Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unexpected Yes

Friday night my husband Mike walked into the room and said he had something to talk to me about. Our family had been thinking about doing a beach trip in a few weeks, but he had discovered that the weather would be rainy the week planned. He had just found a great deal for the beach, but it would mean we needed to leave early in the morning.

Now in the past hearing this news I would have thought of every single possible issue with leaving right away such as the doctor appointments, the activities planned, and things I was in charge of for that week at church, but my immediate response was, YES.

I knew this was an opportunity that came knocking and the door needed to be opened right away. So we quickly packed and got the car ready. At 5AM we put the girls in their car seats. We then took off to St. Simons beach and by 10:30 am we had our feet in the sand.

During this trip I witnessed our girls overcome their fear of water, jumping in and splashing with joy. I saw my husband’s playful spirit, making sandcastles with our little ones. I was overjoyed to be a part of many giggles which will remain in my heart for years to come.

What would have happened if I did not say, Yes.

I know. The experience would have been lost.

In the classroom we are taught to be planned for everything. We do lesson plans each week, we plan for ways to improve our students learning, and we plan and attend meetings. At times this becomes who we are, planned.

This year I discovered that saying Yes helped me not only become a better teacher, but a better person.

My students this year had many passions that they brought into the classroom. I had one student, Willow who loves kites. Each day we have a time called Team Build where students can build and play. Willow made a kite during Team Build and brought it outside with her to fly. As we were on the sidewalk together, one of the students, said “I wish we could make kites.”

I thought about it…why not? We were doing measurement. I thought couldn’t they make kites and add runners to learn the difference between short and long, couldn’t we make kites and measure our longest strand with different objects and rulers? Couldn’t we go fly the kites and see whose kite goes the highest?

So we did!

I scratched the measurement lesson I had previously planned. I had Willow share her kite and how she made it. I played a video clip from YouTube (Thank You YouTube for existing!), and the students made kites. This ended up being a two-day lesson because the kids were so motivated to make their kite their personal best. The kids loved learning about kites, making them, measuring them, and of course flying them! One fourth grade classroom even used the kite lesson to study about angles. It was my husband’s class, but hey it was a class.

Watching my students fly those kites made a Yes, stamp on my heart. I started thinking about other ways I could say Yes to my students. Then I came across a book, Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran @MathDenisNJ. This book tells about how educators can make learning more relevant to their students and how we can bring student interest into our lessons. This book gave me the affirmation I needed to continue to look for ways to make learning come alive in my classroom.
In order to be the best version of ourselves we have to take those opportunities that come up in our classrooms and say, “Yes!” Even when they don’t fit the plan we made for that day. Those spur of the moment lessons can make the biggest impact on our students and sometimes the biggest impact on our own hearts.

In my life and in my classroom I am going to continue to look for ways to say Yes. I am going to continue to plan, but I am also going to be ready to scratch that plan at any time to go with something unexpected. I have found it is often in the unexpected that learning truly unfolds. It is where we receive so many gifts we would not have received if we spent too much time asking How.

Let’s look inside ourselves and see where we can say Yes, so we can create experiences for our students that will stay with them for many years to come. 


  1. Great message Alana, we need to create those experiences for ourselves and our students. Happy you had a wonderful time with family! I really enjoy reading about your experiences with the students, their passions and all of the fun learning

  2. This is such an important post and needs to be shared widely. This is what it means to really learn-and you have beautifully allowed real life into your room to make meaning of curriculum. I hope many will read this message and let their students have a real education like what you've described here.

  3. Beautiful and insightful post into the power of Yes! through risk-taking, adventure and autonomy. Thank you Alana Stanton!

  4. All too often, we use our planning as a way to avoid having to say YES to anything outside those plans. As you point out, this is when we miss the "teachable moments" those 'awesome moments of learning and adventure' that come along. What I try to tell my ed students is that you plan so you know where you're going which then gives you the opportunity to grab onto those moments because you know where you are going - this moment is providing you another path. As an administrator I've watched amazing teachers take off on some pretty great excursions with students because they were okay with saying "YES" to the moment. Thanks for sharing with us!

  5. Alana,

    What a great story. I hope you made made great memories with your family. What a great reminder for educators, flexibility. Changing up the what, when, and how we do things adds excitement, curiosity, and promotes engagement. Great reminder and post.


  6. Every moment is a teachable moment, but how often do we take the time to embrace those moments and make them work for our students? I love this post - what a great reminder for educators, but for all those who are a little less on the spontaneous side! (I, for one, am not one of them!) :)

  7. What a beautiful story of living in the moment! You are a special teacher who touches the lives of so many!❤️

  8. I love this! Your students will forever remember the experiences that they enjoyed under your leadership. Through opportunities for student choice and voice, you are building a community of leaders who will positivity impact our world through the critical thinking and problem solving skills that you embed. Let's make 2017 the Year of more YES!