Learning How To Say, “No.”

I am usually the worst person at saying, “No.” I like to get involved in different things and I like to help people out. If somebody needs a volunteer, I’m always there. When offered different personal and professional opportunities, I consistently take them. I love opportunities to share. I love opportunities to collaborate with others. I love opportunities to present. These are all parts of teaching that are outside of my time in the classroom, but bring me a lot of joy. 

Recently though, I’ve been thinking a lot about a blog post that I read a few weeks ago by one of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop. Sue is working hard at meeting her one word “essential” goal, and I applaud her for this. Her recent post about “the art of choosing no” aligns with her one word goal, and in it, she shares about the different ways that she says, “no.” Since reading Sue’s post, I’ve found my own “no” voice. 

It’s the end of the year, and this definitely means some increased stress.

  • Report cards are due in about three weeks.
  • My final project for my course is due at the same time as report cards.
  • I’m packing up a classroom and moving to a new school.

These are just three things, but they’re three important, time-consuming activities, and I’ve realized that I can’t add more to my list right now. I need to be there for my students. I need to be happy, patient, and calm, for while it’s a stressful time of the year for educators, it’s also a stressful time of the year for kids.

  • Some kids are worried about next year.
  • Some kids are sad about school ending and unsure about what the summertime will bring.
  • Some kids are anxious because of the many changes in routine with field trips and special days.
  • Some kids are extremely happy and excited about the start of summertime, and finding it hard to focus on school work.

If we want our students to be calm during this challenging time, we need to be calm too, and for me, that means that I need to recognize my limits. Today, I said, “No, I can’t do that right now, but I will by …,” and I gave another time after the deadline for my report cards and course work. This was really hard for me to do. I had to tell myself not to go back and change my response. I stuck with the “No,” and I’m glad that I did. 

I love my job, and I choose to spend the time that I do on programming for students, planning provocations, and professional development because these are all part of what I love. But lately I’ve realized that I also love, and need, “me time.” 

  • This morning, instead of reading a blog post, I read the last five chapters in a mystery book that I’ve been trying to finish for the last two months. 
  • I’ve met friends for dinner.
  • I’ve gone out for brunch.
  • I went and got a pedicure, and I enjoyed some time reading as I did so.
  • I played with my dogs outside. 
  • After reading Sue‘s post on sleeping, I’ve gone to bed by 10:15 every night, and gotten at least six hours of sleep. That’s a lot for me!

Teaching is still my passion, and I continue to put a lot of time and effort into our students, but I’ve started to realize that in order to be “better” for them, I need to spend a little more time on myself. This goes along with sometimes saying, “No.” I don’t know if this word will ever come easily to me, but I’m going to keep working at it, for sometimes it’s the right word to choose. How do you decide when to say, “No?” At a stressful time of the year, maybe this is a word that would benefit all of us. What do you think?


As part of my final project for Foundations 4, I am blogging about my thoughts, questions, and experiences connected to self-regulation. While this post doesn’t explicitly mention self-regulation, the ability to stay calm and self-select strategies to do so, definitely aligns with this topic. I hope that these blog posts provoke more conversations on self-regulation.

6 thoughts on “Learning How To Say, “No.”

  1. Aviva,
    Teaching in June usually requires more energy than teaching from September to May. I personally try to make June my best month of teaching. I try many strategies that work for me such as being professional, over-planned, positive, patient, focused on fitness/good food and if needed say ‘no’. A well-balanced schedule in June is very important. Maybe my actions and words will rub-off on others and make June a calm and safe place to learn for many more students.
    Remember to reflect on the great classroom highlights and find time to celebrate, too!

    • Thanks for the comment, David! I like the strategies you use to make June a wonderful month at school. What strategies do you see students using to do the same? Have you taught them any explicit ones?

      Celebrating successes is also a great idea! I find that this is one reason that I write our daily blog post. It’s a good way to stay focused on the positive. How do you do this?


  2. Hi Aviva,
    You could try something like this: “I am flattered by your request; however, to honour my current commitments, I am going to have respectfully decline.” (Or something like that) I can’t remember where I read or heard that, but I liked it and it stuck with me. I will be the first to admit, however, that I am not very good at using it. I am currently working on decreasing the number of commitments that I have in order to be fresher, more prepared, and better execute those commitments that I do have. It’s very difficult and I wish you well as you wrap up your course and report cards and get ready for your new adventure!

    • Thanks Melanie! I’m not sure if I’ll remember to use such a formal response, but I do think that we each need to come up with a way (that works for us) to sometimes say, “no.” I’m starting to think that as hard as this can be, when we say, “yes,” too much, do we spread ourselves too thin, and what impact does this have on our mental health and well being? What impact does this also have on our interactions with kids? Maybe these are things we also need to consider.

      Have a great end to the school year too!

  3. It’s difficult for me to say no, too. I want to be helpful and that’s how I connect with others – helping out.

    I once heard someone say, “If you say ‘yes’ to this, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.” If we always say yes to requests, we are saying no to our families or ourselves or something else. When I began to think about it that way, it helps me choose what to say yes to. I try to ask myself, “If I say yes to this, to what/whom am I saying no?” That makes the choice somewhat easier and helps me know that I’m saying yes to the things I want to do and not ignoring other important things.

    • Thanks for your comment, Scott! I never really thought of saying, “yes,” in this way before, but it makes a lot of sense. Maybe I will try thinking like this as I decide on a yes vs. a no. I think that I’ll continue to struggle with saying, “no,” but I’ll also keep working on it. Sometimes it seems like the right word to use.


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