As an educator, you are constantly being asked to do tasks beyond your contracted hours. While some of these, “opportunities,” are really command performances, others really are optional…it can just be hard to say no. Maybe you want to be a team player. Maybe your administrator has set certain (unrealistic) expectations.
In this video, I will help you to take back the time that rightfully should always have been yours by sharing 4 effective ways to say, NO!”
Your self-care is important. You are important. Make this school year easier by establishing some healthy boundaries and saying no!
Here is the transcript if you prefer to read:
Hey there teachers. As educators, you are probably being asked to do things beyond your contracted hours all the time by other teachers, by administrators, by the parents of your students. And sometimes of course, you have to say yes. Not all volunteer opportunities are actually volunteer. And I get that sometimes you really do have to say yes, but other times you don’t actually have to say yes. You might feel compelled to say yes, you might feel like you really should say yes, but really you don’t have to. And there’s a lot of great reasons for saying no. Like, for example, your own personal time that you have to spend with your family by yourself, doing the things that you love on your self care. You have other things to do. It is your personal time beyond the contracted hours.
My name is Rachel Lynette. You may know me from Minds and Bloom, from Teachers Pay Teachers. Or from my newest venture, Teacher Self Care, which is all about teacher self-care. And today I’m going to give you four strategies to help you to say no. The first strategy is the pre-planned no. And just like the name says it does take some pre-planning. But the advantage of this no is that it is super easy in the moment when you actually have to say no. It’s easy because your time is already spoken for. So all you do is just schedule time when you think somebody is going to ask you to do something with other activities that either need to get done anyway, or that you would rather do.
For example, your daughter has to take piano lessons. And the teacher says, I have two openings, 3:30 on Tuesdays or 10:00 on Saturdays. And you might automatically gravitate towards that Saturday time because you know it won’t interfere with the school week, but why don’t you grab that Tuesday at 3:30 time? Because then when somebody asks you to take over homework club after school or a parent asks you to meet with them after school or whatever it is, you can say, I’m sorry, I can’t. I’ve got to take my daughter to her 3:30 piano lesson. And you can do that with all kinds of things. Maybe you’re a person who works out and you could schedule your workouts for 7:00 at night. You could take the 7:00 Pilates class, which isn’t a lot of fun because it means that you’ve got to haul yourself to the gym with a full tummy and do that class when you’d probably rather be relaxing at home, but you could take the 3:30 or the 4:00 class.
So now, instead of doing something after school, you’ve got to take yourself away to the gym because you have made a commitment to take that class. Maybe you’ve already paid for the class. And so, you really want to make sure that you make it to that class. Or maybe it’s just a class that you are streaming off the internet, maybe at 4:00 three days a week, you are going to stream Cheryl’s Pilates class and do that at home and that is fine too. It’s still a commitment. Whether it’s a class you go to the gym or it’s just a commitment that you make to yourself. It could be counseling appointments. It could be a doctor appointment, dentist appointment. It could be practices for your kids. It could be walks with friends. It could be a pottery class you’re taking, it could be anything. And if you’re not the kind of person who wants to schedule out your life, maybe you’re a little bit more introverted.
Maybe you could use some time to yourself. Then just put me time on the calendar every day as soon as you get home, whatever that is, 3:30, 4:30. Put me time and honor that as real time that you have a commitment because you have a commitment to your self and you are a friend yourself. And just like you would keep a commitment to a friend, you’re going to keep that commitment to yourself. Now, if you don’t want to give the reason for what you’re doing, for why you’re committed, you can just say, oh, I’m sorry. I can’t. I’ve got a previous commitment and that’s it. That’s the end of the sentence. I can’t. I’ve got a previous commitment. I wish I could, but I’ve got a previous commitment. And if you do that, if you don’t give a reason, then you are going to need a strategy for what to do if the person asks what that commitment is. What are you doing?
Well, honestly, the best thing to do, and I know that you probably can’t do this, but the ideal thing to do is to look at them straight in the eyes as if what are you doing? Why are you asking that? Just complete, like surprised, astonished silence, but I realize that you can’t really do that. So I have two real answers for you. And one of them is just to say, “It’s personal.” Just leave it at that. It’s personal. And it is actually personal because what you do with your contracted hours is nobody’s business but yours.
Another interesting way to go is to ask why does it matter? And why does it matter? I mean, it doesn’t really matter, right? It’s your time. You can do what you want, but when you ask why does it matter? It puts the other person in an interesting place because they basically, they won’t admit it for real, but they basically have to admit that they are judging whatever it is your doing and making a judgment about whether that’s more important than what they want you to do. And it’s just kind of nice to put them in that position, even though they won’t say it out loud. They’ll probably say something like, “Oh, I was just curious.” And you can just say, “Oh, well it’s personal.” You can revert back to that first one.
Okay. Number two, we’re moving on to number two. And that is not actually no. It’s the conditional yes. And the conditional yes sometimes does turn out to be a no because of the conditions that you put on it. And my favorite conditional yes, is, “Oh, I’d love to do that, sure, but what of my other responsibilities would you like me to not do or take off my schedule so that I’ll have room for this new one?” I love that one because it makes it clear that you only have a certain amount of time to give to school related activities.
And if they want you to do this new thing, then there’s something else that you are going to have to drop. Now, that might not be an appropriate one for you to say, but if you can, that’s a good one. So other additional yeses might be, “Sure, I can do that, but I’m going to need someone to help me out. So I will be happy to do this if you give me a partner and we will work on it together, or an assistant to help me.” That might be one way to lighten the load. You could say, “Yeah, I can do that, but I can only do it on Thursdays before school or after school.” Sometimes the timing doesn’t really matter to the other person, but it might make a really big difference to you. Maybe doing it at a specific time really would help. Or, “Sure, I can do that, but can I do it from home?”
Or how about, “Yeah, I can go ahead and do that, but I’m going to need a budget for supplies or whatever other conditions that you have. Now, granted, this might not be a no, this might be a yes. You might end up doing that thing, but it’s very possible that you will make a job that you kind of already knew you had to say yes to. Maybe this was a command form. It’s something that you really had to do, but you can make it a lot better for you. So you’re making a job that you had to do anyway a much easier or less time consuming job to complete.
The next one is kind of a weeny one, but it can work. If you are in a situation where you really feel a lot of pressure to say yes, for whatever reason, you really feel like you need to say yes, it’s going to be really hard for you to say no. In the moment, what you can do is you can delay the no. You know you’re going to say no, but they don’t know you’re going to say no. And you can say, “I need some time to think about that. I really need to talk with my spouse and check out our schedules. I need to check my calendar.” Anything to delay the decision. “I’ll let you know tomorrow. I’ll send you an email and let you know.” And the really beauty part of this of course is that it gives you some time to really go over your reasons about why it’s no, why it’s a no for you. So that you’ll feel better about it inside. But more importantly, instead of saying no, right there in the moment to their face, you can send a text or an email, which is way, way easier.
I know it’s a little bit of a weenie way to go, but any port in a storm. The last note is the Nancy No. And this is named after First Lady Nancy Reagan and her just say no to drugs type campaign. Say what you will about it. Just say no is a handy phrase to have in your back pocket. So that’s what it is. Just say no. And often we want to say, I’m sorry. I’ve heard a lot of advice that you shouldn’t say you’re sorry, because it weakens it, but that’s a really, really hard habit to break. So I’m actually not going to suggest that you deal with that. Just get through the no any way you can. And if having to say you’re sorry to get through it is what you need to do, that’s fine. I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m sorry. I just can’t do that right now. I’m sorry. That’s just not something I can do right now.
If it helps you in your brain, one thing you can do is you can add what you think that sorry is for inside your brain. Don’t say it unless you want to be fired, but if there’s maybe some resentment about what you’re being asked to do, so it could be inside your brain. I can’t do that. I’m sorry that you are so disorganized that you did not pull this together and get parents to do this. And now you’re asking teachers to do it. Or I’m sorry that our district is so underfunded and so understaffed that you’re asking teachers to do jobs that parents should be doing. Or I’m sorry that you are such a horrible principal that you cannot get your act together to get other people to do this job, because really I should not be doing it. Or my personal favorite. I’m sorry that you disrespect my time so much that you’re asking me to do this job when you know I need to focus on my students and I need the little bit of free time that I do have to recoup so that I will be the best for my students tomorrow.
So that’s just another take for the sorry part of the no. One more thing to remember while you are saying no and after you said no is to do your very best to let go of the guilt. We feel so guilty when we say no. Most of us are people pleasers, and we really want to make other people’s lives easier. And we really want to comply and be a team player, but let go of the guilt because remember that you’re off the clock hours are exactly that. They are yours. Again, you did not sign your life away when you signed on the dotted line to become a teacher. So it’s okay to hold those moments, those hours that are yours, to make sure that they don’t get taken over with school things.
And another thing to keep in mind, even though it’s hard, even though you might not think that you are a team player, what you actually are is a role model because you are teaching other teachers how to say no, because if they said no too, then maybe the school culture would change a bit and they would find other people to take on those responsibilities. It doesn’t always have to be you. Because your school is underfunded and because it’s understaffed, that doesn’t mean all these things need to fall to you. So don’t feel like you have to solve all the problems. Your job, as you well know is to be your very best for your students. And in order to do that, you need to fill your own cup first. Thank you so much for watching. You can find more self care goodness at teachyourself.com. And you can also watch one of my other videos for more self-care tips.
Be the amazing teacher that you are. And be kind to yourself.
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