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How-To: Get Started

Say No! Judy Jones

THE PROBLEM: Most new teachers enter the profession with irrepressible enthusiasm and those of us who have been in this business for a long time welcome you with open arms. In fact, sometimes we welcome you with more than open arms! We (and the administrators) can ask you to take on many extra tasks - committees, clubs, sports, etc. - that will leave you little time to plan and reflect upon your students and your teaching.

This year, one of the most outstanding young teachers was asked to help advise the sophomore class at our high school. She said "yes" in her desire to be helpful and because of her genuine love of the students. She has regretted that moment all year! Another young teacher took on the job of coaching the Junior Varsity cheerleaders. She loved the students, loved teaching them, and was overwhelmed. She very wisely bowed out second semester and became our nominee for the Sallie Mae new teacher award.

Beware! Many requests for committee membership and club sponsorship will be made at the beginning of the year - before you have had a chance to experience the all-consuming nature of your first year of teaching!


You will have to learn to say "no" (most of the time)!

How do you do this? Professionally, of course.

1. Never answer immediately. Have a standing rule that you will ask for a day or two to think over any request, even if you are tempted to say "yes." Sanity may prevail during that time.

2. Get details. In order to better determine your answer to a request, be sure that you get details about the job.

  • how often are meetings
  • how long do the meetings last
  • what jobs are expected outside of actual meetings
  • what activities are expected for particular clubs
  • what is the estimate of time commitment for the whole task

3. Let people down gently (but firmly)! When you prepare to say "no" explain that you are a new teacher and that you are concerned about having the time to do your best job in the classroom. Offer to reconsider the request the next year when you are more "experienced." Who can argue with someone who is putting learning first?

4 If you can't say "NO", say "YES" only once! If you decide that you would like to be involved outside of the classroom, then say "yes" to just one extra activity and consider carefully what that will be. Ideas that will not consume you are:

    • help another teacher with a small club or activity; make sure that teacher will be respectful of your "newness"

    • join a committee that meets once a month or less and does not have a great deal of extra work to do

    • choose a committee that is very related to the work that you do in your classroom such as curriculum development or school rules. Our new teachers chose to work on the new teacher handbook committee and learned a lot or useful things.

Now, go forth and have a terrific first year!


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