most people experience an education in which they are taught the skills that are supposedly necessary for going on to succeed in life. You can ask anyone, and they will tell you that they had an ‘interesting education’. In his TED talk Sir Ken Robinson makes the point that we all have a vested interest in education – as it is this schooling that helps children’s and our futures too.


When a child is unsure of how to proceed with a task or does not know an answer they will have a guess, as they are not afraid to be wrong. But after only a little time being schooled this positive trait of creativity is educated out – mistakes are denigrated. The world of work stigmatises blunders, faux pas and punishes such mishaps instead of promoting creativity and individuality. So, one may wonder why we intentionally squander and quash young people’s minds from a young age, moulding them into unimaginative and uninspired drones of the workforce. What is it about education that dulls individuals’ minds?


Today I am going to focus on humanising the classroom/lecture theatre. Let us start with the structure of classes. You must all remember sitting down in a lesson amongst all your buddies, facing forwards (when not misbehaving) towards the teacher: the Font of all Knowledge. In these classes, much like lectures in university, the teacher waffles on about one topic or another, and expects you to have learned and memorised it by the time exams come round. But is this technique of teaching adequate? We are taught about math, science and literacy but not about how to actually learn such content. Think back, and I’m sure you can’t recall a time where you were given strategies for learning and taking notes, yet you are expected to sit exams and know how to learn. When you have an end of term test, it doesn’t matter what score you get – 40%, 70%, 95% – the class moves on to the next big thing. Even the student with 95% – what didn’t they know? As it currently stands the system does not expect mastery of each subject; it penalises you for failure and creativity in experimentation instead of encouraging mistakes that would inevitably aid your learning experience, and push you forward towards mastering each subject.


Giles et al. (2009) report that the level of recall in a lecture is based on when during the lecture information is presented; information given within the first 15 minutes of the lecture is unlikely to be recalled, however content provided from 15-30 minutes of the lecture is more readily recalled. Indeed, Kiewra et al. (1991) found that students actively assess what information they deem as important, and focus on remembering it as such; unfortunately, this means that most of the lecture is expendable, as most students will not remember all details that the lecturer churns out. A strategy for such an issue could be for the lecturer to provide a copy of their own notes to be available as a review for the students. However, why should we waste time with lectures if they are not going to be useful in the first place?


I would like to introduce you to Salman Khan, who founded the Khan Academy, and who maintains that homework should be done in class and videos and lectures should be seen outside the classroom. Khan suggests that by removing the “one size fits all” lecture to allow students to have a self-paced lecture at home; and by letting them come into school to review their work and ask questions to the teacher and actually interact with their peers about the work, it turns education into a human experience with interaction. Interacting with others about the topic and sharing ideas helps cultivate understanding in an environment that is suited to them, at their own pace.

If we really do have a vested interest in all our futures- shouldn’t we utilise aspects of Khan’s Academy, to see how our children’s learning can benefit during the mainstream education system?