By LYNN FRANCIS, MA, MS
—I don’t know if it is because I am just getting older or that there seem to be so many more opportunities, so many resources and information everywhere to feed our interests and our professional development. Who you are is part of that discourse, that discovery, which I have explored outside the realms of ESL, but that I have found to be equally invaluable for teaching. Boundaries are one of those areas.
Longtime ESL teacher, life coach, and marriage family therapist Lynn Francis is interested in the inner life of the teacher. She writes, “Because the tools of our trade—methods, techniques, theories, activities—are so well covered at workshops, in-services, and conferences, I felt there was a need to address other aspects of the teacher that are not covered.
Boundaries are both cultural and individual. Physically, what is the space you are comfortable with when talking with another person? Can you drop by to see your family or friends without calling first? At school, we also deal with boundaries. Sometimes teachers say that they can’t get away at break time because the students want to talk. Uncomfortable feelings arise as they try to assert themselves. This is good news! That is the moment of choice—to be with uncomfortable feelings to change the behavior or continue the status quo. There’s no right answer here, just self-reflection to make an informed choice.
Another example of boundaries is around time management. It can seem as if you have a never-ending list of things to do—lesson plans, meetings, new workshops, and so on. That is the good news about our profession—we always have the possibility of newness and creativity. The boundary is finding the balance. How much time do you put into your job and how do you make that determination? Your district has decided and/or negotiated what you are financially worth to it. If you are adjunct, there is an hourly pay that has calculated in some lesson-planning time. However, you ultimately decide and set your boundary as to how much extra time you are willing to spend.
For me it has waxed and waned through the years. I get bursts of creativity and energy and at times rest on my laurels when major life events affect me physically and/or emotionally. What I am learning about boundaries is that I am the one who has to set them. As I need to make a change, shift boundaries, my process is to feel uncomfortable feelings as they arise from the past, accept them, and then process them later to help me grow. I try to be curious and compassionate with myself in the process.
There is always something “to do,” but when not setting boundaries affects our health … is it worth it? An empowerment and a sense of freedom come in setting our own boundaries and making our own choices. Ultimately students and colleagues also benefit from our healthy selves and our healthy boundaries…
Lynn Francis is a part-time instructor for San Diego Community College Continuing Education. She has been a teacher trainer for more than 30 years. She also has a private practice as a life coach and licensed marriage family therapist. She especially enjoys working with teachers and welcomes readers’ questions or ideas for topics for Inner News. Readers can reach her at lcfranci@sdccdedu.
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