We teachers often put pressure on ourselves to do more—more for our students, more for our schools, and more in our personal lives. At times, it seems impossible to juggle it all, and at times, we can feel jaded, overextended, and exhausted. In doing more, we run the risk of burning out, so we encourage you to rethink, revamp, and reprioritize.
There is no time like the present to set boundaries. This might result in making big changes, which will likely seem scary and overwhelming at first. Nonetheless, setting boundaries and rethinking our priorities can empower us to take more control over our daily lives. Being successful in the workplace should remain a goal; however, it should not dominate our lives entirely. Setting boundaries can aid in combating stress and fighting exhaustion. It’s time to reshape our mindsets and identify new goals to feel more positive and fulfilled.
Here are 5 tips to set boundaries:
If you find yourself glued to your email app on your cell phone, consider deleting the app or turning off notifications. You are not required to be on your email all evening and on the weekends. Set a goal for yourself. For example, vow to stop checking emails after 4 pm. Do not check your emails on the weekends, or limit yourself to only checking once. You are not obligated to answer a colleague, student, or parent immediately; aim to respond within 24 hours on weekdays without rushing.
It is easy to go down the rabbit hole of striving to be the perfect teacher. But not every lesson will be spectacular, and not every student will love your class, and it is ok! Celebrate small victories and focus on building meaningful relationships with your students. When a student participates who is typically disengaged, celebrate that! When your students truly connect to a lesson or give you positive feedback, cherish those moments! Do not succumb to “teacher guilt” when things do not turn out smoothly. If you turn your thinking around, you will not remember the small obstacles or mishaps, but instead, you will remember the relationships you built in the classroom.
Without a doubt, grading and planning can become overwhelming. To protect your energy and your time, be sure to allot specific time to these tasks to avoid losing your entire evening or weekend. Make the most of your prep periods. For example, if you have a pile of essays to grade, set a specific time slot during your prep period, or allot an hour to it after school if your schedule allows. Break up your grading and planning rather than forcing yourself to get everything done at once. Moreover, while it’s important to give feedback to students in a reasonable time frame when it comes to grading, set realistic expectations for yourself. You do not need to grade every exam or essay within a day or two. Give yourself time and grace. In terms of planning, do not always feel the need to reinvent the wheel. Try to update or refine previous plans or activities that were successful, or adapt a colleague’s inspiring activity to your own class.
As teachers, we say yes so often. We say yes to giving students more chances, attending more workshops, taking on more duties and responsibilities, and so on. It is imperative to know when to say no. Coaching more sports or leading more extracurriculars does not make you a better teacher. Spending ten hours planning the most fun, seemingly perfect lesson does not make you a better teacher.
Learn how to say no for yourself. Saying no will be hard at first, but in the end, it will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or resentful. You do not have to be the problem solver and savior in every situation.
Consider and reflect upon what activities help you feel happiest or you feel the most at ease. Then, make time in your schedule to do one of these things as often as you can. If you enjoy reading, set aside time each day to read. If you like to exercise or practice yoga, take an hour to go to the gym and put your cell phone aside. We have all been told to practice self-care—this should not happen once in a blue moon. Even though it might be challenging to find time each day to do something for yourself, make it a priority. This will tremendously benefit your own mental health and should become part of your daily routine. Take this time seriously, and do not give it up!
Although we all recognize that teaching requires a great deal of selflessness, do not forget about yourself and your needs. Step outside of your comfort zone and invite positive changes into your life. Setting the proper boundaries will give you greater professional and personal satisfaction. Your future self will thank you!