One of the hardest obstacles to overcome as a teacher leader is to set boundaries. It’s uncomfortable and often frowned upon. However, it is the most powerful leadership tool one can employ.
It’s no secret that the role of teacher leadership is ever evolving, and sometimes not quite articulated or planned out. This leads to an exhaustive list of unrelated duties that rarely push the needle forward in teacher proficiency or student achievement.
Helping teachers hone their craft is invigorating. But, it can also be time-consuming. Being able to prioritize tasks and intentionally work with teachers can leverage those time-consuming tasks so that they turn into transformative results.
Teacher leaders can strengthen their practice by protecting their time and attention. Therefore, setting boundaries is essential to the success of any teacher leader.
Purpose of Boundaries
Boundaries provide structure and clarity in expectations. They are a road map for what is to be expected. Teacher leaders shouldn’t be shy about their boundaries. They also shouldn’t be flamboyant about them either. Simply, establish boundaries and maintain them.
If teacher leaders want to have the impact that they desire in the field of education, they have to stay on course. They cannot get caught up in other aspects of the job that derail their mission or their impact will diminish. It doesn’t mean teacher leaders cannot help out when needed, but the bulk of their work is protected by boundaries.
Boundaries don’t have to be off putting or negative. They’re just the rules of the game being shared, allowing a job to remain on track at all costs.
Before you can protect your boundaries, you have to define them. Decide what it is you will and won’t do as it relates to your leadership work. This means you need to write your own job title and description. Ensure all duties are aligned to your roles purpose and best suited for your strengths and knowledge.
Boundaries can be:
- Tasks (ie. drafting policies)
- Time tables (ie. not working evenings and weekends)
- Commitment (ie. following through after the creation phase)
Making Boundaries Clear
Once you have planned out your boundaries, you need to make them clear. You cannot protect your boundaries if others aren’t included in the conversation.
Make boundaries clear by:
- Sharing your boundary plan with those you lead (ie. teachers) and those who lead you (ie. administration)
- Call a meeting with all stakeholders to discuss the boundaries and the scope of your leadership work
- Be up front with your boundaries so as not to lead others astray
- Remind others of your boundaries while working to accommodate their request as best as possible
- Visibly model boundary protection for others so as to encourage them to do the same
- Reset boundaries as needed
Examples of Boundaries
Some common boundaries for teacher leaders are:
- Hosting weekly office hours for 1:1 support
- Returning emails within 24 hours of receipt
- Communicating through email or apps instead of a personal phone number
- Meeting. weekly with administration to discuss tasks and progress
- Protecting privacy of staff and students at all times
One way to protect privacy while also being able to discuss progress and tasks with stakeholders is to provide a high level report. For example, as a teacher leader, I created and submitted a Monthly Coaching Report to administrators. This report keeps them informed and myself organized & accountable. It respects confidentiality boundaries with teachers while providing a clear overview of my coaching duties over a given month. As a result, our meetings become more productive and intentional.
The report includes:
- Grade Level Highlight Page (topics, trends, additional notes)
- Teacher Highlight Note Page (topic, next steps, additional notes)
- Additional Support Page (PD, PLC’s, etc.)
This report does not give personal details discussed between the teachers and I. It provides only the “need to know” information as it pertains to teacher development and student achievement. Trust with teachers is developed as they watch my boundaries at work. Trust with administration is developed as they see the results of those relationships with teachers come to fruition.
Grab the editable version here to make it your own.
Overall, when teacher leaders set boundaries, they are able to excel in their role. This sets off a domino effect impacting teachers and students alike. Developing the habit of setting boundaries can be uncomfortable but essential. Whatever boundaries you decide to put in place, define them and make them clear for those you lead and those that lead you.
Go Be Great!
How do you set boundaries to become more successful in your role?