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The Art of Saying No Gracefully: Deflecting Non Counseling & Non ESL Duties

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...




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 excessive duties outside of our job role is a really important skill for both school counselors and teachers to utilize.

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. 

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 and duties when they overstep them.  Here is a wonderful post from The Counseling Geek that highlights some ways to communicate these boundaries. 
  • Offer to do something else instead which is within your appropriate role as a school counselor and/or something you are already doing. For example, if you are asked to discipline a student, you can instead offer to discuss with the student reasonsfor and alternative to the behavior rather than actually handling the discipline.

3. Use data to back up the importance of your boundaries, roles, and duties.  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:

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.”
  • 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 justt 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. 


In conclusion, know that 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, 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?",also with easy vocab and lots of repetition 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.

*Spooky Halloween fun from the holiday



Also, as promised in the previous September post, below are photos of my ESL/EFL classroom.  
ESL Classroom-in-a-Closet!                                                        We always start class with playtime outside! BRAIN BREAK!
Class Agenda, Rules & Consequences                                  Starting off with a vocabulary warmup game!
We speak about time with moveable clocks and a chant!         Winding down the lesson with guitar singalongs!
That brings me to the end of this month's post.  Check back here again next month for my post on Thanksgiving ESL/EFL and counseling for the Thanksgiving season! I also may sqeeze in some tips for being the best intern or intern supervisor 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 PageTwitter Page, or Pinterest Page.  And don’t forget to follow me on my new Instagram Page!

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