I thought you just wrote a post about The Art of Saying No.
Why yes. Yes, I did.
And I’m actually not contradicting myself.
There is an art to saying no. Saying no to coming in to work extra hours, or volunteer for that extra ministry or go to that other ladies Bible study. There is an art to it.
But there is an art to saying yes.
Especially when you work with kids.
It’s something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. How often I say “NO” to my students at school.
Can I sit here?
Can I dig in the mud?
I know that working in a school is different than being a Mom. I like to hope that I will let my own boys dig in the mud. At school, if I let one boy dig in the mud, I have 16 boys who are covered in mud and I then I have to answer to the parents and my boss. Which really does sound like a great reason to say no.
But there are so many times that I say no because I simply don’t have the patience to listen to the rest of their question, or I don’t feel like it, or I don’t feel like saying yes because that means I have to supervise even more, or get down on the floor and play with them, or help them clean up an even bigger mess.
Sometimes I even say no because I don’t feel like that student deserves a yes at that very moment. Sometimes I even say no because I want to win. I don’t know what I am winning, but for some reason I feel like when I say no, I have more control over the students. But it turns out I don’t.
Soooo, with that in mind, here are a few rules that I have heard of/come up with in relation to saying yes or no to students (or even children!).
1. Is it safe?
This is the most important thing to consider when saying yes or no. If the student asks if they can do a flip off the swing, my answer will be no…because that is not safe.
2. Is it beneficial for everyone involved?
This is one that really needs to be considered in the classroom setting. Often at our center, students will bring their own toys from home. The students are supposed to leave these in their cubbies unless they are given permission to play with it in the classroom. I often/almost always say no to children playing with their personal toys. We have SO. MANY toys in our classroom, and I know that they can be perfectly content playing with the classroom toys. Another reason that I say no to this request is because it often is NOT beneficial for everyone involved. One girl will bring in a gorgeous, new Barbie, and will begin to play with it- but of course is very selective about who can play with it. “No boys” “Not HER.”, etc. Allowing these toys in the room often causes arguments, fights, and many tears. I will always say no, UNLESS, there are less than 6 kids in the room. Which leads me to my next point…
3. What new rules do I have to communicate in order to say “yes” to this student?
Let’s take the above example- “Will you push me on the swing?” I get this at least 20 times a day. And often my answer is no. No because I don’t feel like walking over to the swingset and pushing. No because that student would not sit still the whole time I was reading a story, and I just don’t feel like pushing them at that moment. No because I actually happen to be talking to an adult for the first time in 48 hours, and if I go to push you, I will lose that conversation.
I have decided, however, to always say “yes” to this question. “Yes, I will come push you!”
However, I give two rules: 1. I will only push you once per recess. 2. I will only give you ten pushes.
This way, I am not standing by the swings pushing students over and over and over again all recess long. This way I know that whoever wants to be pushed will get pushed, and they will not be fighting over who got more pushes.
Sometimes we need to say yes, but clarify our rules/boundaries.
4. Would I say yes if it was a different student?
Let’s face it. As teachers, we all have our favorites. We aren’t supposed to, but we do. We all also have our least favorites. Maybe they rub us the wrong way. Maybe they just don’t seem to try and display so much defiance towards us that we are DONE trying (inwardly). Maybe their Mom or Dad is rude to the core and we harbor bitterness towards the student. Whatever it is, there are certain students who I am more likely to say yes to. It is helpful to ask myself the above question when a student asks me a question. Am I saying no simply because it is them, or because it is not safe/beneficial?
5. Is it worth it to say yes?
Miss Suzanne, can we do the special craft with the paint right now?
I’ve had a long day. It’s not paint time. I haven’t gotten the paint out. I will have to clean up the paint. I will have to supervise. I will probably get paint on my clothes. I don’t really feel like it.
But is it WORTH it?
The kids will learn fine motor skills, as well as gross motor skills. By asking me this question, the kids are showing that they are eager to learn. By agreeing to do it, the kids will learn some social skills- from working together, being patient, helping to clean up. The kids will get to feel pride and accomplishment in their work. The kids will have a beaming smile on their face when they get picked up.
Is it worth it?
Usually, it is.
P.S. Yes, even though I am a Mrs., my students call me Miss Suzanne. It’s just something they do at the center…they call all the teacher by Miss _________ or Mr ___________. Plus, they are 5 and 6 years old, and I don’t think they really care all that much that MRS. means married and MISS means unmarried. Whatevs. Just in case any of you were wondering.