Saturday, January 24, 2015

No Thank You

A collaborative post by Lisa Meade and Tony Sinanis...

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!


  1. Hey Tony, Writing and/or working with you always teaches me something about my practice. Thank you for making time for this post. You rocked it.

  2. This plan seems like it could align with my #oneword to get "uncomfortable." It's hard to do this, but seems like it's worth it. Thanks for giving me more to think about. Now to just be brave & do this. 😃


  3. What an important message! We all need to stand up for our students, our families, our teachers, our colleagues...and sometimes that means saying "No thank you" to those whose agendas don't help us grow and move forward.

    I live and work in a district where we have been at odds with the motives of our previous County Commissioners. As we work with our new officials, we need to say "No thank you" if their focus doesn't meet the needs of students. Likewise, you remind me that sometimes we need to say the same to others within the system who aren't supporting growth and moving forward.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Yes! Oh, this kind of writing makes me so hopeful and so excited! I'm writing on my schooling experience from my own student perspective (as I'm only fairly recently graduated) and, as my thinking is developing, I'm feeling more and more strongly that my teachers simply needed more say in what they do/teach and how and when and why... They are all amazing people, so full of potential and ideas that had to be squished into standard lesson-shaped boxes. Thank you for this post!

  5. YES Thank you on the post and I agree with this totally. I don't even feel like saying thank you when I hear people blame kids that it is "their fault." I see kids trying and I think we as teachers should help them reach and learn. I have a student who emailed me today about failing a test in another class. We're going to look at the test and try to figure out what he's missing. He says he can't get a copy of the test he took to know what he missed. ;-( WHAT ON EARTH. NO THANK YOU to that. Thanks for writing this post. A great one.

  6. There is a disconnect with the difference between placing blame and expecting responsible behavior. At school we have a real problem, much/most of the content we teach has no real world, concrete value. Kids know this and react accordingly, by not being willing to 'waste' their time.

    I have never had any motivation problems in classes when the content that was being learned could be used outside of school immediately, or that the value was readily apparent (like computer skills.) This means that the way for students to self motivate is for them to see the value in the work. Is it any more fair to expect the parents to force their kids to do work they see no value in? Should we actually expect them to use the 'because I said so' argument when it is such a lousy reason? Add to that it doesn't work for us either.

    That does not preclude the students' responsibility to do what is best for themselves and we can point statistically to the fact that they are going to be much better off with a post high school diploma or certificate. That means we have to convince them that the game of education can be beaten, they can be successful (more likely to anyway) if they do the tasks required. Unfortunately it is a very long game to play and they don't all have the stamina.

  7. Hey Pal,

    I needed this challenge, that's for sure. I get caught up in many of the behaviors that you describe -- and that embarrasses me.

    I think the reason those kinds of behaviors become the norm in education is because we really are working as hard as we can in difficult -- if not impossible -- circumstances. Hearing over and over again that we are failing in the face of that effort is demoralizing and exhausting. So we look for -- and readily point to -- the thousand other factors that impact student acheivement.

    But that becomes dangerous when it stops us from reflecting and trying and doing as much as we can whenever we can.

    Thanks for the challenge,