The Culture of “Yes, and…”

As teachers get better and better at the basics of using technology, I find that I am often in a position to help them come up with ideas for lessons as opposed to just showing them how to use a tool. Because of this, I sometimes have difficulty putting into words what I can do for a teacher. I think that I have finally determined what it is that I do and want to do for teachers. I want to develop a culture of “Yes, and…”

Yes, and…

What is the “Yes, and…” idea that I am talking about? It is the concept of taking someone’s idea and expanding upon it. This is a description that I think fits perfectly. It comes from a podcast that I listen to called “Never Not Funny.” (Warning: Not a family friendly listen.) On that podcast, the idea of helping someone else run with a comedy bit is a “Yes, and…”

Teacher: I want to do a project where my students create a slide for a presentation.

Me: Yes, and you can publish them on your website when they are done.

The teacher came up with the basic idea for the activity, I just helped enhance it by simply agreeing with the concept and adding to it. It is easy to do, but a lot of teachers are still afraid to ask for help with their lessons. It wasn’t a complicated idea, or an innovative one, but it is the one that particular teacher needed.

For so long, schools have not been a place where people in leadership positions have fostered ideas. Teachers thought that asking for help in lesson design was a sign of weakness and would maybe be used against them in an evaluation. I suppose we could argue that, but whether it is true or not, it is the perception that teachers had. I think there has been a shift recently that school leaders are working very hard to make. Risk in the classroom is not only OK, but it is a positive thing. Failure is not only OK, but it helps develop critical thinking skills that are essential for students to have.

By creating this culture of “Yes, and…” through modeling for teachers, they will inevitably begin to use the same technique in their own classroom. Regardless of the idea that a teacher has, it is very easy to help grow that activity through “Yes, and…” Keep sharing ideas with them and something will stick and get used. This will build trust with the teacher and allow them to share the positive experience with other teachers. Soon, all teachers will be coming to you for your “Yes, and…” work.

The key to this like any other culture change in schools is patience and persistence. It is also about being positive and nonjudgmental. Coming to you for help requires that you are a safe place to ask for help. Any perceived negativity could undo all of the good work you have already done. Once you do this consistently with teachers, they will begin doing it with theirs peers and most importantly their students.

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