The Great Escape…(aka Kinders Teaching Lessons in Yes And!)

In John Sturges’ The Great Escape, Richard Attenbourough tells his team of POW officers, “We’re going to devote our energies to sports and gardening…all the cultural pursuits…and meanwhile…we dig!” Little did John realize that he was setting the backdrop not for a World War II classic, but early morning in Vicki’s kinder class.

That day, my campus walk focused on PG & E’s handiwork. A few weeks earlier they had dug a hole in the sidewalk on Titus that was a hazard for pedestrians and large enough that it also caused a safety concern for the children on the playground. After confirming that PGE patched the hole and that the area was no longer hazardous, I made my way back to the main campus…down Titus and right onto our pathway toward the office.

As I made the turn, I could hear the sound of earth moving and little voices. I couldn’t see them because they were behind the hedgerow, but what I heard next stopped me in my tracks.

(Not being able to see them, I guessed that they were in the dirt/mud box with little shovels and/or sticks)

Kinder 1 – Hey! Good job digging that hole and putting it on the side so we can use it later!

Kinder 2- Thanks! You too! Keep digging!

(Digging sounds slow down)

Kinder 1-  Phew! This is tough work. Hey! If we keep digging we can turn this hole into a tunnel!

Kinder 2- Great idea! We can dig a tunnel right under the wall!!

(Digging sounds speed up)

Kinder 1- Yes!! And then we can dig under the fence and break outta the school!!

Kinder 2-  Okay! Let’s do it!!!

I couldn’t help but smile and wonder at what point two little, dirt covered kiddos would bust through the sod shouting “Freedom!” “We did it!”

There are many lessons I took away from this, such as: the joy of learning and working, the importance of creativity and imagination in life, teamwork, positive affirmations, reaching one’s goal often takes effort and energy, etc.

But the lesson that resonated most with me was “Yes, And…”  “Yes, and…” is a game in Improv that can lead to wonderful results.  Adults so much more frequently say, “Yes, but…”

I immediately connected this conversation with a conference I attended during the winter break. The particular session was on Design Thinking and while I will share more about that later, a key element of this process requires that we build on others’ ideas and they too draw on improv for this type of collaboration. For children this is easy, but as we grow older, accepting ideas from others and building on them becomes increasingly difficult. It’s no wonder that childhood is such an incredible time!

For those of us who lean toward “Yes, but…,” I encourage you to try “Yes, and…” this week.

Tina Fey’s, Bossypants (p84) offers a few guidelines for those of us who need practice in this:

  •   Agree
    • Respect the other person and start with yes.
  •   Say “Yes and…
    • Build on their ideas.
  •   Make Statements
    • Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”
  •   THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only Opportunities.
    • Who knows where this will lead?

Have a great weekend!


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