Tag Archives: I can statements

In an “I can …” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet” (TBT Remix)

Carol Dweck’s newly released TED talk, The power of believing that you can improve, helped me select this week’s Throwback Thursday post.

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

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

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, published 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 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.

How might we foster growth mindset in ourselves and others?

What if we embrace the power of yet?


In an “I can…” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet” was originally published on September 19, 2012

Learning is everywhere if you pay attention

Originally published in Flourish, April, 2013:

Learning is everywhere if you pay attention. At Trinity, we want every learner to know about themselves, the conditions that inspire their success, and the indicators that their struggles are worth it in the end.

Learning is – should be – reciprocal.  If I learn from you, then I want you to learn from me. Our mindset offers us the opportunity to have a broad view of our teachers.

Perhaps one of Trinity’s first graders taught the most enduring lesson I have learned this year.  Daily I struggled to accomplish a difficult task. (I was trying to work through a 10K training program.)  Many days, when I hit the first hill I would quit and walk.  It was too hard.  The distance was too long.  I just don’t run hills.  Yet, day after day, I would try again, getting more and more frustrated. Should I just quit? No one was holding me accountable. This was just a project that I started for myself.

Enter T, my teacher.  As I was walking down the hall, I noticed that T was working on a piece of writing.  To say it wasn’t going well would be putting it mildly.  He was frustrated to the point of being mad.

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“This is too hard.  I cannot do this.  No one cares about this anyway.  I am never going to finish this.  I have so much to do.  I can’t do it.  I want to quit!”

I heard my words in his words.  I knew how he felt.  What he had, however, was a strategy that I did not have.  I, too, had a strategy he did not have.

First, we shared what we could not do.  He explained the entire story to me. Including his strategy.  The longer he talked, the more he worked and the further he got on his piece.

“Miss Jill, I’m never going to finish this.  It is too hard. It is too long.  I just won’t get to the end. I have only gotten this far.”

“I have only gotten this far” is the key to the lesson.  T was charting his progress.  He was keeping a record of what he could do.  Wow! Maybe instead of focusing on the entire project, I could focus on what I can do now and what I should do next.  By the time T reached the end of his piece, he was telling me what he was good at doing along with the strengths and talents of his brother and his friends. I learned to not stop while pushing up the hill.  I learned to tell myself what I have done, what I can do now, and what I should do next.

Turn “I can’t” into “I can.” – A powerful lesson to practice at any age.

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?