I've been around the preschool block a few times. I've been in numerous classrooms and heard a variety of teachers interact with a myriad of kids. I've taught preschoolers that are now adults making their ways in the world. (Wait, that's an unnerving thought.) And, often in a classroom, the word I hear more often is a variation of "No."
Now, I'm a firm believer in setting limits and maintaining a safe classroom for investigation and learning. So, sometimes, a child's behavior must be curtailed to keep him, others, or materials safe and whole.
But too often I think "No" is a default answer for us teachers.
"Can I have scissors/tape/a pencil?" "Can I color the sky red?" "Can I just watch instead of play?"
A some point in my teaching life, I cannot pinpoint an exact time, I decided to start saying "Yes" as much as possible.
Scissors, tape, glue sticks, and scrap paper are always available in the room. You can cut and glue, even if other materials are on the table. The power of "Yes, you can use that" results in creativity and exploration, unplanned and spontaneous (at least on my part).
Sometimes parts from one place will migrate to another place. The power of "Yes, you can take that over there" leads to a greater understanding of math and science. (See more here.)
Sometimes, the creative minds of my kids push away parts of an activity and go in a completely different direction. The power of "Yes, you can choose what to do" yields a great narrative and structure.
Teacher Tom has given me the power to say, "Yes, young kids can use glue guns." We created wonky frames and empowered kids in new ways. (We have more plans for glue guns soon.)
My Yes commitment was tested a few weeks ago. A child asked, "Can I use the camera?" What? My precious recorder of what happens in the classroom? I hesitated for a moment. "Yes," I said...and handed the camera over to a 6-year-old. Of course, her friends wanted to use it, too. So we took turns, with interesting results.
I will be relinquishing the camera more often now.
The power of "Yes, you can" helps children test their ideas, stretch their understanding, and grow. The power of Yes helps TEACHERS test their ideas, stretch their understanding, and grow.
As you mingle with your group of kids, look for opportunities to say "Yes" and just watch the powerful things that happen.