I have endured, participated in, and downright caused many failures in my twenty years as an educator. But my greatest failures occur when I view children as they are, instead of what they can be or will be. When I used words like CAN’T and WON’T instead of CAN and WILL.
As parents, teachers, and adults, we are all susceptible to this great temptation. The temptation to see these young people at times as finished products. They are anything but.
I have learned that the most important word in the English language is YET. One word, three letters, massive implications.
As my good friend and fellow Head of School Joe Powers wrote, the word YET implies there is more to come, more work to be done, and that growth is expected.
As an educator I cannot think of a more important or meaningful word. YET.
Our children and students have amazed and frustrated us for years. We think we know them. We think we know what they are about. What they are good at and what they are not so good at. What they like and what they don’t like. Who they are and who they aren’t. We think we know them.
We don’t. We can’t. They’re not done YET.
Our children CAN and WILL, if we allow them the space to fail and allow ourselves to be patient and wait. No easy task.
But the world is full of incredible people for whom YET was instrumental. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Katy Perry’s first album sold only 200 copies. In 1995, all twelve major book publishers rejected JK Rowling’s script for Harry Potter. Henry Ford’s first car company, the Detroit Automobile Company, went bankrupt, and Thomas Edison once famously wrote, “I now definitely know over 9,000 ways an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”
Our children and students face the same temptation. I hear all the time from students, “I can’t write well,” “I don’t understand geometric proofs,” “I can’t hit a curveball.” The only appropriate response to those statements is YET.
But YET does not happen without hard work, time management, perseverance, grit, and a growth mindset.
So challenge your children as they make their way through the world to allow themselves the time and space to fail and to be imperfect, to learn and grow, and as author Dr. Carol Dweck said in her TedTalk, “To live in places filled with YET. “
And challenge yourself as parents and friends to let them.