“I Can’t…” -The worst swear word ever!

In my classes, “can’t” is a swear word. It has become a poisonous word. I describe it as a word that poisons our best selves, along with other phrases such as “I’m no good”, “I always get it wrong” or “I’m dumb”. It closes doors on possibilities that can be developed.

I wanted to create an impact with children about their thinking that they would remember.’ I chose ‘poisonous thinking’ as an imagery of slowly killing off our best self every time we say things like, ”I can’t read”, “I can’t draw”, “I can’t do this...”, “I’ll never get it!” etc. It can have devastating effects on learning. It impacts on setting up belief systems that inhibit children being their best selves. This has lifelong implications for thoughts that they are adopting in childhood.


It becomes a fun thing in our room when either child or adult says the word ‘can’t’, their name is recorded on the board. It’s not a shame thing, it is an awareness reminder of us all getting involved to practice reframing our thinking into phrases such as, “I will get this”, “I can do this”, “With practice I’m getting better and better” and “I’m doing my best right now”. After all, elite athletes get mindset training…why not all of us in schools.


With a little research on how the brain works and modern science of Neuroplasticity, (which is the process in which your brain's neural synapses and pathways are altered as an effect of environmental, behavioural, and neural changes) it becomes clear the importance of educating our youth with this knowledge. But also realising I need to model the change I wish to see in the youth of the next generation.


This small shift in our focus has the potential for huge impacts at the grassroots of family and school culture for developing respectful relationships. Firstly, with what we think, say and do about ourselves and secondly how we impact others on what we think, say and do to them. Being aware and learning to reframe our own thoughts from being ‘poisonous’ to ‘fertilised thinking’, is an important foundational skill.


This was one of the main reasons why I wrote and illustrated the children’s rhyming book ‘A Wise Apple Tree Helps Me’ – Top Tips for Wise Kids’ to help remind, not only children, but all of us to create a focus of the things we want to think, see and do.

- Andrew Holt


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