Yes, and…

Last night, right before bed, my 9-year-old remembered he needed to set up his Leprechaun trap. It was late and I was tired. Just as I was getting ready to tell him that he just needed to get into bed, he reached for a notebook and opened a detailed drawing of his trap. He quickly got out his circuits, batteries, gold chains and got to work. He rearranged, checked his drawings and then finally, stood back and admired his work.
All I could think about was…
What if I had stopped him?
What if I had said that sounds good, but it is too late?
Think of a time when you were passionate about something. You believed you had a great idea, you put effort and time into developing this idea and you couldn’t wait to share it. Now imagine sharing that news with someone and them responding with but…
You immediately are let down, discouraged, and you begin to question this seemingly great idea you had. This change in emotion happens within seconds of hearing someone say “but.”
How often do we do this to our students? To teachers? Maybe, their idea doesn’t fit into what we are doing at the moment. Maybe, their idea is too big and doesn’t seem manageable. Maybe, we are just tired. Each time we make it harder for someone to share an idea without fearing the reaction. Now, I am not suggesting that we can entertain every idea, but what can we do instead of saying “but ?” How can we build a culture of yes? A culture where it is okay to share an idea, no matter how big or how different it might be.
Recently, I had an opportunity to attend Apple Academy in Cupertino with an amazing group of educators.
From the start, our learning environment was built around saying, yes, and…
It seems so simple, but the impact was huge. An idea was shared and it grew when each person added their thinking. Soon everyone was invested in the idea and excited about moving forward. Imagine this in a classroom. A student comes to you with an idea, maybe one that seems a bit crazy. Instead of but, we can’t do that…try, yes, and what is the first step you need to take? That student isn’t discouraged but instead focused on figuring out how to move forward with the idea.
 
If we want students to take risks, we need to support their ideas. If we want teachers to take risks, we need to support their ideas.
We need to support a culture of Yes!
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