For some reason, the word “no” is extremely tough for educators to say. Well to be honest, it is actually very easy when it is proceeded by “I should have said…” while we are caught in a wave of work that is seemingly extremely tough to keep up with. As social media connects us more, requests from others seem to grow as well. I am proud to say that I have been someone who has offered help continuously to those who have asked, but as I have learned to reflect, I am seeing that I have disconnected from many of the things that I love.
You see this in educators all the time. In Canada, extracurricular activities are voluntary and teachers are amazing at giving their own time to provide awesome after-school programming that helps to build the culture and skill-sets of our students. I could not be more thankful for the coaches that spent a significant amount of time with me on the basketball court. In fact, many times I believe that I learned more from my interactions and opportunities from sports then I actually did from school. I learned how to face adversity, deal with challenges, and work effectively in a team. I didn’t learn everything from sports, but I did learn a lot. If it wasn’t for the generous giving of time from many of my coaches, I would not have had that extremely important learning.
Wanting to give the same opportunities to students I taught, I coached for several years and loved every minute of it. I was always so proud of the kids I coached in basketball and football and those long road trips help to build connections that last long after students leave school. One day however, I just felt like I needed a break from coaching for the year. I thought about it deeply, and after long contemplation, I decided to give it another year. As I went through that year, I realized that I didn’t love it anymore. My heart was just not into coaching and although I wanted to provide those same opportunities for our students that I had as a kid, I felt that I was not giving them the same passion that was modeled for me when I played.
The following year, after much deliberation, I prepared myself to say “no” when it was asked if I would coach again. I lost sleep about it. I couldn’t eat (which is EXTREMELY rare!). Then it came and when I was asked, I said no. This was followed by what my friends call the “come ons”; the insistent “come on…you should do it for the kids”, “come on…you love basketball”. The extreme guilt that followed was tough to take but I stuck with my decision. That year, I started my masters and it was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have had. I enjoyed the opportunity to watch from afar yet take some time to pursue some of my own interests. To this day, I still feel guilt about the decision but I know that it wasn’t fair to myself or to the kids, to do something begrudgingly and half-heartedly.
As the requests come in, I have again struggled with the word “no”. Something that I promised myself a few years ago was that I would never do anything that I didn’t love. This year, I stepped away from reffing basketball (my first season totally away from the game since I was 8), I have cut down on teaching classes at the gym (from 7 to 3 a week), and I have taken a step back from some aspects of social media. I have replaced much of that with spending time with my friends, building relationships, and taking my dogs to the park more in a week then I used to in a year. To be honest, I am enjoying every moment of it.
While many teachers have this attitude that they can’t please everyone, but they sure are going to try, they often leave out themselves. Saying ‘no’ to certain things often means saying ‘yes’ to others. Keeping commitments is still a huge priority to me, but above all, doing things with a smile on my face and in my heart seems to be a lot more important as of late 🙂