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Finding Reasons to Say “Yes”

“May I go to the bathroom?”

“No, we’re working now.”

“Is it OK if I turn in my homework tomorrow instead?”

“No. You need to learn to get things done on time.”

“Could I create a video for the project instead of writing a paper?”

“No, this is a writing assignment.”

As a beginning teacher, I learned to be a stellar naysayer. My role as teacher, or so I thought, was only to establish standards and hold consistent accountability. Saying “no” seemed to be the easiest and most effective way to do this. Therefore, that simple two-letter word was liberally applied to most student queries.

There certainly are times when a “no” answer is necessary. After all, the Ten Commandments are written in this format, not to prohibit us from enjoying life, but rather to five us the godly guidelines for living a fulfilling life with God’s blessing. But I also realized as I became more seasoned as a professional educator that constant “no” could also serve to discourage young learners.

As the years passed, I could feel the gentle nudging of God, leading me to see and embrace the possibilities of saying “yes,” and in the process, empowering students to create agency for their own habits and learning. As a result, the classroom environment has become much more open and communicative, where possibilities are explored rather than limitations being highlighted.

Today, whenever possible, I am finding reasons to say “yes.” In the project-based learning academy which I lead, I now seek to include rather than exclude in the application process, inviting anyone who might benefit from this education experience to join our academy. And this approach manifests itself in other ways. Is there a specific learning path a student wishes to take? Let’s learn together. Want to submit a photographic essay instead of a written one? Let’s work jointly to create some standards to guide you in this process. A simple “yes” can be a powerful motivator for a student.

Our heavenly Father said “yes” to us, embracing us for eternity through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. His “yes” is the most important one we will ever experience. While we might still have the responsibility to say “no” to students at times, saying “yes” can serve to point them to our Lord and Savior, whose “yes” to us, despite our sin, has us marked for a glorious eternity with Him.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks flickr

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David Black teaches at Lutheran High School, Parker, Colo., and the director of Lights Academy, a project-based learning experience within the existing school. He is in his 33rd year as a teacher and has served Lutheran education at large as a writer, presenter, and consultant.

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