5 Boundaries I’ve Set as a Teacher That Have Changed My Life

5 Boundaries I've Set as a Teacher That Have Changed My Life

I spent most of my teaching career stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. While I love my job, I often felt unappreciated and taken advantage of. Well-meaning people in other professions would tell me I just needed to set better professional boundaries, but that seemed impossible. Then a friend suggested I start with just one boundary and add on from there. This was manageable and I’m now up to five teacher boundaries. It’s been life-changing – inside and outside of school.

5 teacher boundaries that gave me my life back:

1. I don’t discuss school in public.

This was the first boundary I worked on. I live in a small town and a trip to the grocery store frequently turned into hours of discussion about school as I ran into parents, students, coworkers, PTA members, admins, school district employees, etc. Now I simply say, “Hi there! It’s good to see you!” and then stop them when they start to talk school. “I’ll get in touch with you during my work hours to discuss that,” is polite and works really well.

2. I’m picky about what work I do after hours.

“Don’t take work home” and “don’t work outside of contract hours” sounds like great advice. However, it’s not feasible for many of us. Let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t be able to do our jobs, which is to effectively teach our students, without bringing work home sometimes. Instead, one of my teacher boundaries is being really picky about what I do outside of contract hours. I ask myself:

  • What will happen if this isn’t done before the next class?
  • Is that result worth giving up my personal and family time?
  • If I don’t do this work tonight/over the weekend, will I spend my downtime worrying about it?

By asking these questions, I’ve significantly cut down on the amount of work I do after hours and everything is rolling along just fine. 

Related: Top Grading Hacks: 22 Ways To Cut Your Grading Time in Half

3. Lunchtime is for me. 

I don’t host clubs or extracurricular meetings at lunch. I’m not running around making copies and delivering IEP forms. I don’t use that time giving students extra help or gossiping with my colleagues. I only get 20 minutes and I use them for me. In fact, I usually lock myself in my car to eat a sandwich and listen to an audiobook or podcast in peace.

4. Students and parents don’t get my personal contact info.

They have my school email address and school phone number. That’s it. My social media is on lockdown and I don’t give out my personal phone number. I learned this the hard way after parents and students were constantly calling, texting, and messaging on Facebook at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. 

5. “No” is a complete sentence.

“No” isn’t a bad word, and, in fact, it’s a complete sentence all alone. I’ve learned to use it – and let me tell you it was hard and scary at first! But it gets easier. You can say no when:

  • An admin asks you to head the planning committee for the spring fling
  • The PTA president wants you to be a speaker at the next meeting
  • Students ask for a slime day and you’re not up for the mess
  • Parents ask for just “five minutes” right then instead of scheduling a conference 
  • The new teacher asks you to drop what you’re doing and help her with yet another paper jam

Extend it to, “No, thanks” if that makes you feel more polite. 

Setting teacher boundaries takes time. Keeping them takes lots of practice. But I’m so glad I’ve put in the work! Start with just one at a time like I did if the idea of boundaries overwhelms you. I’m a better teacher, parent, partner, and individual person because of it.


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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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