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5 Steps for Teachers to Say "No" to Extra Duties in a Professional and Comfortable Way

podcast Aug 29, 2023

5 Steps for Teachers to Say "No" to Extra Duties in a Professional and Comfortable Way

Podcast Chapters

Empowering Educators to Say No
Strategic Planning and Evaluating Duties
Saying No in a Student-Focused Way
Balancing Priorities and Protecting Your Energy
Best Resource for Setting Boundaries

How This Affects Teacher Burn out

As a teacher, you've likely felt the pressure to take on additional duties or extracurricular activities at your school. In this episode of our podcast for educators, we discuss strategies for avoiding teacher burnout and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The Epidemic of Overworked Educators

Being overworked is something that almost every educator can relate to. In fact, it is often seen as an expectation rather than an exception in our profession. The truth is that most of us donate 15 hours a week to the school system, on average. That's a whopping 15 hours of our personal time that we give away every week! I'd never suggest that you should only work your contract hours. I think that's an unrealistic goal. But somewhere between 15 hours of free overtime a week and contract hours, there should lie a happy medium.

The Struggle of Saying No

The struggle to say no is a deep-seated problem in our industry, and there are many reasons for it. For one, educators are often naturally inclined to be nurturing and self-sacrificing. We have a strong desire to give our best to our students and the school community. We are easily "guilt-tripped" into taking on extra duties for fear that if we don't provide enrichment opportunities for things such as art, drama, music or remediation through free tutoring and homework clubs, no one else will do it. However, this is not sustainable. It leads to teacher burn out, overwhelm and resentment.

Step 1: Strategically Planning Your Year & Evaluating Duties

It's essential to do some strategic planning for the school year and consider the rhythm of your personal life. Before signing up for duties, make a "scope and sequence" for your family life and evaluate when you'll be busiest outside of work. This will help you better manage your time and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

When evaluating which duties or extracurricular activities to take on, consider your passions. If you're passionate about something, you're more likely to enjoy it and feel less stressed. Take inventory of your current responsibilities and see if there are any duties you can drop or delegate. Remember, it's okay to say no to additional responsibilities if you need to prioritize your well-being.

Teacher Burn Out: Evaluating Stipends

If you're considering taking on duties that come with a stipend, it's essential to weigh the financial benefits against the potential stress or time commitment. While extra income may be helpful, it's crucial to consider whether the stipend is worth the extra work and whether it aligns with your passions.

Step 2: The 5 Steps to Saying "No" to Avoid Teacher Burn Out

  1. Buy yourself some time: When faced with an unwanted invitation or request, don't feel pressured to give an immediate response. You can tell the person you need to check your schedule and get back to them, or that you have a policy of taking 24 hours to consider new commitments. This gives you time to think about your reasons for declining and gather your thoughts.

  2. Get back to the person in writing: Once you've decided to decline the invitation or request, get back to the person in writing. This creates a paper trail, and it also gives you time to put your thoughts together. Don't apologize or use negative words like "sorry" or "unfortunately." Just be matter-of-fact about your decision.

  3. Use the magic words "As it turns out": When explaining your reason for declining, use the words "As it turns out." These words help you communicate your decision without saying "no" or "unfortunately." For example, you can say, "As it turns out, I am unable to participate this year."

  4. Give a student-focused reason: When declining, it's important to provide a reason that is focused on the needs of your students. You can use examples like "As it turns out, this is my first year in this grade assignment, and I need to dedicate my extra time to getting comfortable with the curriculum to best meet the needs of my students." Don't be afraid to use educational jargon in your reason, as it makes your response more professional and less likely to be challenged.

  5. Thank the person for thinking of you: After giving your reason for declining, thank the person for considering you for the invitation or request. You can start with a compliment and end with a compliment, like the "compliment sandwich" strategy. This helps you decline politely and leaves the door open for future opportunities.

By following these steps, you can politely decline unwanted invitations and requests while maintaining professional relationships and focusing on the needs of your students. Remember, it's okay to say no to things that don't align with your priorities and responsibilities. If you don't proactively set boundaries on your time, you will be more like to experience teacher burn out and just be more exhausted and overextended than is sustainable.

Resources listed in this episode

You can find the ebook and physical copy of the book "The Ultimate Boundaries Playbook for Teachers: Strategies to Say "No" Without Guilt, Ditch Teacher Tired & Create Better Work/Life Balance" by clicking here



Educator Friend, are you ready to take back control of your time and energy? Do you need a CRASH COURSE in:

  • Overcoming your blocks setting healthy boundaries?
  • The exact steps and scripts needed to "say" no in a student-focused way to demanding administrators and parents?
  • How to set boundaries with your teacher besties who interrupt your prep time?
  • The ULTIMATE boundary playbook with scripts for every situation in your educator life?

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