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How to Set Boundaries

Years ago, I tried to push through with a double ear infection and bronchitis. Why? Because I believed I had to do so. I thought that when I signed up to be a teacher that meant putting my personal life and myself on the back burner. It meant I was to show up and "do it for the kids" regardless of how I was feeling physically and mentally. I thought, "I didn't learn this in college, so it's not important." I failed to realize how toxic and harmful these patterns were.

I had no boundaries and tried my best to fit into the teacher narrative that's been portrayed. This thinking was toxic and harmful, but it's how society thinks we should be because that's what we've done for so long. I had to decide to disrupt the narrative in my own way and that was by putting myself first.

Over the years, I have learned to set boundaries with work and with myself. Here are a few examples.

  1. Arrive no earlier than 30 minutes BEFORE my contracted work hours. Many teachers want to be prepared and that's completely understandable. In our work, we have to prepare for work, then work, and then prepare AFTER work. I found that 30 minutes was enough time for me to enter the day with ease because I was not scrambling to prepare.

  2. Leave no later than 30 AFTER my contracted work hours. By doing this, I ensure my life is together for the following day. That way, I can leave with a clear head knowing I will be ready for the next day.

  3. When I do arrive early, I limit conversations with colleagues. I'm sure we all love to chat at the copy machine that hopefully is working over morning coffee, but that takes away from your work. And while everyone else is speeding out of the parking lot, you're stuck catching up because you just had to get the early morning tea from your bestie. Now, I'm not knocking vent sessions and I love a good chat with my girls, but you have to watch yourself in order to ensure your time is used wisely.

  4. If it takes me from my family, the answer is NO. This one is SO TOUGH for me. I love the work I do, BUT I love myself and my family even more. So that means I am not bringing work home. I am not checking emails while I am home. I am not answering work related calls while I am home.

  5. Each day is a new day. I used to have an infant tight grip on holding grudges. If you've held an infant, you know what I mean, lol. But seriously, I would be harnessing anger and resentment for the silliest things. I would overanalyze conversations with administrators and allow the stress of the day follow me into the next. This was not helpful for me or my students. I quickly learned to reframe situations using the Rule Of 5. If the issue wasn't going to matter in 5 minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, I wasn't going to spend more than that 5 minutes worried about it. Depending on the severity, I would spend more time trying to problem solve than worry. To be honest, this boundary has helped me the most.

If you need support setting boundaries and creating sustainable habits around your work, try this workbook I created. It was ideally created to establish and refresh routines and boundaries over the summer, but can definitely be used right now.

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