It’s Okay To Offer A Polite No

I just wanted to share something, I believe may be helpful to some teachers. This week I ran into one of our teachers, who coaches as well, in a 504 meeting. He looked tired, frustrated, and lost. The meeting was to inform us that we will be having more work loaded on our plates as teachers. He was clearly distraught and asked an honest question, “Where am I suppose to find the extra time to cover this extra work load?”. And he got back what we always get back, “just make it happen”. No offer of an aide, no offer to have classes switched, nothing. This coach is a great teacher, a great coach, and a hard worker. His question was sincere. He was basically saying I’m doing so much already on my own, and it’s really starting to affect me know.

I felt for him, because I was once there. I was in charge of yearbook, coaching every sport, mowing my own fields. But over time I have realized that I can offer a polite “no”. We all get voluntold to do things, but every now and then we get asked. Over the summer I was asked if I wanted to be a lead teacher for my department. It came with a little stipend, but I knew the time load that came with it, I could never really be compensated for. I remembered of a podcast interview of Derek Sivers, that I once heard, in that moment.

Derek has this life motto, “it has to be a HELL YEAH!, or a solid no”. Meaning that we all have choices that confront us in life all the time. And to gauge those choices, if you’re not all in, then it should just be a no. So I applied this to the choice I had in front of me. A little pocket change with 10-15 hours of additional work a week? Or 10-15 hours of my own time to myself and to my family? I choose my own time.

I politely emailed my principal thanking her for the offer, but that I was politely declining, because I wanted to focus on being a better teacher. I didn’t get voluntold to do it anyways, and she holds no animosity toward me, from that decision. I just saved myself hours of extra work a week by politely declining, and it’s okay to do that.

I know most teachers are hard working and dedicated to our profession. But there needs to be time to invest in ourselves, to recover from a long work week, and especially time to give to our families. As a suggestion, offer a polite no, next time you’re asked to do more, if it’s not a HECK YA!

Best wishes,


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