Well, Yes, but Actually No

Don’t you just love that title?

It came from a student’s answer to one of the questions I posed on Google Classroom. When I opened the student’s document and read the answer, I paused. My eyes kept looking at all five words, and I tried to comprehend just those words. Of course, the student expounded and explained, but I had to muddle through the first part of the answer.

“Well, yes, but, actually, no.”

What does that mean?

If you’re not familiar with this type of answer, that means that you either not a parent or a teacher. I’m not a parent, but I am a teacher, and as a teacher, I get these types of answers all of the time.

Before S.D. (Social Distancing), when we were in the classroom, I would have discussion questions with my classes, and I would beg them to make a claim and stand on it. But, that was very difficult for this generation — they would always ask me if they could choose both sides.


It’s either yes or no. Black or white. Choose one side!

It’s a hard lesson that no one wants to learn. I believe it’s in the Bible that we have to choose a side because God gives us free will. In fact, God said that if we are lukewarm, He will spit us out of his mouth.

Yes, lukewarm water is not good. Cold water is good in lemonade, and it is refreshing, hot water is good for tea and is soothing; however, lukewarm is good enough to gargle and, yes, spit out.

My parents used to preach, “You cannot straddle the fence.”

But, I’m not writing about taking a spiritual stand; I am writing about just taking a position. Believing things for yourself and to be upright about it.

Before I begin a debate or Socratic Seminar in my class, we talk about taking a side and finding evidence to back up their claim. The students are not to be persuaded by others; if they believe in something, then they should not waver in that belief.

“Wait, can I say yes and no?” they would ask me.


Yes or No. Not yes and no.

These poor kids! Life might be difficult for them as they get older, especially when it comes to making decisions. I am concerned for them, and I am hoping that their parents are working with their children to help them make educated decisions.

While my student’s answer can be comedic, it is frustrating. I try to teach my students to back up their answers with evidence. I connect them to how a lawyer defends or prosecutes – they always need proof to support their cases. It’s a life lesson to choose either yes or no and back it up with facts. If you select “yes,” provide evidence as to why you agree; if you want “no,” then provide proof to help you defend your no answer.

Is it simple? No. Not really. Especially at their age, but that’s why they are students, and they are learning. This is my job to help them to think critically – to be secure in their decisions and not waver.

Yet, this is a small victory. The “well, yes, but actually no” is a win! Before, my students used to say, “I don’t know.”

I’ll take that answer over ” I don’t know” any day!

Author: L.S. Watson

Hi. My name is L.S. Watson, and I'm an English teacher at a charter high school. I enjoy traveling (my favorite places are Rome and Paris), writing poetry, and watching documentaries. I have a lovable yet stubborn Yorkie-Poo named Chuy.

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