1. cherraolthof

    Really good post George. I'm often asked by new teachers what my best piece of advice is and I respond with, "Learn how to use the word no, unless you want to kill yourself." I didn't learn how to use the word 'no' until I had my own kids. Then it became easy because they became the priority. I often find that people often find they have to follow up their 'no' response with an immediate reason as to WHY they are saying no. I suppose the part about being able to say 'no' needs to also be linked to the ability to accept a 'no', without the "come ons' 😉

  2. I was gonna read your blog, and then I was like, "no."

    HA! Kidding! Yes, I understand this all too well. I've only just started to say no in my professional life, and I know I need to be doing more of it. Especially with a change in jobs coming this summer.

    What bugs me is when you respectfully say, "No, I can't do that" and people badger you to change your mind. In my case, I just blame my family and other outside commitments, and it usually makes people pause long enough for me to escape. But people should stop assuming that single folks, or those without children, can automatically take on more just because they may not have as many family commitments. It's a form of bias in my opinion.

  3. Yes! Yes! Yes! You atre so right on the spot with this post. Educators seem to have an innate need to please others and they feel guilty for saying no. I have a good friend who is a teacher who has been on the verge of burning out for a couple of years now. I'm constantly reminding him that he should not take on so much and that he must take time for himself. He has said yes for so long that he feels incredibly guilty for trying to do something simple like eating lunch alone in his room while grading papers. He is the go to tech guy in his school so his colleagues are constantly asking him for help. He is just one of many teachers who I know that can't say no.

    I have learned over that last few years that I have to say no once in a while. I realized I was running myself ragged and I wasn't doing anything very well. That is why I decided to not organize the ISTE Newbie project this year. You know more than anyone how much that project means to me, but I could not in good faith do it this year because I knew my heart would not be in it.

  4. Love this. I'm not one who usually says no. I'm usually the last one to leave school & always one to volunteer. While being out on medical leave I see my kids much more then I did before. Longer I'm at home more I'm enjoying their company and seeing what I've missed while coaching and working 13 hour days at least once a week. So last week I called my principal and said "no" to coaching next year. It was so hard and many tears were shed but more I think about it the more opportunities I see can happen. Even something as simple as working out, I'll have time to do so now. Slowly I'm feeling better about my decision. Thanks for writing this. Much needed to be said.

  5. Can't Say NO

    I am awake at 1:30 am because I am trying to make a decision about my role on the executive committee of our school's CTA. I am miserable on the committee; the more I try to get things changed, the harder the top 2 fight me. Our CTA only has about 5 members attending because of the same thing causing me misery. I want to quit. I feel obligated to stay and continue to fight the good fight. I want to say "no" before elections next week. Thanks for your post, it gives me food for thought.

  6. Leslie

    I came to a similar decision earlier this year about committee work. Found that it was not feeding me. It is hard to say no. We enter the profession because we are caring and passionate people. That is hard to turn off. I like being needed. However, I also, like you, need to find things that intrinsically motivate me. And, like you, they don't have to be the same things that motivated me in the past. Sounds like you have done a great deal of soul searching. Way to go.

  7. John Downs

    A friend of mine at school decided that "no" was one of our weaknesses, and we came up with the line: "Let me think about that, and get back with you" instead of our first instinct of always saying yes. And while some people realize it is a bit of a delay tactic, we found it actually works and gives us time to think about whether or not we want to do something.

  8. Sometimes the pressure to say yes doesn't come from outside sources. For me, as someone with some type A tendencies, I struggle with saying no to myself. For example, it is tough for me to walk away from a blog post I want to read when I know I should be asleep. I like to take on challenges because it keeps my mind engaged. I love the thrill of having so many projects spinning in my head, like the guy at the circus spinning the plates. But you're right it is also about balance. I feel most successful when I walk the line between doing as much as I possibly can without compromising my personal life. Okay, maybe my apartment gets a little neglected. However, I am also most productive then too. I know sometimes I cross the line (ever tried training for an Ironman or five – talk about a huge accomplishment but a major time sucker) and I need to work at having a better work/life balance. For me that has meant technology free hours in my home. It has meant more time outside with my friends and family. It means running, swimming, yoga, and spin classes are scheduled before I open the computer or schedule a meeting.
    Thank you for reminding me to put me at the forefront of my life. If I don't no one else will. As a side, I'm still really disappointed that I didn't get to meet you when you spoke to the Administrators in my district last month. I am however quite excited to meet your brother later this week. You sure you don't want to come along for the ride. I'm sure we can find a space for you. 🙂

  9. Simon Clarke

    I have struggled with this a number of times. Most recently just before Christmas last year. I have always held holiday singalongs at my elementary school. As a guitar player and natural performer it is one of my first loves. That was until two years ago when a parent overheard some of our older students singing versions of songs that were inappropriate. She went above our heads and complained that I was promoting violence and inappropriate music. I ended up having to submit lyrics and song lists and defend myself in front of Directors and such.

    This year when I said "NO" to doing this my staff immediately started pushing me to do it. The guilt was laid on thick and then the voice of admin got involved. In the end, I was told I had to do it. So much for having the ability to say no.

    As teachers and administrators, I feel we have to be able to make these types of decisions. Yes, it might mean giving up some things that have become expected, but we have to look at the health and well being of our staffs.

    Great post George! Thanks for raising such an important topic.

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  11. “Love is a bicycle with two pancakes for wheels. You may see love as more of an exercise in hard work, but I see it as more of a breakfast on the go.”

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