How to Say “No!” to Your Teacher

How to say “No” to your teacher introduces students to a seven-step process for saying “No,” gives them some practice using prepared scripts based on common situations, and then assigns them the task of saying “No” to each other, and to me, at least once in the following week. (Detailed lesson plan, with scripts, here)

Seven Steps to Saying “No!”

The steps are surprisingly simple to articulate:

  1. Make sure it is safe to say “No.”
  2. Say “No” clearly.
  3. Reflect the feelings of the other person. (I can see you are angry, or surprised or …,  but I can’t babysit for you tomorrow.)
  4. Keep saying “No.”
  5. Give your reasons if you want to.
  6. Don’t argue about your reasons. (“You may not agree with me, but I think my homework is important, so I won’t go out with you all tonight.”)
  7. Keep saying “No.”

Practice Saying “No!”

The scripts are fun, and relate to situations my students find themselves in, such as “Can you babysit for me?” “Can I borrow your car?” “You’ll have to work late tonight.” “Will you go out with me tomorrow?”

Adult literacy/ABE/GED students who come back to school, especially after being out for several years, make big changes in the patterns of their lives, and these changes ripple out into the lives of their families and friends. Kids may support the idea of their Mom going back to school, but still expect their clothes to be picked up, washed, folded and put away. Friends who are used to dropping in or going out on the spur of the moment don’t want to hear about homework that has to be done.

So a little lesson on saying “No” is a good idea. I used to think some of my students (and friends) (and I, myself) had trouble following through on things–until I began to see how much was expected of us. We didn’t need more work on following through on things we agreed to do–we needed to practice saying “No” in the first place.

In the classroom, the lesson makes it clear that I can take “No” for an answer, and that I would prefer students to say “No” up front. It makes my life easier.

The assignment for the lesson asks them to say “No” to me at least once in the following week. I make a big thing of it when someone says “No” to a request I make, and we have a lot of laughs, but it gets the point across: I’m human and sometimes I ask unreasonable things; sometimes what I want conflicts with their schedule or their desires; the sky does not fall if they say “no” to me; a compromise can be reached.

11 thoughts on “How to Say “No!” to Your Teacher

  1. Pingback: Power Share | Working in Adult Literacy

  2. I remember forever ago someplace reading that often, when we want to say ‘no’ to something, we raise a practical objection (‘don’t have time’, ‘can’t get a drive’, ‘no money’). The upshot is that we imply that if the practical problem was removed, we’d be happy to babysit the kids or go out for drinks or help you move or whatever.

    I try to help my learners – and, even more often, to remind myself – that saying ‘no’ is enough; you don’t always have to justify turning down requests and invitations. Er… unless it’s your mom.

  3. The art of saying no to anyone, teacher or otherwise, is a delicate one indeed.
    I like the grammar posts!
    Don’t you get irritated by the idea of ‘learners’? I still maintain that the old term ‘pupil’ was more accurate and better reflected what the relationship should be. At least, you haven’t adopted the extreme of ‘educator’ we now have in this country.

    • The term “learner” is usually used here only for adult literacy learners, and I prefer to call them “students,” because, to borrow your words, it better reflects the relationship. However, there is quite a regional difference in Canada, with “learners” being used more in the East, and less in the West, although everywhere there is a mix of “learner” and “student.”

      I’m glad you like the grammar posts–I love grammar. There was a time in my life when I served waffles and grammar for Sunday brunch.

  4. I’m interested that the first rule is “Make sure it is safe to say no”. One of the things I used to do early in term was try to name some of the unnameables – I found an occasion to let them know that I had known and liked some sex trade workers, some folks who’d been to jail, gays and lesbians, and those who are trapped and trained by violence in their homes/lives. Having done that, I could then talk about how each one knew some of how to keep themselves safe and when and where they dared push boundaries. It was always a relief, having said some of this, to know they were on my team of keeping the classroom safe – it simply isn’t something you can do by yourself.

    Keep up the blogging – I love reflecting on what teaching was all about – from relationships to managing administration to teaching boring things like two,too and to.

    • Thanks for both of these links, Nancy. Very rich resources for using in on-line or classroom situations.
      I’m glad you like my blog–I’m enjoying working on it, and it’s lovely to get feedback from you.

  5. Kate, I am loving your blog! I love the wisdom you share from your years of practice, the great respect you have for your students as your teachers and guides. On the topic of learning to say no, being assertive in practice, I share a link to a You Tube video of 10 scenarios about assertiveness developed by youth with The Centre for Confidence and Well-being in Scotland. The accents are really strong, but the meaning of the scenarios are rich for reflective learning and discussion.
    Thanks for your shared wisdom!
    Nancy Friday

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