Setting Boundaries

Setting Boundaries

As a teacher, setting healthy boundaries will help keep you sane and happy throughout the school year. You may want to say yes to everything or be there all the time, but realistically this is impossible and unwise to do. While many people try to set boundaries, a majority fail to follow through and enforce them, which leaves them open to be crossed by others. This year though, think about setting a few important boundaries and enforcing them from the start.

First, let’s identify if you might struggle with enforcing boundaries. Have you ever had parents calling you at absurdly early or late hours? Do other teachers ask you last minute to cover their class during your prep? Or does your principal assume you’re cool with staying after school again to help with some student activity without even asking? If so, you may need to work on setting and enforcing healthy boundaries this year.

Okay, but wait. You set the boundaries but no one seems to care? Parents disregard the letter you sent home, teachers don’t listen to your requests, and you’re frustrated. Did you enforce your boundaries though? No? Ah, okay. This is one of the most common issue with setting boundaries; others break them because we don’t enforce them. It’s similar to class rules. If you don’t enforce them then students won’t follow them.

Let’s look at a scenario:

At the beginning of last year you told parens that you would only answer calls/text during certain hours. For the first few months things were fine then a parent or two called/texted after the time you specified. No big deal. You answered the call or text. Next week the same parent(s) continued to do call after hours and now you are annoyed. This continued the rest of the school year.

Who’s fault is it that the parent continued to call out of hours? Answer: yours. Yup, it’s yours. You didn’t enforce your own boundaries, so the parent didn’t listen to them. They learned that this boundary didn’t matter much to you because you didn’t enforce it.

Let’s apply this to other situations at school. Other teachers won’t listen to you asking for a days notice to sub for them if you always say yes five minutes before their class, and your principal will keep signing you up for after school events without asking if you don’t say no. These people have learned that you don’t respect your own boundaries so why should they. You must follow through on enforcing the boundaries you set or you might as well get rid of them.

Here is the approach I take when setting boundaries in my life. It’s very straightforward and simple, but it’s worth going through and writing down your answers. Reevaluate your boundaries every few months if they don’t seem to be working or they need to change. This is for you, and should reflect what you need as boundaries.

Steps to Setting Boundaries:

  1. What boundaries do I want to set for myself this year?
  2. Why do these boundaries matter to me? (Spell out for each one why they matter. If you understand why you are setting them, you are more likely to enforce them.)
  3. Am I willing to enforce these boundaries?
  4. If yes, how will I enforce this boundaries? (If no to any, then you should not be setting it.)
  5. What will I do if others still don’t respect my boundaries?
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