Learning to say “No”
Teachers, on the whole, are a pretty compliant bunch. Ask them to do anything and they will often find a way to add it to their list. There comes a time though when enough is enough and for your own health and well being you have to say “No“, but how?
‘Enough is enough’ when work life is not in balance, in fact, your work is your life to the detriment of both. We reach the end of our capacity to take on anything new or different and often retreat to known practices and routine. This is a not a solution only a coping strategy.
You may recognise in others and even yourself the symptoms of ‘enough is enough’ but how do you regain balance, take control once again?
You have to say ‘NO’ but you may feel you are letting down your students or colleagues if you do.
Let me ask you this question: “Do those around you, those you lead or those who lead you know what you have on at the moment?” It is my experience that we think they do but often they have no idea. This leads us on to how to say no.
There are many ways of saying no!
The word “No” is so final we rarely use it, possibly because it promotes conflict or we do not want to appear unreasonable. So what are the alternatives? Here are my suggestions, those that I use with the teachers I coach:
- How important is it? Is it more important than (list your current tasks)?
- What do you want me to stop doing in order to do that?
- Have I your permission to stop doing (whatever you decide) and do that instead?
- If I do this for you what will you do for me?
- How long will it take and when do you want it? (discuss)
- Am I the best person to be taking this on (don’t fall for the flattery either)
- What will you do to help me succeed?
There are more but I think you get the idea.
Whatever you do do not say the word “Sorry” when you are saying “No”, be firm but polite.
Finally, you need to work out what are your priorities, what destructive routines you have and what support network you have in place. All these things help you address the work/life balance in a positive way and will release capacity to be even more objective.
If you like this article then you can find more ideas on how to look after yourself and still build effective learning relationships in my book ‘If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them’ (link below)
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