Sunday, September 16, 2007

Say "yes" or say "no," you are always saying both

Education is a "helping" profession, and those who embark on a career in this arena have the natural tendency to say "yes." Whether the request is to provide extra help to a student, serve on a committee, complete whatever paperwork appears, or do all of these at the same time, we are a people who tend to say "yes" first and figure out how we will accomplish it later. After all, doesn't saying "no" make us seem uninterested, uncaring, and selfish?

In today's world, the demands on one's time generally exceed the time available. Choices must be made as to what gets done and what is left undone. When we say "yes" to one request, we are ultimately saying "no" to all else available to us at the moment. Therefore, the question becomes not one of whether we say "yes" or say "no," but which request get which answer.

Why is it that when we are saying "yes," so often we wind up feeling bad. Perhaps the answer is that, at some level, we realize more important responsibilities received a "no."

This past week, a principal related to me a situation where a veteran teacher was approached during instructional time by an agency representative with the request to compose a memo and to do so right then. Saying "yes" to this request meant saying "no" to the instruction which should be happening in that classroom. The teacher wrote the memo yet felt bad about having to choose to between two poor alternatives--saying "no" to the agency representatives or saying "no" to the students.

We need not feel bad about saying "no." In fact, it is a necessary tool in our arsenal of time-management tools. Without the word "no," our time will never be our own. Instead, it will be free for asking by those who scream longest and loudest and present themselves at our doorstep the most often.

As school leaders, we help those around us reach their goals by helping them understand than saying "no" is not only OK, it is an absolute necessity if they are ever to accomplish anything of significance.

Today, you will encounter opportunities to make the day significant. You will also encounter the trivial disguised in royal garb. Will you be able to distinguish the one from the other? Will you be able to say "no" to the one and "yes" to the other. Say "yes" or say "no," you are always saying both.
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