“You can say no.”
This is the advice that I give to all new teachers. It’s okay to not take on every “opportunity”. It’s okay to say that you don’t have the time to give that “project” 100%. IT’S OKAY. If only I would practice what I preach.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a hard time saying no when someone needed help. You need someone to run a new club. I can do that! You need a teacher to pilot that program. I’m your girl! We’re short a person on that committee? I’ll do it! You think this student would work better in my already full class. Sure, I can make it work!
Does this sound familiar?
My first few years of teaching I was asked to take on so much. As a new teacher, I believed this was normal, that everyone was doing the same. I took on a new dance club, coached the cheer team, became a member of the behavioral interventions team, acted as the 4th -6th grade math curriculum lead, became the tech lead for the school, piloted a guided reading program, became a district trainer for classroom management and family connection, worked as a new teacher mentor and model classroom, and so much more. I was feeling overwhelmed and burnt out but with so many things to do in the school, how could I say no?
It took me a few more years to realize that I was taking on too much. Unfortunately, knowing that didn’t change anything.
So often I would get frustrated with myself. Why is it so easy for me to tell other people it’s okay to say no, but I won’t allow myself to do the same? I have wrestled with this question in depth and I believe I have found my answer. I couldn’t say no because I had an idea in my head that to be a great teacher, I HAD to be able to do it all. To say no would mean admitting that I wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t want to let anyone down, I didn’t want to let myself down.
But saying no doesn’t mean I failed. It means that I respect the things I take on enough to give them the time and dedication they need. It means I respect myself enough to take the time to unplug and focus on things other than teaching. Only through this balance will I become the best version of myself.
It’s taken me 9 years, but I know that saying “yes” all the time does not make me a great teacher and saying “no” doesn’t mean I’ve failed. This school year I have fallen down the “Of course!” path a few times but less than in the past. While I have not mastered the art of saying no, I am getting better. I have co-workers in my corner who support and encourage me to not take on too much. I am able to focus more on the things I have committed to, and because of this, I have seen myself grow in those areas.
After talking with many different educators across the state, I know I am not the only one that has a hard time saying no. We can find a million reasons to justify why we do this; It’s for the students, no one else will, or in my case, I have to be able to do it all. NONE of these are reason enough to burn yourself out. There is already so much on an educator’s plate. Why do we allow ourselves to unnecessarily add so much more? Let’s support each other in finding balance.
Sometimes you just need to say NO.