How Do You Help Students Reach Their Yet?

This morning I commented on a post by Tia Henriksen (@TiaHenriksen) where she cautions about speaking negatively in absolutes.  A great read for reflecting on the power of our words.

I hear absolutes too. I hear from teachers and parents “S/he just doesn’t know…” and you can fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind: how to listen, how to focus, how to do his times tables, how to spell, how to read… It’s more than discouraging to hear this – it’s downright dangerous. Nothing squashes the motivation to teach a child than believing in never or doesn’t, and by doing so we have stunted that child before he or she can even begin, and therein lies the danger – of stereotyping, of underestimating, of absolving ourselves of any responsibility, of doing children the ultimate disservice.

My answer to those statements has been one word: yet. 

“She just doesn’t know how to spell.”


“He just doesn’t know how to read.”


“He just doesn’t know how to handle frustration.”


“She just doesn’t know how to do her times tables.”


I find this one word to be a powerful tool to open a dialogue and to pause for reflection – on best instructional practices, on motivation, on student and parent engagement, and on teacher professional development plans.  It begins to wipe the slate clean so that we can work collaboratively on ways to engage our students in their learning by using more effective tools and strategies. It opens the dialogue to why and how – why aren’t they reaching their goals, and how can we get them there?

How can we get our students to their yet?

2 thoughts on “How Do You Help Students Reach Their Yet?

  1. Pingback: In an “I can …” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet“ | Experiments in Learning by Doing

  2. After reading this post I realized something that I have never realized before. Adults tend to use words such as doesn’t or can’t without realizing how intimidating those words can be to a young kid. I agree that adults and teachers should do their best to use “yet” as a part of their daily vocabulary. The word yet really can be more motivation for a student than one might realize. Just because a students doesn’t know something right now doesn’t mean they’ll never learn it.

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