The Reflection Pool

The Art of Choosing No

“Find a way to say yes.” Jim Wibberley, a seasoned leader who went on to become a Director of Education, offered that advice to newbie vice principal me in the context of saying yes to staff. I understand and agree with the intent. No one wants to hear a leader say no all the time. There may be times when a “no” is needed, but “no” can be soul crushing for the person putting forward an idea or asking to do something.IMG_2861

Further insight came a bit later in my career. While I can’t remember where I heard it, the phrase “Yes, and…” has stayed with me. Instead of saying, “Yes, but…” say “Yes, and…”   See the difference? It’s a subtle shift that removes the negative and extends possibilities.

Since these experiences, I’ve read Essentialism by Greg McKeown, which I’ve referenced a few times in previous posts. McKeown has moved my thinking about yes versus no. While I need find a way to say yes if possible when colleagues and team members make suggestions, I also need to be able to choose no to guard my time and focus on what is my true purpose and my essential intent. (He has some great suggestions for how to actually do this once you decide you want to.)

I’ve had some success lately. When someone asked me to take on something else in my job, I said, “Well, I would love to, but I just don’t see how I could do justice to it with all that I am working on. Do you have some suggestions for which commitments I could let go?” I also use my calendar a lot of more effectively to help me. If asked to attend a meeting or an event, I don’t say yes and I don’t say no. I let the person know that I will check my calendar and get back to them. And if I have something else on, I say no, regretfully. It’s empowering, and it’s clear.

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc

I’ve got more work to do with choosing no, but I’m getting there.

3 Reasons I Go to Edcamp

I attended Edcamp Leadership this week: my fifth time at an Edcamp and a great day! Let me tell you why.

Credit to
Credit to

1) The Unconference Model:  Educators want choice and autonomy when it comes to their professional learning. They want to decide what they need to learn to meet student and staff needs better. They want to find out about great resources and ideas. Educators also want to hear about what others are doing in their classrooms, schools and districts. They want to listen, talk and reflect with colleagues.

Unconferences, of which Edcamp is a variant, offer all these to participants. There’s no keynote. There are no vendors. The success of the day is up to you! Participants build the schedule. No one edits or crosses off. If you want to engage others in an issue or topic, put it up on the session board at the beginning of the day. Choose whatever sessions you want to attend. Offer your ideas, opinions and experiences in person, on Twitter, or take notes for your next blog post. If one session doesn’t meet your needs, leave and head somewhere else. Go hang out in the lobby and chat with a new friend. Oh, and it’s free. Yes, free.

2) Connections:  There’s a strong link between Edcamp and Twitter.  Many people who see the value of social media connections also attend these unconferences. I use Twitter to connect to educators around the world, but especially in Canada and the United States. One of my favourite things to do on Twitter is participate in chats like #satchat, #iaedchat, #ptchat or #cdnedchat. It’s a chance to have a real time conversation about interesting and timely topics in education. The 140 character limit forces me to distill my thoughts to the essentials.

It was super to meet many “tweeps” face to face at Edcamp Leadership and especially those I’ve met through Twitter chats. I even got to participate in a live #satchat with Brad Currie (NJ), Scott Rocco (NJ) and Tom Whitby (NY) – what a privilege!!

I have to give shout outs to Vicki Day (NY), Tony Sinanis (NY), Jimmy Casas (IA), Ben Gilpin (MI), Reed Gillespie (VA), Joe Mazza (PA), Tom Whitford (WI), Sue Bruyns (ON) David Fife (ON), Anne Marie Luce (ON). These wonderful educators are worth following through their blogs and Twitter feeds. Each one is making a huge difference to their students and to the improvement of education.

I also met a number of interesting and committed teachers, vice principals and principals in sessions and break time.  I find the atmosphere at Edcamp open and friendly, much more than at a traditional conference. Folks are more than willing to meet and engage.

3) Learning:  I love to learn through conversations. Edcamps offer the chance to engage in deep thinking. When you arrive, you hang out in the main room and watch the schedule being built by participants. It’s a time to chat with people and listen to their realities, successes and struggles. You really can have a conversation about all of that in a few minutes!  Then it’s time to choose your sessions, where the “law of two feet” applies.

My thinking was challenged and stretched by sessions on leadership and struggle and how to put cultural competency in action. These discussions were so rich that I am drafting blog posts to address both.

What’s next? How about Edcamp Toronto, Barrie or London?

You should go.

 (I also blogged about Edcamp here. That post included links to Open Space and unconferences.)