Agency begins with a culture of ‘yes’

During the Christmas holiday, one of my students emailed me asking if she could organise a Skype between the class and her godmother in France.

We had just finished reading Alan Gratz’s phenomenal Refugee, as a class read aloud. The class had previously Skyped one of my contacts who works for Amnesty International, and now the student was wondering if we could Skype her godmother who works for a French-based NGO who finds jobs for refugees.


On the day of the Skype call, half a dozen enthusiastic Year 3s came into the pod at lunchtime keen to organise a Rainbow day for refugees. Keen that the children build up an understanding first, I asked if they would be interested in joining our Skype call.

“Yes!” the children replied and they proudly came up to join my ‘big’ Year 6s for the call.


Watching the Skype call, I pondered how this moment came down to one simple word.


Yes to reading ‘hard’ books – Refugee is a challenging book for 10-year-olds. Finding time to read a lengthy novel aloud to a class is challenging. But if we want our children to be reading, then teachers must be modelling reading books too!

Yes to modelling effective digital citizenship. The rich power of the internet isn’t just about users accessing content, but users creating and connecting. Through regular Skype calls, a blog to interact with other classes during the Global Read Aloud and classroom Instagram account, I model the kind of digital citizen I wish to my learners to be.

Yes to re-thinking our student council. Student council at our school is not a series of pointless lunchtime meetings.  Instead, it’s a time when kids come in with ideas of action they can take.

Yes to learning moments. The Year 3 teachers were more than happy for their students to wander upstairs, knowing that the learning their students were doing was just as important as whatever it was that was on the planner for the day.

Learner agency is more than choice boards and teacher-scheduled genius hours, it’s about a culture of yes running through a school.

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