Want to Know How Teachers are Doing?

Ask Them What Their Word of the Year for 2022 Is

Cindy Shapiro
4 min readDec 31, 2021


Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

This weekend, as we are all shaking off the holidays, teachers are steeling themselves as they prepare to head into the second half of the 2021–2022 school year. There is no doubt that this year has been challenging for teachers — many attest to 2021 being more challenging even than 2020.

The new year gives an opportunity to reflect, but it also gives us all a chance to look ahead with intention. While some folks may choose to set resolutions for a fresh start, I asked my teacher-friends to share just one word with me, stemming from this question: What will your word of the year for 2022 be…what will you use to guide you?

From over 100 responses, here are the trends.

The top word for 2022: “NO.” That’s right. This firm, black-and-white statement, plain as a stop sign, is the word of 2022 for the teachers I asked. Some teachers provided reasons for this choice.

One teacher stated that if she didn’t start saying, “no” there would be nothing left for her to give. (Reminiscent of the powerful message in Shel Silverstein’s iconic and startling book, The Giving Tree, am I right?) Another said it was time for him to put his foot down. There is already too much asked of teachers, he said. It’s time to stand his ground and refuse to do more.

“No” isn’t the only word that suggests that many teachers have had enough with giving so much (too much?) of themselves. Other words that dovetailed with “NO”:

  • “Boundaries”
  • “Enough”
  • And, another big winner: “Retirement,” which was the second most-chosen word of 2022. If this holds true, the teacher shortages of 2021 may pale in comparison to 2022.

While “NO” may ring negative to many (after all, if Yoko’s art piece had said “no” rather than the affirmative “yes,” the mythical coupling of John and Yoko might never have been), it doesn’t necessarily have to be read that way.

After all, saying “no” is honest, unlike “maybe.” (Jack Johnson crooned, “It seems to me that maybe/Pretty much always means no” — an undeniable truism, when you think about it.) And it doesn’t mean that teachers are saying “no” to…



Cindy Shapiro

Cindy Shapiro is long-time teacher living in Colorado. As a writer, she aims to elevate teachers’ voices and provide insight on issues in education.