Something took place during my most recent stay in a kindergarten class that I will always remember, primarily so as not to repeat it. It was the end of the day and I made it possible for each of my students to pick one of my stickers before leaving the class. The stickers are part of my magic substitute bag that I bring to nearly all of my teaching assignments.
One of my little girls was particularly active and difficult to keep focused. Almost predictably, she was not satisfied with one sticker for her and one for her tiny stuffed dog. As nearly everyone had gone through the sticker line, she asked for yet another sticker. After confirming that she already had one for herself and her dog, I asked if she was seeking a third, to which she replied, “Yes.” At that point, I said no, you have enough.
It was a mistake on all levels. For one, I have about 5,000 stickers and one would not have made a difference. More importantly, I failed to recognize an opportunity to say yes instead of no, a lesson for us all who have the opportunity to impact young lives.
From the time that students enter a classroom until the moment they are reunited with parents or enter a school bus, they are most likely to hear the word “no” much more often than “yes.” That doesn’t work. As educators, parents, grandparents or any other adult, we can and must make the world a place full of empowerment and acknowledgement rather than denial and discouragement.
You might want to make the argument that I was teaching this young lady how to be considerate and truthful. She did not admit to having two stickers in place before I asked her. Or it may have been an opportunity for me to remind her that if she took more than her share, there wouldn’t be enough for everyone in the future. To a five- or six-year-old, the future is as nebulous as what she’s going to be getting for Christmas. It would have been a perfect time to combine a tiny act of generosity with a learning moment. “I’ll give you this extra sticker but next time, please tell me that you already have two and you wanted the third for a gift.” Yes, this is a mature lesson for an immature person. But it’s never too early to say yes instead of no. Shalom.