In an “I can …” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet

My previous post, Spreading an “I can …” culture: Aware, Enable, Empower, has generated genuinely great questions.

  • What if they can’t, Jill? Really, what if they can’t say “I can…” at the end of the unit?
  • Math is so easy, Jill.  Can we do write “I can…” statement for other subjects, courses, or ideas?

Erin Paynter, @erinpaynter, published How Do You Help Student Reach Their Yet?  Can it be as simple as adding the word yet?  What if we repeat the questions with yet?

What if they can’t yet?  Really, what if they say “I can’t yet…” at the end of the unit?

From Erin Paynter:

“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?”

Isn’t the answer now obvious?  We try again.  We collaborate to investigate other techniques, strategies, and opportunities.  We take action.  We send the message that “you can…” and we are going to work on it together until you can.  Learning is the constant; time is a variable.

Peyton Williams, @epdwilliams, answered the second question.  On her blog, Superfluous Thoughts, she published the essential learning “I can…” statements in her 5 Week Update for 8th Grade English post and in her 5 week update for Writing Workshop Enviro Writing post.

From Peyten Williams in an open letter to parents and students explaining her grading policy:

1) Letting a kid fail is not in my job description. I am supposed to teach, not judge. If it takes Johnny 17 times to understand where to put a comma between independent clauses, then so be it. I want him to learn commas, not learn that he can’t do them.

“I can…” instead of “I can’t…”  is teaching for learning.

I plan to use both sets of Peyten’s “I can…” statements to self-assess my writing and thinking.  I am thrilled to see that this “I can…” contagion can be both scalable and transferable.

Peyten’s posts also cause me to wonder what my “I can…” statements are for this semester.  By the end of this semester, I should be able to say “I can…” to the following.

  • I can embrace learning personally and professionally.
    • I can model that learning is process-oriented and ongoing.
    • I can use personal reflection to learn, grow, and challenge myself.
    • I can share my learning with others to garner feedback and to connect ideas.
  • I can use formative assessment to inform next steps in the learning process.
    • I can identify and acknowledge strengths, persistence, and challenges.
    • I can facilitate personalized goal setting and growth.
    • I can differentiate learning experiences based on the needs of each learner.

What if I share these “I can…” statements with my team?  How will they morph and improve? If “I can’t…” creeps into the thinking, will “yet” follow?


  1. […] Well, it has been far too long since I’ve made time for a reflective post here! There are so many posts I still want to write – about the amazing design thinking experience I had at FUSE14, the hubbub of ed tech tools and ideas that always come from attending ISTE, my experiences teaching two new summer classes on Raspberry Pi and coding, and my work facilitating a four day faculty workshop at my school. It was a busy summer (and a hard one)! So busy, clearly, that I haven’t had a chance to write about it … yet. […]


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