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Learn to Say NO! in the Teaching Profession

Janelle Cox

For many people in the teaching profession, saying no can be a difficult thing to do. When someone asks you to watch over their class or chair a committee, you immediately say “Yes,” because you think it’s the right thing to do.

But sometimes you just have to learn to say no in the teaching profession. Taking on more responsibilities means less free time for you. The more you take on, the more overworked you get, and the more overworked you get, and the more you feel stressed out. That‘s when teacher burnout can set in.

Learning how to say no can be a very empowering. You are not being unkind by turning things down -- you are simply caring for yourself and your overall well-being. Here are a few important reasons why you should say “No,” as well as some friendly advice about learning to say no.

Why You Should Say No in the Teaching Profession

While saying no can be a hard thing to do for some in the teaching profession, there are a few reasons why you should say it.

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You Won’t be Called a Pushover

People pleasers who always say “Yes” to everything are known as pushovers. When you don’t set any boundaries for yourself, people tend to respect you less. When you learn to say no to people, then they will respect you more, because they know that you have enough self-respect to admit you are stretched too thin.

You’ll Be Less Stressed

The more you put onto your plate, the more stressed you may become. While you may be tempted to say yes every time you are asked to do something for someone, remind yourself that overloading your plate means an increase in stress, and when you are stressed out, you are no good to anyone.

You’ll Be More Dependable

Another reason why you should say no is because people will be able to depend on you more. When you say yes to too many things, then you are bound to let someone down, or mess up a project you are involved in. When you say yes and actually have the time to do what you are asked, then you’ll be seen as more dependable, and people will know you’ll get the job done.

Learning to Say No

You can learn to say no without feeling guilty. In fact, all you have to do is practice a few different ways to refuse someone when they ask something of you. For example, you can say “Thank you for thinking of me but I have a lot on my plate right now.” You can also say, “I’m sorry, I would love to help you out, but I just don’t have the time right now.”

Be Firm, But Not Rude

The problem with people pleasers is that they don’t exactly know how to say no, because they fear that if they do, then people won’t like them. However, as long as you are firm and not rude, no one will be mad at you. Use the examples mentioned above, or say in a nice tone of voice, “That sounds like a great opportunity, but I have to say no right now.” You could also say, “I’m sorry, but I’m overscheduled at this time.” As long as you are firm and straight to the point without being rude, no one will be mad at you.

When to Say No

Sometimes there are things that you just have to do. For example, if someone is asking you to live up to your responsibilities, then you must say yes and do it. Or if a family member, friend, or colleague is in dire need of your help, then it’s OK to agree to assist them.

However, there will be times when you have to learn to say no. For example, if someone is asking you to do something that you know isn’t appropriate or will get you into trouble, then of course you’ll have to pass. If someone is trying to push their workload onto you or is asking you to do something that you’re just not comfortable with, then you have to say no to that, too. Remember, always avoid being indecisive and get straight to the point.

Keep in mind that if you have a hard time saying no now, then there’s a really good chance that it will never get easier for you. However, with a lot of practice, you will be able to learn to do it. When you’re a teacher just starting out, you may have a hard time to saying no because you don’t want to look bad, which is completely understandable. But the longer you wait to say no, the more of a pushover people will think you are. Experienced teachers have an easier time saying no, because they’ve learned all along how to say no. The key is to find the right balance between taking on a few things and taking on too much. You’ll gain the respect of others when you respectfully decline their offer.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.