The Power of Yes

This blog was inspired by a tweet I posted during Mark Anderson’s thought provoking keynote address at the Teach Tech Play Conference.  Mark discussed how we need to trust our students when they approach us with an idea or a question they are seeking answers to.  We need to trust them by saying YES.

Mark, shared the story of a student in Brighton, England.  Students basically had been set the task of creating an information report about their city or something close to that.  One student, Caleb Yule, asked his teacher if he could create a photographic representation of Brighton.  At this point Caleb’s teacher could provide him with one of two responses: No, that sounds like it would be too difficult or Yes, it will be challenging but give it a crack.

I’m glad his teacher said YES

This also made me reflect on highlights from Eleni Kyritsis’ Genius Hour session.  During the session Eleni shared the story of how one her students had created and programmed a robot that would “destroy” things and Dean Kuran shared how a group of boys during their Genius Hour are investigating the “breakability” of things.  Their students are engaged, motivated and thinking.  What if they had said no to their students ideas?

Kurt Challinor, Director of Centre for Deeper Learning at Parramatta Marist, shared a student’s achievement with me on a recent visit.  Students had to create an artificial hand using the 3-D printer then program the hand to move.  One student wanted to take it a step further and create a voice activated hand. Even though teachers questioned if he would be successful in his ambitious quest they provided the green light and you know the rest…a voice activated hand was created by a high school student.

These examples of educators trusting their students and saying YES made me contemplate the reasons why we say no.  Are we projecting our own limitations onto students?  Are we afraid are students may fail and we’re not sure how to manage that and what that means for us as teachers?

In Michael Thornton’s blog post Creating Space for Risk he outlines even though risk-taking is an important ingredient in  learning it is often the thing least evident in schools.

“People shy away from risks because they fear failure — but what’s so bad about failing? Some of the greatest moments of understanding happen after we’ve “failed.” Viewing failure as a typical aspect of the learning process allows a learner to appreciate the need for risks”

It is therefore key in my role as a leader that I ensure that teachers have the understanding, skills and most importantly the confidence to say YES and allow their students to take risks in their learning.  This will most likely mean I will need to say YES to teachers to take their own risks in pedagogy and programs.




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