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Self Advocacy: Brainstorming Your School Year Boundaries

05 Oct 2020 12:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

We kick off October Advocacy Month by talking about self-advocacy. Thank you to our guest blogger, Emily Hemmingson, Certified Health Coach and founder of The Whole Adventure: Health Coaching for Teachers. You can read more about Emily and The Whole Adventure at the bottom of this blog post.


Why are school year boundaries so important? 

Imagine for a moment that you are the owner of a garden that you want to share with the world.

At first, you let everyone in with no fence, no walkway, and no rules. After a while the garden is ruined and no one can enjoy it anymore.

Now imagine you have the same garden, but this time you build a fence, you set rules, and you make a walkway. You create boundaries, and because of it everyone can enjoy the beautiful garden for years to come.

You guessed it - this is a metaphor, and YOU are the garden.

If you don’t protect your energy and your resources during the school year, you may become too exhausted to share your unique and beautiful talents with your school community.

Now that we’ve covered why boundaries are important, read on to find out when you may need to set a boundary, and what those boundaries can include.

Signs you May Need A School Year Boundary

Here are a couple of good indicators that you need a boundary somewhere in your school day:

  • Your mental and physical health are being negatively impacted by your current schedule. 
  • Something in your day consistently triggers you, makes you upset, or stresses you out. 
  • You are anxiously awaiting your next school break. 

If any of these apply to you, start thinking about what specifically is stressing you out, and how you can set a boundary with that part of your day.

Types of School Day Boundaries to Consider

There are various areas you can consider when setting boundaries in your life. Here are a few areas and examples you can consider while brainstorming what boundaries you would like to set:

Physical Boundaries

A physical boundary can look and sound like:

  • Taking consistent screen breaks when your eyes are straining.
  • Taking consistent breaks to eat when you are hungry. 
  • “I need to take my full lunch break so I can eat during the day. If I don’t have that time I likely won’t eat”. 
  • “I need to sit down for a second. If I don’t I will be too tired to calmly give this lesson.”
  • “I need more than five minutes between these two class periods so I can use the restroom.”

Emotional Boundaries

An emotional boundary can look and sound like:

  • Consistently refusing to engage in “venting”.
  • “I know you want to share how you feel, but I’m not the right person to talk with about this. It would be more appropriate to problem solve with x person.”
  • “I understand you’re upset but let’s talk about this outside of the school building or at another time.”
  • “Thanks for checking in, but I don’t want to share how I’m feeling right now.”

Time Boundaries

A time boundary can look and sound like:

  • Setting specific hours you are working and hours you are resting. 
  • Asking for extended deadlines on tasks that feel overwhelming. 
  • “I need at least a week’s notice for important deadlines or else I get overwhelmed and struggle producing quality work.” 
  • “I don’t open my work laptop after 5pm because I reserve that time for my family.”
  • “Today I need to focus on x. Can I get that email response to you by tomorrow night instead of today?”

Personal Boundaries

A personal boundary can look and sound like:

  • Having a separate phone number (like google voice) and email that you share with families.
  • Leaving your work computer at school and turning off work email notifications after 5pm.
  • “I don’t talk about my personal life during work hours” or “I don’t talk about my work life during my personal hours”.
  • “I don’t attend student birthday parties because I’m just one person and wouldn’t be able to go to every party, but we will be celebrating at school!”

This is not a comprehensive list, and you do not have to use any of the boundaries written here. These are just examples to get you brainstorming. Consider what boundaries you need to set for a more balanced school year, and —


  • Write down 1-3 clear boundaries you would like to start implementing this school year.
  • Write down why those boundaries are important to you.
  • Write down who you need to make these boundaries clear to.

Having clarity and intention behind your boundary will make it easier to stick to that boundary yourself, and easier to express that boundary to those around you. 

Go forth, and build your fences! 

Emily Hemmingson is a teacher turned certified health coach who has dedicated her career to helping teachers prevent and heal from symptoms of burnout. She founded her business, The Whole Adventure, to provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to maintain mental and physical health during the school year. 

She would like to gift her readers a copy of The Healthy Teacher Self-Care Planner, designed to give teachers a quick way to check in daily with their mental and physical wellbeing. 

You are also invited to join our free teacher wellness community, The Beat Burnout Facebook group here.

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