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. Is this excess of standards helping or hurting our learning?

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?”

About kdceci

I am a grade 5 teacher in Bangladesh. I have a daughter in middle school who has always been learning in an IB curriculum. From the US originally, I have been in Asia the last seven years. I am passionate about inquiry-driven education, collaboration, and ensuring kids get to continue to be kids that play, create and think as long as they can. Outside of school, l love to write, read, hike, run, meditate and travel.
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4 Responses to The Power to Say “No”

  1. Gosh… your post resonates so much with me. Well, yes it has always been a struggle as a teacher to be able to take that stand amidst all kinds of external pressures and distractions. Hence, it helped me as an administrator to support teachers in this arena. What I have managed this year, is to mark the majority of celebrations as learning experiences linked to the international days as listed in the Global Engage calendar. They were chosen also to be marked by the grades where there was a UOI match. This resolved a lot of the time crunch we tend to feel as teachers in completing a process of inquiry through with minimum interruptions.

    As an administrator now, it is always a challenge to maintain this much required stance.

    Best wishes,
    Abhi

    Like

  2. Erika Victor says:

    This post really spoke to me today- so much so that I sent it on to my teammates. It feels more necessary than ever to say no at the right times.

    Like

  3. Dee says:

    Great post – Food for thought but will it be feed into and eaten by our current Education systems throughout. MORE is LESS! We need to look a balanced diet in education if we really want to nourish our students’ growth and learning.

    Like

  4. Dee says:

    Great post – Food for thought but will it be fed into and eaten by our current Education systems throughout. MORE is LESS! We need to look a balanced diet in education if we really want to nourish our students’ growth and learning.

    Like

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