How Do You Set Boundaries?

Many years ago now, my teaching partner, Paula, and I taught a child in kindergarten who loved to read. He would happily sit down all day and go through book after book: reading to himself, reading to his classmates, and reading and discussing books with us. Engaging in play was harder for him. Paula and I didn’t remove the expectation of him interacting with others, but we scaffolded it at first by also being involved in the play.

  • We helped him find peer groups where he would feel the most comfortable.
  • We helped him see how he could use his reading and writing skills to extend play.
  • We helped him move from smaller groupings to larger ones.
  • We made a list of play options with him, and helped him choose between these options, until he felt comfortable choosing on his own.

Learning how to play and collaborate with others were important areas of growth for this child, but where these social interactions might calm others, they stressed him out. It was important for us to recognize this, and figure out how we could support his learning without further increasing his stress.

I share this story because I’m having a moment of my own that’s similar to what this child experienced. Our Board has wonderfully made mental health and well-being a focus this year. As we learned at our PA Day on Thursday, not only is this an area of focus for students, but also for staff. They are giving us permission to set limits, say “no,” and be aware of our own needs and how we can meet them. There was a lot of talk about how teaching is just a part of what makes us who we are, and that we should also consider the other parts.

This discussion brought me back to a tweet that I sent this summer when reading, The Kinderchat Guide To The Classroom.

From the book to the professional development discussion, I connected to what was being said, and yet, I’m really struggling with doing less. The documentation that Paula and I share each day, not only gives us an opportunity to reflect together, but also to extend learning the next day. In so many ways, it’s a key aspect of what makes our program work, and I’m really reluctant to let it go. Looking back at the photographs and listening to the video recordings are key to this type of documentation, and I’m unsure how we can do this together during the school day. Reflecting on the day and looking back at it after everything has happened, brings me so much joy. It often helps me see learning differently, while not allowing the more challenging moments that might overtake things at the time, ruin the entire day.

This has me thinking: what if Paula and I just focus on a couple of areas in the classroom/learning moments each day? This might mean that our documentation is a bit less and doesn’t always include every child, but it would over the course of the week. I wonder if it would allow us to go deeper with the learning and reflect more together, while also giving both of us a little extra time for ourselves: be it to read, to connect more with family, or to get outside and do something.

When it comes to students, educators scaffold all the time. Our expectations vary depending on a child’s starting point, additional needs, and classroom supports. Maybe the same has to hold true for staff. When I’m in the classroom, I want to be focused on kids. This doesn’t mean that Paula and I don’t stand back and watch at times, share ideas together, and plan moments in the midst of play, but it’s always with a focus on what’s happening in front of us. I think that this is important for both of us, and trying to move all of the documenting, reflecting, and planning into the midst of the school day isn’t feasible for us right now. But do we need to start somewhere? Is it okay to start slow? I never thought that being asked to do more for me would actually increase my stress, but we all get accustomed to a work flow, and sometimes it’s a struggle to reevaluate it. Are others feeling like I do, and what are your plans? Maybe we could support each other in letting go at a pace that works for each of us, and maybe that would contribute positively to all of our mental health and well-being.


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