As school counselors and as teachers, we are driven by nature to help, nurture, and solve problems. Therefore, most of us don't like to say no to any request. This creates a problem because there are only so many hours in the day and we have more than enough teaching or counseling duties of our own to fill those hours. So, obviously, there is no extra time for non-counselor duties or non-educator duties. Below are several tips to strengthen your saying no skills in the most pleasant and professional manner possible. As always, we've included a lot of helpful resources- just click on the green links which will take you right to an article, video, or product you can use after you leave a comment below. First, a few Bilingual Learner updates...
BILINGUAL LEARNER UPDATES
- New Bilingual Learner Freebie on TPT: The Ten Commandments of Bilingual Classroom Management Plus a Spanish/English Behavior Chart!
- Here's another new Bilingual Learner freebie to present healthy coping skills to your students! Check out the Healthy Coping Skills activity here.
- Two counseling management guides in one with this Anger & Stress Management Bundle!
- Look for my new intermediate ESL guide, ESL in the Middle Volume Two, coming very soon! It will be an intermediate English lessons guide for ESL/EFL students, organized into 4 weekly units. Here's a freebie preview of the guide, so you can check it out!
HOW TO STAY IN YOUR LANE: TIPS FOR DEFLECTING DUTIES OUTSIDE OF YOUR ROLE
Many of us have ratios or class sizes that far exceed what is recommended in the number of students we can effectively serve. As a result, we are always busy- planning for students, working with students, and following up with student families. Therefore, saying no to excessive duties outside of the job role is a really important skill for both counselors and teachers to utilize. Below are some tips strengthen this skill.
1. Be preventative in saying no and lessen the amount of times you have to say no by establishing your role and duties upfront with staff and administration.
- Start the year off with a principal-counselor or principal-ESL teacher agreement to set out your role and duties with your administration; here is an excellent one for counselors from the American School Counseling Association- ASCA's Annual Agreement.
- You can also educate staff and community about your role through staff presentations and newsletters.
- If you need information on what the counselor or ESL teacher role entails, here are links to national and state standards of professional best practice for school counselors and ESL educators to guide you.
2. Set clear boundaries and use every opportunity available to communicate the boundaries to staff.
- Give gentle, yet firm redirections to staff to reestablish the boundaries of your role when they overstep them. Here is a wonderful post from The Counseling Geek that highlights some ways to communicate these boundaries.
- When a non-counseling or non-teaching request is made of you, offer to do something else instead that is within your appropriate role as a counselor or teacher (even better if you can suggest something that you are already doing!) For example, if you are asked to discipline a student, you can instead offer to discuss with the student reasons for and alternatives to the behavior rather than actually handling the discipline.
3. Use data to back up the importance of your boundaries, roles, and duties. For data tips, here is a link to my post on data, "Tech in the ESL and Counseling Worlds."
4. Respond to principal requests that are outside of your role as a counselor or ESL teacher in the following pleasant, yet boundary-setting ways:
- “I am happy to help with that, but my day is filled with students. Will you take a look at my schedule with me and help me choose which students/classes I can take off my schedule in order to do that task?”
- Of course, this means you must actually have a daily schedule that is full with students! For help with setting this up, check out my post titled, "Back to School for ESL Teachers and Counselors." After a few responses like this, the non-counseling or non-teaching requests usually lessen significantly.
5. Respond to staff requests that are outside of your role as a counselor or ESL teacher in the following pleasant, yet boundary-setting ways:
- “I am happy to be part of the team to accomplish that task. However, I don’t have any student responsibilities that I can give up. Therefore, I don't have the time to do that task by myself or lead a team to complete the task. So, just let me know how I can be part of the team.”
- Say no with a smile and use the positive sandwich: positive comment about request+refusal with apology+positive comment about staff making request. For example, "I really appreciate you thinking of me in order to help the school in this way. I’m so sorry but I just have no extra time in my day to squeeze that in. Thanks so much for taking care of our school the way you do!"
- And for those staff members that just cannot take no for an answer, you might try giving them a list of 3-5 tasks you need from them before you can do the task they are requesting of you. For example, if someone asks you to compile the At Risk Report, you might tell them that first you need, in writing: a list of all students in the school, the state definitions of each At Risk indicator, and the duties expected of you as At Risk coordinator.
6. Stay busy and have your weekly calendar displayed, showing all your hourly duties.
- I use my displayed weekly calendar to show what I am actually doing at the time when someone requests that I do a non-counseling or non-teaching duty.
- Here is a wonderful article by former ASCA president, Dr. Russell Sabella, which you can use in support of your efforts to follow your weekly calendar of counseling duties.
In conclusion, it is fine, and even preferable, to take baby steps as you develop your skills in the art of saying no gracefully. Decide on two or three of the most important areas you need to say no to and slowly, politely, and professionally work on deflecting these non-counseling and non-teaching duties throughout the school year.
Of course, I couldn’t close out this post without some fun Halloween activities. Here are some of my favs:
*Have lots of fun reading In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, which is full of repetitive scary stories with easy vocab and perfect for the Halloween season.
*Teach students the scary song, "Have You Seen the Ghost of John?" It has easy vocab and lots of repetition that is perfect for ESL learners or anyone trying to adapt to the US culture.
*Here's a link to Bilingual Learner's own fun Halloween passage to teach about this popular American holiday.
*Enjoy some spooky Halloween fun from Busyteacher.org: the holiday.
That brings me to the end of this month's post. Check back here again next month for my post on ESL/EFL and counseling activities for the Thanksgiving season! I also may squeeze in some tips for being the best intern or intern supervisor that you can be! As always, you can find out about Bilingual Learner’s latest promotions, free stuff, or my counseling/ESL adventures by following my Facebook Page, Twitter Page, or Pinterest Page. And don’t forget to follow me on my new Instagram Page!