Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Power of Yes

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.


  1. When I first started teaching first grade three years ago (after ten years of teaching fourth/fifth grades) I decided, for some reason, to buy a couple of cameras to put into their hands. I put them on lanyards so they can wear them around their necks and it let me worry less and be more willing to pass them on to the kids. We've made some fun movies with the pictures they took. And I have a great record of our year through their eyes.

  2. I found that many kids on the spectrum will look at other kids through the camera lens, even if not in person. My Aspy boy took some great photos of his peers!! Keep saying yes!

  3. This is great! I love hot glue guns :)
    well done teacher!!!

  4. Oh, no. I forgot to add a link back to Teacher Tom for the glue guns. I have now added it. Or you can click here to see one of his posts.

  5. Deborah - that's exactly what I thought when she asked: "Not my camera!" :)

    Annie - what an interesting observation. That's really cool!

    Jenny - I am thinking about getting cameras to be accessible all the time for kids to use. Maybe I won't feel so stressed giving up my own. :)

  6. Kristin - you are a shining example of the power of Yes. I wish I could come into your classroom just to soak it in.

  7. The power of "yes" is amazing, and good for the human soul!

    I have always wanted cameras for the children to use and now thanks to you, it will be done...Great:)

  8. I let my 3 and 4 year olds use my camera - with some rules, like you must have the strap on your neck, you must walk, It's a special privilege to use my camera (it's a good one) so you must ask me to use it, (not your friend who is currently using it). The pictures the kids take give me a whole different perspective of what they see - like my legs when I'm standing, or my face when I'm squatting down, how the room looks to them, or tiny details down low, or just what the children were doing that I didn't see.
    The pictures the children take get better with practice too.