Yes, but…

Visiting Manual high school has been such a positive experience. I originally was skeptical of what I was seeing but after being there for three days, I am convinced. Manual is an incredible school with a very strong community. Test scores don’t reflect the true learning and human development that is happening at Manual. Manual’s building and athletic facilities are valued but the teaching going on inside the school isn’t fully recognized – why? Why can’t people take the time to go inside and experience how empowering of a school Manual is?

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Manual High School
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Manual Athletic Facilities


Yesterday we met with Laini Hodges who graduated from Manual in 1997 and is now a performance coach and facilitator. During her workshops, she uses improvisation as a way to break barriers between people and get everybody on a common ground. Laini was part of a desegregation effort that bussed students from the country club area into Manual. She had a very different experience than students have today at Manual but a commonality was the community aspect. Manual seems to have always had a special community.

During our time with Laini, we played an improvisation game. I encourage you to try this with somebody.


  1. Find a partner. You are going to plan a birthday party together.
  2. Start by one person saying a general statement about being excited for the party.
  3. The next person then responds “Yes, but…” and then adds something about the party.
  4. The first person responds in the same way, “Yes, but…”
  5. Continue for about 2 minutes.


My partner and I found this very difficult. Our party went from something exciting to something negative. The party planning went downhill very quickly. After we had planned the party with “yes, but” statements, we tried it with “yes, and” statements. This time by the end of the two minutes we had planned an extravagant party and we were both giddy with excitement.

This game was quick but powerful. When we used “yes, but” statements, suddenly everything our partner said became invalidated. The word “but” turned the entire feeling of the conversation to a negative one.

How do we use “but” in our everyday conversations do devalue what others say? How are students at Manual affected by “yes, but” statements? Yes what you are learning at school is important, but your test scores are still low. Yes Manual is a good school, but gentrifiers in the neighborhood don’t send their students there. I think “yes, but” statements are detrimental if we want to see changes in our education system. We need to look more at the entire picture of a school like Manual. Instead of saying – yes there is quality learning going on but then disregarding it by saying, but test scores aren’t good – we need to look at the bigger picture. We need to start introducing more “yes, and” conversations into our daily lives. Yes, Manual is great, and it has room for improvement. This statement has a lot more potential.


HCU CR 2/28/16


2 thoughts on “Yes, but…

  1. I’m also incredibly thankful for the time we were able to spend with Laini, as it brought to fruition the power of our language in crafting our mindsets and setting our intentions. When we think about reform, about innovation, about change, we’re finding out that in Education, many people tend to think they “know best.” Topics of change can be sensitive, those on opposing ends can get defensive, and agendas can interfere with productive listening and collaboration. I really want to be mindful of how I respond to new ideas, whether in conversation about education or something completely different, because I think that by consciously adopting a “yes, and” mindset, my work with others can become more meaningful and productive.



  2. I like that you brought the conversation of “yes, but” into the conversation about Manual. What are some other “yes, and” statements that can change the conversations around Manual. Far too often, the only conversations we have are about the things schools are lacking, and not about what the schools are doing well. I liked what Jerome talked about today when he said “We want to change the decree to reflect what we do well, what we are working on, and what still needs to be improved and here are some tips of how.” I think that provides a much more meaningful conversation than telling people all of the things they are doing poorly, without providing solutions.


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