How to Say No to Admin

Educators can find often themselves out of time, and energy to add new responsibilities to their already heavy workloads. So what do you do when your administrator asks you to tack on even more? We know it isn't always easy to say no to admin, but the tips in this article may just give you the boost you need to set those boundaries.

It’s pretty common knowledge that teaching comes with additional duties outside your classroom and curriculum. Sponsoring clubs, coaching athletic or academic teams, running the school’s literary magazine, chaperoning school events, organizing a field trip, assisting in Saturday school, mentoring a new teacher, becoming a department chair or team leader…the list goes on. Sometimes there will be a stipend for these extra duties, but the amounts are usually laughable when broken down by the number of hours it takes out of you

Often, your additional duties are a conditional part of your contract and limit any surprises, but be prepared: you may be asked to take on more as the year progresses.

Here’s the thing: being a team player comes with the territory when working for a school. Everyone needs to chip in here and there so the wheels don’t fall off. It’s part of what so many people outside of the educational field really don’t get, unfortunately.

Here are some ideas to help you say “no” gracefully and respectfully while still maintaining a positive rapport with your administrator. 


  1. Carefully consider what’s being asked.

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: how much time will it take, how long will it last, and is there any compensation? Offer to think about it for 24 hours or so, and use that time to truly consider if it’s something you could do. Weigh the pros and cons of taking on the extra duty. One pro to saying yes is that you will be seen as dependable. You may also be providing relief to someone who is dealing with heavy school and personal matters. The biggest con, of course, is the lack of time. If you don’t have the time–or simply don’t want to take on more–it’s ok to say no.

  2. Be empathetic.

    Your admin is probably not trying to punish you by asking for help in a given area; they are trying to solve a problem. Show empathy as you discuss the situation - avoid the “not my problem” attitude. Why? Because even if true, does not look good on you. Offer an apology as you politely decline. Careful word choice does matter.

  3. Propose a counter-solution.

    If you are not able to take on additional responsibilities alone, perhaps you can offer to share the duties with a colleague or two. This could be a good opportunity to get to know a fellow teacher better–or to spend more time with your teacher bestie. Reluctant to share the weight with a team member? Here's a post to help you feel more comfortable and confident with collaboration. Another option would be to offer to help if you can be released from another duty to offset the time commitment.

  4. Provide authentic reasons.

    While you certainly shouldn’t feel like you have to defend yourself, it does help your admin understand if they know what’s going on with you. I am already so swamped right now with these research projects we’re working on. I don’t want those to be pushed to the back burner; they are too important. Or I am spending about X amount of hours per week already working on X, and I don’t have time to add another duty right now. Maybe it’s not work-related: I am in the car three evenings a week running my kids to and from their practices. It takes up a lot of my time during this season. Maybe next semester. Or My mother is not well, and I have been taking care of her several nights a week. I need to keep that time free to be there for her. The bottom line: your admin won’t necessarily know how spread thin you already feel unless you are open about it.

  5. Be proactive: set boundaries and stick to them.

    This one can be really difficult depending on your administration’s style, but setting boundaries upfront can make it easier to say “no” when needed. I’ve worked for some administrators who told teachers to never check email after 4:00 p.m. or on weekends. And I’ve had others who wouldn’t hesitate to casually call teachers after dinnertime–or over a weekend. Regardless of your current leadership, determine where your boundaries feel comfortable, and stick to them. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry I missed your call last night. I was having dinner with my family and I don’t usually take work calls after [4:00 p,m.]”

All administrators are different; they are individuals with unique personalities, just like you. So get to know them and how they tick. And try to keep an open mind when you are asked to take on more; sometimes those extra duties can become your favorite parts of your job; you never know! But ultimately, your mental health and well-being should be considered of utmost importance. Stand strong for yourself early on, and you may find that it gets easier with time.



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