How to support your child in a toxic learning environment

I was listening to a largely embellished story the other day about Thomas Edison and while it was probably a tale tall-and-true- I appreciated the sentiment.

It went…

Thomas Edison was busy in his laboratory with his friend and assistant attempting to create light using electricity rather than a candle…

It didn't go to plan and all he managed tocreate was an explosion which gave both Edison and his assistant a terrible fright!

Both frazzled and slightly singed, Edison and his assistant looked at each other. Edison smiled, pulled out his notebook and began to write. 

His assistant was not so optimistic- he yelled at Edison “Are you crazy!? You just nearly killed us both. This is clearly the work of a madman ! You are wrong and crazy!”

Edison replied calmly- “I am not wrong- I have merely found the 999th way NOT to create a lightbulb… though I have established how to create a small explosion- which may come in handy at a later date”. And he continued to take notes. 

The reason I re-tell this Hollywood version of events is because kids enjoy it.

When a 10 year old girl says to me she doesn’t volunteer answers in class (even though she wants to) because it is the classroom culture to laugh at wrong answers- I know there is something seriously wrong with that learning environment.

This is deeper than telling kids “having a go is brave” or “Don’t laugh at someone for trying”.

This is changing a culture.

This is tearing down societal norms and values and replacing them with a different way of thinking.

And no- that’s certainly no easy feat.

So where does that leave you as a parent or educator?

You have the incredibly strong power of guidance. You can be the initiator of self-reflection. 


Ask your children what they think of Edison in the story above… 

How would they describe him? What about the assistant?

Furthermore, who do they think will succeed? Who is happier? Why? 

The questions are endless… 

You will no doubt end up on a tangent about something else but see where it takes you… 

Your child might reveal a time they have felt like they've failed but could they pretend to be Edison? Was there a positive in their failure? A learning?  Has it come in handy in another context?

You could end up anywhere… but the point is- you have opened a dialogue about trying, failing and succeeding. Youare creating an inner voice that might protect them when they are laughed at for a wrong answer. Or maybe they will think twice before laughing at somebody else for answering incorrectly. 

Either way you're changing a culture… one little soul at a time.