Before you automatically say "yes" to yet another request to cover the same colleague's recess duty, run extra photocopies for the entire team, or bring your taco salad to the secretary's retirement party on Friday, take a moment. Maybe saying "yes" too often is part of the reason why you have so little time to complete the items on your own to-do list. So, if you are one of the many new teachers who sometimes has trouble saying "no" to coworkers, friends, or family members, here are four ways to decline without feeling guilty. The trick is to be friendly, firm, and sincere.

  1. The Gracious No: "I really appreciate your asking me, but . . . " or "I'm flattered you asked, but . . . "

  2. The Apologetic No: "I wish I could, but . . . " or "I'm sorry, but . . . "

  3. The Simple and Direct No: "Thank you very much, but I'm overloaded right now," or "Thanks for asking, but I won't be able to . . . "

  4. The "Leave the Door Open" No: "I'd love to help, but my schedule is full right now. Is there a way I can help next month or take on a smaller role?"

Of course, be careful about who and what you say "no" to. It's usually not a good idea to say "no" when your principal invites you to join a committee, advise an after-school book club, or fill in lunch duty for an absent teacher. Rookie teachers are expected to pitch in. Plus, sometimes those extra responsibilities are career boosters.