Creating a "Yes" Environment

yes environment

Think back to when you were a child. How often were you told “no”? It probably felt frustrating and discouraging. Think of the children in your classroom now. How often are they told “no”? Are they—and you—able to enjoy your day together if you have to say “no” all the time?

When a classroom environment is set up so that teachers have to constantly say “no” to the children, it is stressful for everyone. The teacher stops being a facilitator of the children’s play and learning, and instead becomes a police officer, monitoring what the children can and cannot do. To reduce this stress, a classroom must provide an environment where the children are able to feel successful through opportunities to explore without the limitations of adult expectations.

There are four important parts to a “yes” environment: respect for the child, process instead of product, opportunities for risk-taking, and the teacher’s role in the classroom. Being thoughtful and intentional about implementing these qualities in the classroom allows for less stress and more success, for both the children and their teachers.

Respect for the child

It’s important to know where your children are in their development. You can then set up the classroom accordingly, providing areas or activities at which they can be successful without the assistance of an adult. Doing this shows that you have respect for what the children are able to do. Of course, giving them a few challenges isn’t a problem—but it becomes a problem when the children feel like they have to ask the adult to do it for them.

If you put a child onto a tricycle, he isn’t going to learn how to get onto it himself. The next time, if you aren’t there, he’ll be frustrated about doing it on his own. Children will eventually learn to use materials and equipment once they reach the developmental stage which allows them to navigate those things. If they become dependent on us to do it for them, they won’t feel successful doing an activity that is beyond their skill level.

Process instead of product

In creating an environment of success, it is crucial to offer open-ended activities and not expect a particular end result. Children need opportunities to explore materials in their own way, at their own pace. They need to be allowed to make messes and make mistakes.

When a young child begins to paint off the paper and onto the easel or tray, it’s hard to resist saying, “Don’t paint on the easel,” or, “Paper is for painting.” When you focus on the process, though, you see that the child is learning about how the paint and the brush work and where they make marks. Ask yourself: does it matter if the easel gets messy?

Opportunities for risk-taking

Children need opportunities to climb and run, to get messy and get wet. Fortunately, they’re still small, and if they fall down, they’re close to the ground. Falling probably scares them more than it does injury to their bodies. While you can do your best to prevent hazards, you can’t ensure that children will never get hurt. You can be there to help if they do get hurt, but you shouldn’t hover.

If a toddler wants to climb up the ramp onto the climbing structure, and you’re not sure how she’ll manage, be nearby in case she needs help. Don’t place her onto the ramp or pull her down if she seems stuck. Don’t tell her, “No, that isn’t safe.” Doing so sends the message that you will always be there to move her onto and off of the ramp and that she isn’t capable of climbing the structure. If she never falls, she never learns how to hold on tightly, how to balance her body, or how to catch herself if she slips.

The teacher’s role

The most important role of teacher in a “yes” classroom is as facilitator. In this role, teachers give guidance and partner with children in their learning processes. This takes the emphasis off the teacher’s agenda and puts in on what children are doing and how the teacher can assist them.

If you’re feeling that the children are “out of control,” reflect on what is happening in that moment. Often, a teacher’s expectations of what should be happening don’t match where the children are developmentally and temperamentally. Rather than expect children to sit still for a story at circle time, you might have to change your own thinking in order to meet the children’s needs in that moment. If some children want to run, give them the option to run before the story—or excuse them from the circle altogether, which gives them an opportunity to run while the remaining children hear the story. What if no children want to sit still for a story? Perhaps it isn’t the right time, and you can try again later.

Teachers set up the classroom, create the schedule of the day, and plan the curriculum. We also have to be flexible because the classroom is for the children. The focus should be on what the children want to do. If we try to control too many elements, it becomes easy to feel “out of control” and stressed out. In those moments, it might be best to take a breath, maybe laugh a little, and understand that it’s time to try something different.

Creating a “yes” environment in the classroom doesn’t mean that teachers allow the children to do whatever they want. It means that we have patience for the children and meet their needs in a developmentally appropriate way. In doing this, we get back to what children actually want to do with their bodies. It may also mean that we push the limits of our comfort zones to get there. If it means less stress for every person in the classroom, the journey is worth it.

Join the conversation (19 comments)
About the Author Gonsoski Teresa

Teresa Gonsoski

Teresa Gonsoski has been teaching in the field of early childhood education for thirteen years and has worked with all age groups, from infants to preschoolers. She has a Master of Arts in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College. Teresa currently teaches in the two-year-old program at the Children’s Center of the Stanford Community, a parent cooperative. She also organizes weekend campouts for families with preschool-age children and volunteers as a leader for backpacking trips.

 

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Comments (19)

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  • Jocelyne Martin

    I always enjoy your articles. This one is especially interesting. I appreciate all your imput in making our world a better place.

  • Gail

    This is a great article to share with everyone.

  • Marianthi Koritsaris

    I teach education classes to grad students at UIC. Love your article and will share with them.

  • Tanya Zato

    Thank you so much. This information is very helpful for me both at work and at home!

  • Debbie

    This is a great article to share with my staff. Thanks for your input in making our child care classes a better place. :)

  • Darla Fontana

    Love this article - I always teach ways to make the classroom environment the 3rd teacher - great example!

  • Kelly

    Great article! Just the reminder I needed today! :)

  • Suzette Espinoza-Cruz

    Love this Article , as an ECE Education Specialist for a Municipal government I am fortunate to support over 100 Early Learning and Before and After School Teachers and will definitely share this resource with them.

  • Sandra L

    I am writing my dissertation on preschool classroom environments and how it effects behavior. I love this article because it focuses on the child and their needs rather than on our agenda as facilitators. Excellent!

  • Ilana Horwitz

    Thank you Teresa-this is really helpful for me as a parent as well! I am working to incorporate these suggestions into our home environment.

  • Marty

    I enjoyed reading the article and will share it with my planning group.

  • Lori Holcomb

    Great article--nice to have at the beginning of a new semester.

  • Rose

    Thank you - this validates how our team are currently working and will motivate us to keep going. I hope many educators have reason to reflect on your article.

  • Julie Baxter

    I needed this today after a day of feeling "out of control" in my pre k class. This reminded me to let go of the control and let them be 4 year olds.

  • Eileen Murray

    I found this article to be a wonderful refresher to what I had already learned in my ECEC college classes. It helps to bring you back to what you were taught as to what should be happening in the classroom.

  • Theresa

    What a refreshing insight! Being in the childcare field is really the only job where you can be a child along with the children and not be judged. So let loose and play! Allow the children to experience the joy of being a Curious George.

  • Kathleen Walters

    Lovely to find an article by a fellow Pacific Oaks grad :) I recently spent time in a preschool classroom and watched as 4 young girls played "Christmas" in the pretend play area, retrieving bin toys from all around the classroom and literally dumping them onto the floor of the pretend play area. The teacher sat nearby, clearly wondering what if anything should be done. I spoke with the teacher later, who admitted to struggling with wanting to create a "yes environment" and yet wondering how the classroom would ever get "cleaned up" or put back together before going outdoors and then to lunch and nap in the same room. Additionally, the teacher often struggled to get the children to clean up after themselves. Is there another article that addresses the "facilitation" and guidance piece with the context of a "yes environment".

  • Annett saunders

    I always enjoy and learn from your articles! This one however, left me feeling a bit frustrated. I believe children should explore , create, build, and play. But I also believe in establishing boundaries within their worlds. Children want and need to know their own limitations as well as their homes and classrooms. In your article children have so much freedom, they may never hear "no" and that is not a real life experience. I am definitely going to post and engage in "It's the process not the product "in my classroom but I will establish it with in the necessary boundaries children need to have in order to feel safe and secure in their environment.

  • Ellen Sbarounus

    Thank you for the reminder on why process is so important. Thank you for reminding me that being a “yes” classroom does not mean anything goes. Thank you for providing a wealth of information to keep us focused on what is best practice in early childhood education!

View Comments 19
Close

Comments (19)

Leave a Comment
  • Jocelyne Martin

    I always enjoy your articles. This one is especially interesting. I appreciate all your imput in making our world a better place.

  • Gail

    This is a great article to share with everyone.

  • Marianthi Koritsaris

    I teach education classes to grad students at UIC. Love your article and will share with them.

  • Tanya Zato

    Thank you so much. This information is very helpful for me both at work and at home!

  • Debbie

    This is a great article to share with my staff. Thanks for your input in making our child care classes a better place. :)

  • Darla Fontana

    Love this article - I always teach ways to make the classroom environment the 3rd teacher - great example!

  • Kelly

    Great article! Just the reminder I needed today! :)

  • Suzette Espinoza-Cruz

    Love this Article , as an ECE Education Specialist for a Municipal government I am fortunate to support over 100 Early Learning and Before and After School Teachers and will definitely share this resource with them.

  • Sandra L

    I am writing my dissertation on preschool classroom environments and how it effects behavior. I love this article because it focuses on the child and their needs rather than on our agenda as facilitators. Excellent!

  • Ilana Horwitz

    Thank you Teresa-this is really helpful for me as a parent as well! I am working to incorporate these suggestions into our home environment.

  • Marty

    I enjoyed reading the article and will share it with my planning group.

  • Lori Holcomb

    Great article--nice to have at the beginning of a new semester.

  • Rose

    Thank you - this validates how our team are currently working and will motivate us to keep going. I hope many educators have reason to reflect on your article.

  • Julie Baxter

    I needed this today after a day of feeling "out of control" in my pre k class. This reminded me to let go of the control and let them be 4 year olds.

  • Eileen Murray

    I found this article to be a wonderful refresher to what I had already learned in my ECEC college classes. It helps to bring you back to what you were taught as to what should be happening in the classroom.

  • Theresa

    What a refreshing insight! Being in the childcare field is really the only job where you can be a child along with the children and not be judged. So let loose and play! Allow the children to experience the joy of being a Curious George.

  • Kathleen Walters

    Lovely to find an article by a fellow Pacific Oaks grad :) I recently spent time in a preschool classroom and watched as 4 young girls played "Christmas" in the pretend play area, retrieving bin toys from all around the classroom and literally dumping them onto the floor of the pretend play area. The teacher sat nearby, clearly wondering what if anything should be done. I spoke with the teacher later, who admitted to struggling with wanting to create a "yes environment" and yet wondering how the classroom would ever get "cleaned up" or put back together before going outdoors and then to lunch and nap in the same room. Additionally, the teacher often struggled to get the children to clean up after themselves. Is there another article that addresses the "facilitation" and guidance piece with the context of a "yes environment".

  • Annett saunders

    I always enjoy and learn from your articles! This one however, left me feeling a bit frustrated. I believe children should explore , create, build, and play. But I also believe in establishing boundaries within their worlds. Children want and need to know their own limitations as well as their homes and classrooms. In your article children have so much freedom, they may never hear "no" and that is not a real life experience. I am definitely going to post and engage in "It's the process not the product "in my classroom but I will establish it with in the necessary boundaries children need to have in order to feel safe and secure in their environment.

  • Ellen Sbarounus

    Thank you for the reminder on why process is so important. Thank you for reminding me that being a “yes” classroom does not mean anything goes. Thank you for providing a wealth of information to keep us focused on what is best practice in early childhood education!

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