The Infamous "No"

My best blog topics are rooted in conversations that I have had with other educators. This topic was born in a quick conversation with Eric.  So, I have asked him to help me out with this blog!

The Weight.

As educators, we are often asked to take on additional responsibilities, or maybe a responsibility arises and we are interested. This is all fine and good, but many of us have lives beyond the walls of our classroom and the walls of our school.

So, what happens when the two worlds collide?

The Decision.

  • Light As A Pebble
  • Heavy As A Boulder

We have all heard these similies, but what do they mean in the essence of decision making? What is the relation? Let’s take a quick look at the process of decision making...

The Process of Decision Making

Step 1: The Situation
  • A situation occurs and a decision has to be made.

Step 2: The Options
  • Looking at the decisions we could make.

Step 3: The Future
  • Analyzing the outcome of the possible choices.

Step 4: The Action
  • A choice has been made and action is occurring.

Step 5: The Reflection and Learning
  • This is not necessarily a reflection of the outcome of the decision, but rather a reflection of impact.

Our “jars” are only so big, and it is up to us to figure out what our boulders are going to be because the pebbles are going to come no matter what.  What are your boulders?

Eric and I have similar priorities as probably many of us do… You will notice throughout the stages of life, the boulders may change.  

My Boulders
Eric’s Boulders

Our focus must stay on these boulders as life throws new opportunities and circumstances at us.  

Let’s Prepare Them.

Yes, we will face these, but our students will as well and we have the responsibility to help them through the decision making process… The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Stephen Covey refers to it as Putting First Things First.

This process does not come naturally to most students… especially the younger ones… so, we must practice figuring out if something is a pebble or boulder… I (Jamie) have found the most successful strategy has been to act out situations and have the students to participate in a human barometer (students are asked to discuss, take a stance, and persuade one another until a consensus is made). They become better and will quickly realizes that it is okay to have a difference of opinion because everyone’s “jar” is different.  

As always, we need to be transparent. Last year, I had my students make their own jar as I made mine… throughout the year, we referred to them when students were faced with decisions to make.  
I found myself asking my students these reflection questions as they began to contemplate on whether to not to add another “rock” to their “jar”...
  • How full is or do you want your jar to be?
  • Would this be a pebble or a boulder?
  • Do you have room?
  • Is it worth making space for? If so, why?
  • Will you have to remove something else? If so, what is it going to be?
  • What impact will this have on you or others?
  • Will it stay the same size or will it expand/shrink?

It’s Your Turn.

As educators, many decisions have to be made every day.  Students, parents, colleagues, administrators, spouses, our own kids, and other family members all ask us things each and every day that require decisions.  Some of those seem basic at first, such as, “Honey, what do you want for dinner?” which seems like a very simple question at first, but then we begin to think more about it, and those decisions become much harder and our self-talk starts, “Does my wife want to cook, does she have time to cook, should we just go out to eat?”  And something that seemed so simple, turns into a much harder decision.
This happens daily in our school lives as well.  As educators, and as teacher leaders, we are are asked to do our daily tasks as normal, but it’s those things that we are asked to do that are the little extra things that start off simple, but that can grow legs, and not intentionally. But somehow end up causing us stress at school which bleeds over into other facets of life. For example, the STLP coach comes and asks you to be a judge at the robotics tournament on a Saturday morning for three or four hours.  It’s a month and a half away, you look at your calendar and you don’t see anything planned that day.  The coach has already told you that they have had a really difficult time getting anyone to say yes and they need three judges total and so far they have none.  Without meaning to (hopefully), that coach has already put pressure on you to say yes.  Something that you felt inclined to do and your schedule is free to do, but you want some time to check on with your spouse, you feel really pressured to say yes right now.  
Regardless of our grade level, there are extra-curricular activities, committees, meetings, conferences, communication requirements and if you are like myself or Jamie, who like to go above and beyond the expectations, every commitment is going to require outside of school time. We cannot always say, “Yes.”  
Prior to committing to help…
  • Ask yourself...Are you truly available?
  • Ask yourself… Will this add a lot of stress to your life that will take away from your teaching or family?
  • Ask the coach/moderator for some time to check your schedule and time to think about the responsibilities that come along with the commitment.
  • Respond with reason…   
It sounds very simple, but it is so easy to get overwhelmed and pressured to the point where we say yes to things and then end up having to push something else from our personal life out of the way.    Think about our lives as a milkshake.  There are two parts, the ice cream and the milk.  You have your professional responsibilities as well as your home life.  If you mix the milkshake together and it’s too thick, or you have to much work and stress, then it affects your home life.  Think about this disappointment you feel and how hard you work to get that first sip of milkshake out of the straw when it is to thick.  However, if it is the opposite, and the milkshake is so thin you need spoon, or you aren’t really fulfilling your professional responsibilities, you’re still disappointed.  It is difficult to find the right balance, but most of the time teacher leaders tend to say “Yes” because we are learners and we feel the need to, which causes us to have that extra thick milkshake.  

It is okay to say “no” and to take care of yourself.  I (Eric) have been forced to learned to turn down offers due to severe migraine headaches brought on by severe stress.  I have learned my triggers and where my stress threshold is, but I have learned to say “No” for myself and for my family.  

You can be a great and effective teacher while still saying “No”...


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