Not setting enough boundaries is potentially one of the reasons that educators feel so burnt out early in their careers. I am going to share with you some ways we can put healthy boundaries in place so that we can thrive in our roles as educators, family members, and friends.
Why we need boundaries
As educators, I think we are prone to struggle with setting healthy teacher boundaries for two reasons:
- We are high achievers – we want to do our best and give our best to our students each and every day. We take a great sense of pride in the work that we do. This is a great thing!
- Teachers also tend to put others (in this case students) above their own needs. Selflessness and caring for others is so admirable and something to be respected. However, I think the unique combination of high achieving + selfless people + the demands of the profession can lead to burn out + resentment + stress really quickly.
Professional boundaries provide longevity in our educational career and help teachers function at their best long term.
Choose Your Teacher Boundaries
So what teacher boundaries should you put into place? I can’t tell you what to do, but I can give you some examples for myself. I think it is fair to say that boundaries are pretty nuanced based on your situation and your personal capacity.
Remember: what you allow is what will continue.
But how do we decide on what we will allow?
I first heard about the idea of juggling different balls in the air from a favorite food blogger of mine. She heard it from an author Nora Roberts, and upon further research, she may or may not be the original source. You can read the thread here.
First, imagine you are juggling… and some of the balls are plastic and some are glass.
The glass balls are those most important parts of your life. For me, my relationship with my husband and our sons are glass balls. They cannot be dropped. They will shatter. There are even certain aspects of Maneuvering the Middle that are glass balls. Continuing to produce high-quality resources for teachers is a glass ball. As a teacher, showing up ready to teach was a glass ball. Personally, doing what I say I am going to do is a glass ball.
Now some of the balls being juggled are plastic. They can drop and be picked back up again and again. In fact, you can drop a ball for a period of time and pick it back up when you have time for it. Realistically, most responsibilities fall in this camp. Joe Mullican says, “Allowing ourselves to strategically drop the plastic balls gives us the space we need to truly invest in what is glass.”
As a teacher this might look like certain aspects of your job. Here are a few potential plastic balls I brainstormed.
- Volunteering to plan a field trip
- Taking on an extracurricular
- Hosting students in your classroom during lunch
- Having a Pinterest classroom
- Updating your bulletin boards
- Grading everything your students complete
Life is a constant juggling act. You have to choose what to juggle and what to drop.
How to Set a Teacher Boundary
Now that we have thought about the different roles and responsibilities we have, we need to actually set a boundary that will help us in this juggling act.
First, identify what the boundary is. Here are some examples that I brainstormed as it relates to teaching:
- I will leave at ______ time each day.
- I will not bring work home on the weekends.
- I will only work between 2-4pm on Sundays.
- I will only grade _____ assignments each week.
- I will go to bed by _____.
Make your boundary meaningful by stating the WHY behind the boundary. For example, “I will leave by 4:00pm so that when I pick up my kids I will have time to spend with them before bed.”
Next, we want to actually share this boundary with a friend, family member, or colleague. Maybe you can loop your colleague in on your boundary, and you can both work on it together.
Lastly, we need boundaries with technology. The barrage of notifications and the immediate access we have to others and that others have to us makes it feel like we never left work.
Turn off your notifications on your email when you are at home. You do not need to respond to that email. In fact, the most productive thing you could do is batch your emails and respond to them when you have time during work hours.
Your mental health is important! It is a glass ball! What teacher boundaries are you putting in place this school year?