One Little Word – Kathy Jackson

There’s a sentence I don’t like to hear people use in my classes. Actually, I hate it. Hate it so much that I used to stop them from saying it.

The sentence is, “I can’t.” I can’t hit the target from here. I can’t shoot as fast as you’re asking me to shoot. I can’t picture making the choice to defend myself. I can’t…

I can’t.

“You’re not allowed to say that in my class,” I’d tell them when they said it. “It’s not allowed.” I’d say it playfully, jokingly, in a friendly way, working for the laugh. And they would laugh. And we’d go on with the lesson.

But I came to realize that I was being profoundly disrespectful when I said that. Disrespecting my student, disrespecting their learning process, disrespecting their decision to be part of my class. Disrespecting my own skill as a teacher – and my own limitations.

It was profoundly disrespectful because they weren’t lying when they said they couldn’t do whatever-it-was. They were telling the truth.

They just weren’t telling all of it.

“I can’t” is an admission of failure. It hurts. And we hate to see our students hurt. That’s why I always wanted to flatly deny the place the students found themselves when they declared, “I can’t.” It’s a horrible place to be.

Here’s the shocking news:

By adding just one little word to that hateful sentence, we can their world upside down. And our own.

“I can’t do that” is an admission of failure.

“I can’t do that … yet” is a promise of victory.

Always add the yet.


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