What an amazing session idea. We had an open discussion about fears, flops and failures. It is so encouraging to talk about when things go horribly and we learn from it. Normalizing this experience was tremendously encouraging for me.

I won’t go into details about what the fears, flops and failures that were discussed here were, but I did notice how we as a group learned from each of the stories. I was shocked by how much the common experiences of the group resonated so closely with my own struggle to meet learner needs.


Reflecting on how we handle in the moment decisions helps us be more thoughtful in the future. Teaching is full of surprises. Technological surprises are common among educators. It helps to have a back-up plan but failing can also make us shy away from trying again. Support groups like this one can help us recover faster and try again.


Be gentle with yourself. It is okay to ask students for help. Sometimes they know how to solve a problem better than you do. They know their context. An example from my own practice (not as deep as what was shared in our discussion) occurred this term when I got very honest with my students about my experiences with many strategies for getting students to buy-in to APA formatting. I said something to the effect of “I have tried everything I can think of and nothing has worked.” Being open and honest with the class generated some really creative ideas and started me on a path to try a new strategy next year.

The word "fail" in a red box
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay


It can be emotionally exhausting to handle difficult issues. More and more we need to do emotional labour and it can be exhausting. Many times I come home from work and my brain is done. Our students and our families deal with very difficult situations. Sometimes we are the only person available to help a student. Faculty are not trained to deal with everything. Yet, we do our best. Acknowledging that we are not an expert in everything can be important. A genuine interest in students and trying to help is okay. Admitting you don’t know how to handle a situation is okay – it shows humanity and actually helps to build a relationship with students.


Don’t let fear stop you from addressing important issues. Personally, I have felt conflicted about how honest to be with my students about certain topics. In a couple of sessions today the need to support each other was mentioned. I am very lucky to have met some new friends at work who are willing to be mutually supportive during difficult times.

Job Responsibilities

There is a lot to worry about that is just part of our job. To do our jobs well there are many things we need to work through. It is that time of year when we need to make the call if someone passes or fails a course. Failing a student is hard as it makes a statement and has a huge impact on their lives. I struggle with the need to be firm because we have a professional responsibility to ensure that our students have met the learning outcomes of the course. In nursing, we are protecting the safety of the public. That is important.


We are not trained to engage in self-care in academia. I talk about the need to do this, yet I know I work too much (as I make my own point because I am blogging when it is almost 10 pm on a day where I started work at 8:30 am). For me, I love my “work” so much that it is hard to balance. “Work” is fun so I convince myself that it is okay to take on more, but I am learning to say no to things.

I needed this!

This was the perfect conference for me because there was no lunch break. Yep. This conversation happened over lunch. It was kind of a break but there was an invite to a semi-structured discussion so we could choose to keep going. I need more open, honest and deep conversations like this one. If you ever want to talk about failures please reach out. I have purposefully selected failure-focused professional development opportunities this year because I find them the most honest and impactful.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


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