By Daniel E. Lozano

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As a student, a tutor, and a peer mentor, I have to manage a lot on my plate. One thing that I have learned from having to balance all this responsibility is that it’s okay to say no.

Saying no can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to help others. However, it’s absolutely necessary if you want to stay on track and accomplish your goals.

Remember, we’re students first.  We all have to juggle projects, grades, and homework, along with the other aspects of our daily lives. When someone asks, “Can you do this for me?” your natural inclination may be to answer something non-committal.  You might tell them “Maybe” because you fear letting them down with the flat out, dreaded “No.”Let’s be realistic though, sometimes you have to say no because you cannot do everything and do it well.

My answer is always the same: “No.”

First, I find it morally wrong to do someone else’s work. Second, it’s missing the whole point of the tutoring session. The tutor is supposed to help the student better understand the material.  Instead of just providing the answer, I help structure the lesson so that the students figure out how to do the work on their own. Saying no helps students learn independence and build confidence in their own abilities.

There are other times when it is okay to say no.

One of the topics that we cover in the Student Development course that I mentor is time management.  The students discuss different methods that they use to stay on track. Some keep important due dates written down in journals, others set alarms on their phones, and some even write daily tasks out on their hands. One of the ways that I keep organized is by writing myself notes and displaying them in places I know that I check frequently. Another method I like to use is making to-do lists that include the timeframe that I have to complete everything.

What students often do not realize is that saying no is also a part of effective time management.  As a peer mentor, part of how I teach is through leading by example. While I enjoy helping my friends revise their papers or explaining concepts to them, there are times where I just have to say no. If I burn the candle at both ends, I risk my own health, and then I would not be able to help anybody, including myself.

Stress is a serious thing that we must work at keeping in check.  If you want to be your best and help others, you have to take care of yourself first.

Daniel E. Lozano is in his second year majoring in Media at Kingsborough Community College. He is a Senior Peer Mentor in the Opening Doors Learning Communities.

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