Smile and Say “No”

I like to think I am good at saying “no,” but I was tested this week when my students discussed their proposals with me. My students are developing proposals for a ten-week long group project in which they will isolate a local problem and offer a solution. Several groups picked big statewide issues much too broad for the scope of our small project.

I do not want to discourage my students from becoming involved in important topics, such as the budget impasse here in Illinois, but I need to teach them to focus their efforts on subjects they can grapple with at this stage in their education. I am afraid many of my students do not understand the interconnected web of politics, economics, and bureaucracy which complicate our existence and make simple solutions rare.

Which is why I need to remember to smile and say “no” quickly and politely. Professor B used to excel at turning students down with an understanding laugh and an reassuring instruction. I need something to put me in the right mindset before I meet with students. I was tired and a little frustrated with my workload today, which turned smiling and joking into a chore rather than a natural pattern.

Perhaps I will take to searching the internet for clever memes immediately before a presentation. Or I could peruse my memory for the “go to” scenes from television shows and illustrated cartoons I used to think of when I was frustrated with my private sector job.

Though, I suppose, the Taoist solution would be as simple as maintaining a nonchalant attitude at all time. Then I would never be frustrated and forget my humor.


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