SupportED: The Beauty of Boundaries

The planning, the copying, the classroom decorating and preparation– it’s a lot! However, as any teacher knows, all of these items are rituals of “nesting” for a new school year to come. While all of those things are anticipated to take a great deal of time, it’s easy to find yourself staying late or shifting your personal schedule around to accommodate a litany of back-to-school professional obligations. Instead of being firm with your own boundaries, you do and do and do until you’re completely burnt out. Your classroom looks great, but do you feel great? Being an educator is no doubt rewarding, but there is nothing more integral to the well-being of a school than the well-being of its teachers. We know the load is heavy and creating boundaries can really help you thrive rather than merely survive. If you’re a school leader reading this article, remember that your teachers need time to accomplish tasks. Be mindful of conference day agendas that over-schedule a faculty’s day minute-to-minute.

For all school professionals, September hardly brings opportunities for such planning and can strain a person’s ability to commit to such practices. The “secret” then is to plan and practice strategies for setting boundaries that can help you prevent burnout. Here are some suggestions you can use or adapt ahead of the school year:

It’s so easy to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of lesson planning, designing time-consuming-but-adorable materials, grading papers, and responding to an ever-flowing inbox of emails. However, by allocating specific time for yourself, you can maintain your well-being. Orient yourself to timers and boundaries. Decide how much time you’ll spend on something and when… and stick to it! Practice this summer by focusing, with uninterrupted dedication, on one task. Maybe you’ll spend 15 minutes on a walk even though you feel exhausted or 20 minutes tidying the kitchen after a long day. Set that timer and do nothing else. When school begins, decide ahead of time how much time you’ll spend designing, grading, or decorating and adhere to your time frames. Using a timer will keep you focused. Remember: don’t open any emails, don’t check your phone, and don’t engage in any tasks that will derail your dedicated time.

Of course, there’s the potential for someone to stop by and interrupt you– maybe a colleague who’s checking in or a student who’s at school visiting. Just remember that boundaries are for you and there’s nothing wrong with sharing that. When that person stops by, you can say:

“I can only talk for a minute and then I have to return to [this task].”

If someone asks for your help with something, you can say:

“I don’t have time right now, but I can help later or [this resource] can help.”

Remember that there is nothing wrong with you adhering to the boundaries you want to set for your own well-being. August is a great time to practice. You deserve to thrive as an individual, and doing so will enable you to do the same as an educator.