Balance & Boundaries (Part 1)

Balance and boundaries – this is such a biggie for us teachers and educators! This topic ranges in teacher’s minds from being as elusive as a unicorn, or on the other end of the spectrum, it could be seen as offensive as a curse word. I’ve actually met teachers who have such guilt over creating work-life balance that you’d think they were committing a serious crime!

Balance really is not impossible to achieve, and it does not mean at all that you are a bad or a half-hearted teacher. On the flip side, it actually makes you a fabulous, full of heart teacher when you are able to maintain balance in your life free from guilt! Cultivating balance is crucial in our lives and identities as teachers and educators. Having poor balance between work and life – especially when work spills into your time and opportunity to connect with others, engage in your passions outside of teaching, sleep, exercise, be present with your family etc. – can cause you some very serious problems in the long run (think mental health problems, broken relationships, major health concerns…)

And this is where boundaries come into the picture! One of the great benefits of putting boundaries in place is that it affords us the time, space and energy to devote to the things we feel passionate about – the dreams and aspirations that we might have lost sight of over the years. Responsibilities and commitments to our work can take over our lives, and this is where people often find themselves feeling overwhelmed and lacking confidence because they feel that they have little control.

If you are in this situation, it can feel totally suffocating and consuming. Some teachers experience it as a lack of clarity, sometimes to a point of severe anxiety. For others, work and life might seem like they’ve lost its purpose and meaning and it feels as if the world is against them. Other educators might feel like they spend so much time and brain power on their tasks at work and looking after the needs, wants and desires of the people at work, whether it’s students or colleagues, and this can start to brew a little resentment.

If any of this resonates with you, it might be a great opportunity to have a look at your personal boundaries. So often our boundaries are non-existent or inconsistent with our values, and when we don’t set boundaries and maintain them, we can be guaranteed someone else well, whether that is a work colleague, a student, a friend, a partner, a family member. Learning to set clear personal boundaries helps us to have a healthy dose of self-worth. It is our way of communicating to others that we have self-respect and will not allow others to define us and our lives.

Quite often the people who have trouble with boundaries are those who are deemed to be great givers. A great giver in a working environment can either go to the top or the bottom of the ladder. One of the things that distinguishes those who go to the top is that they can put boundaries in place. Getting clear on your boundaries is a highly valuable investment of your time, and protecting your biggest asset: YOU!

Let’s think about this for a bit. Do you ask yourself why it’s so hard to say no’ and set the necessary boundaries that you need to have a healthy balance in your working life? Chances are you’ve thought about that question at some point in your teaching career.

Often teachers find themselves being taken advantage of in a way and whether you admit to this or not, it comes back to the fact that we allow this to happen to some degree! We try to be everything to everyone. I know that many of us, if not all of us, came into this job because we care about the students we teach everyday, and because of this it can be hard to know how much is enough… and how much is too much.

I was definitely like this, especially as I’ve always identified as a ‘people pleaser’ AND a ‘perfectionist’. What a deadly combo isn’t it! Trying to do it ALL, and then not wanting to disappoint or let anyone else down. It’s a recipe for disaster!

Without good boundaries, we may find ourselves used or manipulated by others, and even if we think we are here to help and do so much, poor boundaries can lead to stress, resentment, and burnout.

Teachers need balance. You need to set professional limits that will support long-term engagement with your students and with teaching. This is about protecting your energy and attention in order to maximize their effects. It’s about what you can and cannot control. It’s about when to hold on and when to let go.

Let’s do a quick audit on your personal boundaries. Do you:

  • Try to be always available when students need you?
  • Respond to parents immediately if they contact you?
  • Say yes to everything you are asked to do?
  • Take on more than you can handle because you see it needs to get done?
  • Get too caught up in a student’s circumstances?

If you answered yes, to some or all of these questions, you may want to work on your boundaries.

In part 2 of this blogpost on “Balance & Boundaries”, which will be published next week, I will be sharing what exactly healthy boundaries look like as a teacher, and I will also be sharing about the strategies that I have implemented in my life to cultivate balance!

Stay tuned for it, and if you know that you need a sounding board to chat about this topic, and need support in cultivating balance in your own life, please do not hesitate to get in touch! I’ve got some spots available for my 90-minute coaching packages, as well as my 3-month coaching series to help you flourish!

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