Back at the beginning of January, we wrote a piece with Jon Harper about always remembering to say thank you. Through conversations and tweets, it occurred to us that we weren’t doing a great job at accepting positive feedback and praise. Through our collaboration we learned we needed to do a more deliberate job at listening and receiving the positive feedback offered to us from the many people in our communities.
Shortly after the post, we realized there was room for a follow up post… a reflection on a phrase that is equally as challenging for us to utter. Three words that we must access more regularly if we are going to have sustainable careers as educators and specifically as educational leaders. While part of leading with the heart required us to lead with arms and ears wide open, we felt we still had to be clear about when there may be times where thank you won’t cut it. Where “Yes!” or “No problem!” could have a more negative impact than positive. We need to admit there are times when we clearly and boldly need to say -- “No thank you!”
We must say no thank you when we are asked to believe that something is a student’s fault and that we’ve done everything we can. Ever get caught up in faculty room talk about a student not performing and how he just needs some “real world consequences”? Next time you are within earshot of a conversation like this, be bold enough to tell the group --”No thank you. I choose to believe in kids.” Or the situation when teachers criticize the families for not being hands on or involved and thus the student’s academic performance is going in a downward spiral. Can we blame the families? Sure… except, they are not the ones technically responsible for the child’s academic performance - we are responsible! And so, it is ok to say, “No thank you. I choose to believe our families are doing the best that they can and we just have to try things a little differently with our instruction and with our academic expectations to better support this learner.”
As leaders we must also say no thank you when colleagues try to make their emergencies our problem. Our first priority are our own students, staffs and school communities. Sometimes, we work with other leaders who may wait until the last minute and expect us, over and over again, to change our schedules to help them meet their deadlines. We need to say, “No thank you. Looks like this is your emergency, not mine. I’m here to help but please don’t ask me to do it for you. I can work with you but not in place of you.” Our time is precious. Our students’ time is precious. Our teachers’ time is precious. And it is our responsibility to guard and protect that time even when it means saying NO even though we may want to say YES!
In New York State, there is a loud, growing rhetoric from the Governor’s Office about how ineffective our teachers are and that we must not be implementing APPR the correct way when most of our teachers are rated as effective and highly effective. Certain politicians and Regents are saying that more teachers should be scoring in the ineffective and developing range just based on what we know about the bell curve. They perpetuate the thought that we need to hold teachers accountable to get rid of all the “bad apples.” Well, we find this message to be offensive to administrators and teachers. It implies we are not adept at our profession. It implies that we are simply winging it in our classrooms and harm children instead of help them. It implies that we have not been held accountable for anything over the years even though on most days we play the role of parent, therapist, social worker, teacher, behavior specialist and advocate just to name a few.
Well, we must, as educational leaders, be clear when we say, “No thank you. Your perception is not my perception. My perception is based on facts and actual classroom evidence. We are in classrooms every day and assure you the vast majority of our teachers are indeed effective and far from ineffective. Your “truth” is not my truth. No thank you.”
Give up? No thank you.
Shortchange kids? No thank you.
Cut arts and music to balance our budgets? No thank you.
Postpone buying materials and resources for teachers and students in order to balance our budgets? No thank you.
Give more tests? No thank you.
Weight state tests more? No thank you.
Tie strings to school funding in order to promote a single, misguided agenda? No, no thank you.
Believe in the attack on public school administrators and teachers? Nope. No thank you.
Stop believing in our schools and students?
Sorry, not us. No way, no how, NO THANK YOU!