"Yes, And!" vs. "No, But."
Updated: Sep 7
“I don’t want to talk to you,” a sixth grader recently told me. “Good. Cuz I don’t want to talk to you either,” I replied. “I only want to talk to the girl sitting beside you.”
He loved my response. He knew we had just begun the “Yes, And!” game. And he couldn’t wait for my next move.
My sparring partner for this match of “Yes, And!” was a kid with a lot of drama in his life. He is a kid who needs boundaries to function but hates limits set upon him.
We meet once a week. He knows that I’m not like his teachers or teacher’s assistant. I offer him responses that he can’t presume.
I’m at his school as an educational clown.
If said sixth grader had said he didn't want to speak to a teacher, he may have been reprimanded for rudeness. But when Oshi, my clown alter ego, handed him a ridiculous reply, it was obvious the popular drama game of “Yes, And!” had begun.
“Yes, And!” is a theatrical exercise that forces players to agree with another’s ideas and build on them.
Can it work in a school setting where rules are rules and regulations are regulations?
The answer, is, a big YES. Oh Yes!
The improv game works with everyone: defiant kids and naughty ones, witty pupils and nerdy sorts, rule-keepers and rule-breakers.
The kids in the school love when Oshi agrees with whatever they say and adds to it.
Oshi does not promote rudeness, breaking of rules or disobedience.
Oshi does endorse a sense of humor, fun, and absurdity in the school setting.
“Yes, And!” is an entertaining game and one that empowers the players. It makes people smile, have fun, and build on their imagination. In school, no less!
This positive language – agreeing with what is offered by the student – is one of the tenets of an educational clown.
"No, But," is a response that is so much easier to give. But “no, but” is not in my clown lexicon.
I always let the kids I meet in the school establish the setting and plot for a conversation. And almost always a game of “Yes, And!” ensues. The challenge is to avoid rejecting what the pupil offers and instead find a way to flow with their ideas.
It is always a different way of thinking. It always requires imagination and improvisation. It always gives rise to absurdity.
Educational clowns, after all, are in schools to add a therapeutic state of playfulness to the halls and classrooms.
Yes, and... we do a whole lot more.
Update: I was an educational clown from Dec. 2018-Dec. 2019 and write about my experiences.