School is getting back into full swing for most teachers, and the requests to do all the extracurriculars are going to come flowing in soon, if they haven’t already started. If you’re like a lot of teachers, you probably say “yes” far too often and end up overwhelmed with too many responsibilities and not enough time. There is an answer to this problem; say “no” more. This can be difficult, especially if you’re new to a school, but saying “no” is important to your health and your teaching.
It’s not easy to say “no”, but when you take on too much at work you’re going to be overwhelmed and exhausted. Remember, you aren’t a superhero who doesn’t need sleep, self-care time, or prep time. For your own health and classroom, you need to be willing to say “no” to others, so you can be the best teacher you can be.
So, how do you get started with saying “no”?
Start by reflecting on what time you actually have free from teaching and person responsibilities. If you know what time you have free or don’t have free then you can honestly tell people no without any guilt. I recommend writing out what responsibilities you already have as a plain, old teacher and a normal person. Once you have these responsibilities down first, then consider what extra time you have if any. Be realistic here, and don’t overbook yourself. You should have time for exercise, self-care, family/friends and personal hobbies in your life.
Next step in being able to say “no” is considering what activities you’d want to spend your free time doing. If you hate coaching softball then don’t spend your free time coaching. Students don’t want a miserable, exhausted coach, so let someone else who likes to do it instead. Be very selective in what extra things you want to do at work, so you’re doing things you enjoy too.
This is the hard part of the process, saying “no.”You don’t want to make excuses or explain yourself because you already know the time you have free and where you’d like to use that time. This should give you confidence to say “no” more. Remember that it’s okay to say “no”, and let go of the guilt. Remind yourself that focusing on a few things means you can give them more attention, instead of spreading out your attention over too many things.
Unsure how to say “no”? Here are some ways to say “no” respectfully:
- “I appreciate you thought of me for this. I wish I could help, but I don’t have the time right now to give it my full attention.”
- “That sounds like a great program, but I don’t have the time to give it the attention it needs. I appreciate you asking me though.”
- “Thank you for asking. I am going to have to decline to participate though.”
- “I appreciate you asked me, but I want to focus on __________ this quarter (semester).”
- If you need time before answering: “Thank you for thinking of me. I need to look at my schedule, and I will get back to you.” If you decide it doesn’t fit then look at the other answers.