The power of Yes

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When my daughter was young, she would often spend weekends or holidays with her grandparents. One of Grandma Jan’s favourite sayings was, “this is a YES” house. That meant that both grandchild and grandparents shared responsibility for having a positive, enjoyable time together. “Hayley, time to get ready for bed!” “Yes, Grandma. And can I have an extra story?” “Yes!”

I have the same outlook on creating a positive school environment – one where there is shared responsibility among staff and students for making things possible. I have always preferred to give students opportunities to try showing me that they can do something, rather than saying they can’t. For instance, we have students who make our morning announcements each day. One day someone commented that it was sometimes difficult to hear the students if they talk quickly or hold the microphone too far away, and that it would be better for me to do them. Forever a teacher, however, I replied that we would just work on teaching the students to slow down and speak up. “Mrs. Davison, can we keep doing the announcements?” “YES! Can we listen to yesterday’s so that you can hear what you might need to improve?” “YES!”

There is research to support the relationship between positive interactions and personal effectiveness, and not just in schools:
(from Dewhirst and Davis, presentation to 2011 National PBIS Leadership Forum)

Business Teams: (Losada, 1999; Losada & Heaphy, 2004)

High Performance = 5.6 positives to 1 negative
Medium Performance = 1.9 positives to 1 negative
Low Performance = 1 positive to 2.7 negatives

Successful Marriages: (Gottoman, 1994)

5.1 positives to 1 negative (speech acts) and
4.7 positives to 1 negative (observed emotions)

Creating a “yes” environment in school also supports student and staff motivation. Daniel Pink tells us that a sense of autonomy is key to motivation, so when students have ideas for guiding their own learning or following an area of interest, we should be finding any way possible to say “yes”. The same goes for staff – teachers and other staff deserve to have a workplace where their ideas and creativity are supported whenever possible. The contribution to the life of the school and the energy that saying “yes” can create is undoubtedly beyond valuable.

So here’s the catch. Saying yes requires flexibility, in order to adapt to a new idea or path to follow. Saying yes requires selflessness to put someone else’s interest before your own. Saying yes also requires work (more often than not), but you’ve probably heard that “the things in life worth doing are hard”. So go for it. Say yes.