Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Boundaries & Buffers

Take yourself back to the moment you felt that rawness and vulnerability that chose you in place of you choosing it. The moment that got away from you and left you wondering how you got there. When your perception of the moment was a bit skewed and possibly left you feeling unrelatable to others, your emotions started to waver, and you wondered, how did I get here? 

It is the moment you realize you have left yourself open in a way that takes its toll. You know that feeling when your neck grows tense, and you feel your arms stiffen. You can feel the strain straight through your body. You take a deep breath. But when you exhale, in place of relief, you feel the weight stacking up even higher, the kind of weight that has no measure. You think that you are holding it together, but the reality is that you are shoving your feelings down, way down. Then the day comes, and the most insignificant thing breaks you. You feel like you were set up for failure because you had been keeping it together for so long. Why now? Why the break? But maybe the bigger question is, what led you to this point? 

Recently, I was engaged in a conversation with colleagues across the country, and we were discussing various needs within education. We even took the risk in talking about practices we need to question or possibly leave behind. When thinking about what we need most, and that of our children, students, and community alike, I referenced boundaries and buffers, something that I learned from an incredible person and resource in my life, Rogna Jurecko.

I refer to Rogna as my life coach, not because I fear calling her my therapist, but because she has coached me through life. 

Rogna and I share a passion for the Highmark Caring Place, a place for grieving children and their families. It wasn’t until the incredible loss of my beautiful mother-in-law that I found myself reaching out looking for support for my family and me in the same space I had given comfort to students and their families for decades. Grief was breaking me. Her impact was endless. But if I am truthful with myself, I don’t know that I created a strong enough foundation to see me through such devastation. Rogna recognized my needs, she saw me, and she knew I needed boundaries and buffers.

What do they look like?  

How do we create them?  

Why are they necessary? 

Boundaries and buffers weren’t a suggestion. It was an area that I lacked and needed to gain control of in my life. They were within my reach, but I had to recognize them for myself. At one point, Rogna started the conversation. She told me I needed boundaries and buffers. With a brief explanation and a focus on the problematic areas, I found myself in a moment of realness. 

What had I done? 

How did I get there? 

What was I going to do to move forward? 

Creating boundaries and buffers opened up doors, helped me to see possibility, and restored my hope, and yes, faith, which led to an incredible amount of learning. Here are my takeaways:

My interpretation of boundaries: Giving yourself a space that has rules and limits that you can thrive within. Being able to say no, without apology, yet being open to yes, when the moment is right for you.

Three reasons why we need boundaries:

  1. They keep us safe: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 
  2. They keep us focused on what is important to us. We must remember that there are only 24 hours in a day. Yes, we do need to sleep!
  3. They are critical to our needs.

To me, buffers are what keep me healthy in all spaces. They help me to reduce my chance of hurt and pain. Here are my personal top 5

  1. The right to my time
  2. The ability to leave negative energy
  3. The ability to know where my limits exist
  4. Say no
  5. Releasing myself from judgment

What boundaries do you need to thrive? Make a list of the problem areas in your own life. What can you do to keep yourself safe in all capacities and all spaces? What buffers can you create to give yourself permission to maintain your boundaries?  Self-awareness is vital. I challenge you to make a list of areas problematic for you. Clarity brings comfort. Hold yourself accountable… you matter!

Remember, if you need a lifeline, there are experts that are waiting in the wings to help.  Reach out. I did. 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Self Awareness-Mastering One’s Self

It started off as a typical day. I was ready to take on the world and create moments for every child along the way. Groups were being made. Goals were being set. Then came the hesitation. I started to question if they were “ready” for the experience with a new app, a class challenge, or the choice to delve into a passion project of their own. Were they ready to level up their learning and open the class restaurant on a weekly basis? Were they ready? Was I ready? My hesitation was my answer, but I just couldn’t leave it at that. Why weren’t they ready? Was it me? Was it them? What was it that stuck in my gut as a red flag, if you will. That was when it hit me… their lack of self-awareness was invading our learning space and I needed to shed light on a topic foreign to the list of 3rd grade standards written out in my daily lesson plan.

We set daily goals, but are my students clear on their strengths and weaknesses? Are they sensitive to how they project themselves on others or take away from one’s focus and ability to learn? Are they aware of how their actions and choices are pieces to their very own puzzle? If I had to answer that honestly, my answer would be no. It was then that I thought of a method that I used to use with my son, Trent when his OCD would rear its ugly head and trigger rituals that needed his awareness to help fight for himself. We would have him use a post-it-note to track each time he gave in to the ritual by making tallies. After adding several tallies to the note, it would create an awareness of the issue at hand and help him recognize that change was needed to forge ahead. Somehow this simple method built a foundation of self-awareness that in turn opened doors of opportunity to build confidence and pride in one’s own actions. This is what my students were in need of… starting today!

Post-it-notes were handed out and a line was drawn through the middle of each. We were ready to begin. “Today we are going to take the time to give ourselves credit for all the things we must hold ourselves accountable for to be empowered and productive learners,” I said with an upbeat tone. Ears were open and eyes were wide. I went on to ask simple questions like…

Has anyone ever felt a step behind because they were having a sidebar conversation or may have even drifted into thought? many hands were raised

Has anyone ever felt like there should be more time in their day or simply wonder where the moments went? many hands were raised

Has anyone ever wondered what their parents would think of the decisions that were made without them to guide or instruct? many hands were raised

Have any of you ever had your parents get frustrated because you didn’t “hear” them or acknowledge them the first time spoken to? eyes shifted to friends sitting nearby and hands went up at a rapid pace

Has anyone visualized their future self? What are you willing to do to make that vision a reality? Was that a light-bulb moment I just witnessed?

I then said, “With each directive that I give over the course of the next 40 minutes, I want you to give yourself a tally above the line if you follow the directive without redirection or restating. If I redirect or restate, place a tally below. Remember, this is not what is good vs bad, but what we are honing in on as our strengths vs what we are in need of making stronger. “

“But what if someone sees our tallies?,” one asked. “That is a fabulous question, I replied. I speak of respect every day and how we show that by keeping conversations between us, but I must tell you that your peers already see your tallies each and every day through your own choices and actions that you so freely give.” a quizzical look settled over their faces

Let’s begin!

I watched their eyes go straight for me as I began to speak. I watched their pencils go down when I gave directions. Tallies were being placed above the line and the momentum of goodness was on fire inside each one of them. Moments were rolling by, and I watched as many of them responded with a tally below the line when they found themselves off task or not engaged in their own learning. It was working. Self-awareness was coming to life right in front of my eyes.

As we headed to special, I told them that this new “thing” we are working on is our own little tool and we were about to test it out without the post-it nearby to give us our visual reminder. The beauty was in their faces when I picked them up and heard the raving of goodness shared on their behalf.

“This is amazing,” one said.

“This is showing me a lot about myself,” said another.

“I have so much choice,” stated with such conviction from yet another.

Yes, boys and girls. With each moment of self-awareness, we build confidence.

We build PRIDE!

We continued on with our tallies towards a new and better self. The kind we visualize for our future!

We are ready… bring on the next challenge!