The Power to Say No

How often do you say no at an educational institution? This isn’t about the power of positive thinking and offering encouraging words to students. It’s about saying “No” to things that get in the way of learning.

Over the years, I’ve honed in with students on learning. What is it? How do they do it? How can they improve as learners? What type of classroom set up helps us learn best? How do we structure our day to learn best? Learning is exhilarating, engaging, fun, exhausting and helps us grow as individuals. I love actively learning with my students and love it when we’re all surprised and disappointed it’s lunch time or snack time or home time.

Why, though, does so much want to get in the way of students learning? Here are a few things that can get in the way of real learning:

  • assemblies
  • performances
  • meetings
  • a billion standards
  • standardized assessments
  • busywork
  • worksheets
  • excessive data collection
  • lots of celebrations

Sure, all of these could be learning experiences (I think). However, overuse of many of these things is hindering learning.

Today, I said “no” twice to these things and ended up looking like the grumpy teacher. I’ve heard the phrases, “But we always do this.” “It’s cultural.” “The kids expect it.” “The parents really want it.”

What’s behind my “NO,” though, is time and learning. I want my students to be the best learners they can be. I want them to flex their mind muscles and their body muscles and be active lifelong learners who can reflect and change the world. Most teachers want this.

Recently, teachers in Seattle, Washington, went on strike for more pay but also to enforce some other ideas that help with student mental and physical learning –like more recess and an end to the use of standardized test scores to evaluate them. Teachers across the US want to get rid of standardized tests, in large part because they take so much time out of learning.

A great short talk titled “What Gets Cut?” that I listened to recently came out of Learning2 in Manila this year. In it, Reid talks about time and all of the standards required in schools. Both the PYP and Common Core have an impressive 129 standards that need to be met…just for 3rd grade.

I agree with Reid. My cup is full. My students’ cup is full, and we just want to learn.

Do we have the power to just say “No?”


One thought on “The Power to Say No

  1. Such a great post that sits with me so well. Every Monday I await the email from admin that tells me of how many periods will be taken away from the schedule that week due to things you mention. Time is important. Why can’t admin honour that? Your post helps me to realise I’m not a freak to want to say no. Now, dare I do it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts; it’s helped me a lot!

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