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70. 4 Types of Teachers Who Need to Set Strategic Boundaries to Beat Burnout This School Year

Sep 05, 2023

Odds are you are either a high-achiever, highly sensitive, perfectionistic, people pleasing teacher, or maybe a mix of all of them. Honestly, I see a little bit of each in myself, and let's be real – it can come at a cost. Whether it's our mental health, physical well-being, or even the relationships both in and out of the classroom, something's gotta give. I've been down that road, and it wasn't until I faced burnout head-on that I realized the game-changing potential of setting boundaries.

That's why in this episode, we're jumping headfirst into a topic that's both relevant and transformative. We're going to tackle the four types of teachers who seriously need to kickstart their boundary-setting journey – like, yesterday. I get it, we're all wearing multiple hats as educators, and sometimes it feels like saying "no" is just not an option. But here's the kicker: neglecting our boundaries comes with consequences, and those consequences can lead straight to burnout territory. So, join me as we unravel the why behind boundary-setting, how it's a secret weapon against burnout, and hey, I've even got a couple of tricks up my sleeve – some templated responses and scripts that'll have you setting boundaries with confidence.



  • Importance of setting boundaries to avoid burnout
  • Burnout epidemic as a result of a boundary epidemic
  • Taking control of well-being and prioritizing personal needs
  • Overextending, overcommitting, and feeling overwhelmed due to neglecting boundaries
  • Boundaries as a way to manage time, energy, and emotions effectively
  • Setting boundaries as an act of empowerment
  • Types of teachers who need to prioritize setting boundaries (high achievers, perfectionists, people pleasers, highly sensitive teachers)
  • Importance of setting boundaries for highly sensitive people (HSPs)
  • Traits of highly sensitive teachers (HSTs) and their challenges in the teaching environment
  • Other types of teachers who need boundaries (high achievers, perfectionistic teachers, people-pleasers)
  • Shifting mindset and recognizing setting boundaries as self-care and self-preservation
  • Concept of capacity and reframing boundaries as acts of respect for oneself
  • Templated responses for declining invitations or requests
  • Discussing workload alignment with administrators
  • Redirecting parents or students to a time for full attention
  • Sharing boundaries with colleagues and starting a discussion on the importance of setting boundaries







The Resilient Teacher Podcast is the show that will give overwhelmed educators the support, tools, and mindset to reduce teacher burnout and keep teaching sustainable. Each week, Brittany Blackwell, M.Ed. & her guests will share inspiration and actionable steps to avoid or recover from the dreaded teacher burnout. You'll be inspired to individualize self-care and learn to prioritize your well-being and mental health, all while making a bigger impact on your classrooms and community.



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The Importance of Boundaries for Avoiding Burnout

[0:00] Hey, hey, welcome back to Episode 70 of the Resilient Teacher Podcast.
Terry Cole, the author of Boundary Boss, once said, the burnout epidemic might actually be a bad boundary epidemic.
And I'm going to say it, and it may be hard to hear, but being burned out is often because you're not taking control of your life, your own well-being and prioritizing your needs.
The exhaustion, the feeling of being stretched too thin, the constant cycle of giving without refueling are clear, flashing, neon signs that our boundaries need attention. It's not about blaming ourselves or pointing fingers. It's about recognizing that we actually hold the key to change. Setting boundaries is important because it empowers us to manage our time, our energy, and our emotions effectively. When we neglect to establish and enforce boundaries, we're opening up ourselves to overextending, overcommitting, and ultimately being.

[0:56] Overwhelmed, which is leading to us to burnout. And here's the most empowering and actionable shift that we can make as teachers when it comes to setting boundaries. You see, boundaries only have to do with my behavior. Saying, Don't talk to me that way. That's not a boundary. That's a request. Saying or believing, I don't remain in conversations with people that talk to me that way. Now that, that is a boundary. And if you can look at it this way, you can see it's really impossible for anyone to cross your boundaries because they're always within your control. Boundaries aren't about saying how close people can come, because you can't control that. They're instead about saying how far you will go, because that's always within your control. And you feel more empowered no matter what the situation is. So essentially, setting boundaries are about you taking back your power.

Types of Teachers Who Need to Prioritize Boundaries

[1:49] In this episode, we are going to dive deep into the types of teachers that need to prioritize setting boundaries immediately, like yesterday, this school year, to avoid burnout, why I believe boundaries are essential, and I'll even give you some templated responses or scripts to add to your arsenal for use setting your own authentic boundaries.
So let's not waste any time and let's get into it.

Gratitude for listener support and engagement

[2:14] Before we get into this episode, I want to tell you I am so excited that you are here today listening in and just so grateful for you being a part of this.
If you're tuning into another episode, know that I appreciate your continued listening of this show because this lets me know that you guys are getting value out of the time I spend brainstorming and creating content that I think you will like to help support you on your teacher burnout journey.
Also give yourself a pat on the back for investing time into yourself because so many teachers do not do that.
And when I tell you that I spend hours and hours brainstorming, recording, editing, all of this myself because I'm truly on a mission to support educators from around the globe, That is probably.
An understatement and I make it free because your engagement and support play a, pivotal role in keeping it alive and thriving and I truly believe that every episode is a step in the right direction for changing the system of education. I pour my heart into creating content that informs, that entertains, that inspires you and seeing that you are actively involved that makes all the difference.

Encouraging subscription and sharing of podcast episodes

[3:19] So if you aren't already subscribed to the podcast, make sure you hit that follow or subscribe button in your favorite pod player so you never miss another episode.
And if you're already subscribed, hit that share button.
Send it to one of your teacher friends who you think would love it or share it on your stories on social media because getting into the ear holes of more educators helps spread this mission and this message that every teacher out there.

[3:41] Deserves to live a fulfilling life inside and outside of the classroom.
And you can help in this mission just by sending this episode or one of your favorite episodes to your teaching friends.
If you do, send me a DM on Instagram so we can chat about why that's your favorite episode and spark a discussion so that we can make more content like that and bring it to the podcast.
And when you do, know that I am so, so grateful for you.
And honestly, that's one of the reasons that I'm bringing this episode to you today because I posted a poll on my Instagram stories at Teaching Mind, Body, and Soul asking what you guys wanted to hear most on the podcast and boundaries was a big one.
Shout out to all the teachers that I got to chat with in my DMs about their struggles with boundaries, because it really got me thinking how important boundaries are for the beginning of the school year. And it's just a small, actionable change that you can make to reduce burnout. You see, by.

[4:36] By choosing and setting clear boundaries, we're creating a framework that really defines what's acceptable and what's sustainable for us.
And so, I think that's a really important thing to remember.
And I think that's a really important thing to remember.
That's what we're all about here. We want to make teaching a sustainable career.
So this includes setting those limits on our work hours, saying no when we're already stretched thin, and carving out that time for self-care and relaxation.

Importance of boundaries in reducing burnout

[5:01] You see, boundaries help us communicate our needs to others, allowing them to understand our limitations and respect our decisions.
So when we are prioritizing ourselves, and we're making those conscious choices about how we allocate our time, allocate our energy, we're regaining control of our lives, and we're reducing the risk of burnout.
And I say setting boundaries, but what I really mean is communicating boundaries, because we all have boundaries already set.
We always have boundaries, because they're our personal truth.
That negative feeling that we get when we've overextended ourselves or overextended our capacity, that's indicating that's our boundary, that's our limit.
So, in essence, being burned out is often the result of neglecting our own boundaries and failing to prioritize our well-being.
That's why being proactive and establishing and maintaining these boundaries, we're ensuring that we preserve our physical, our emotional, and our mental health, enabling us to be more.

[6:06] Balanced and living fulfilled lives inside and outside of the classroom.

Four types of teachers who struggle with setting boundaries

[6:11] When I think about boundaries and the types of teachers that often struggle with setting them or often neglect their.

[6:17] Boundaries, there are four main types of teachers that come to mind. Certainly, you know, there are others. But if you're ever a teacher who identified as maybe a high Achiever, a Perfectionist, a People Pleaser, or even a highly sensitive teacher, you're on my mind right now. Odds are, you are a high Achiever, like me, with a strong drive to keep everything going all the time. Your family, your home, your classroom, the list goes on. Maybe you find it hard to say no because you genuinely care about your students. You really want to give them your best. Perhaps you're a perfectionist, you're striving for excellence in every single lesson plan, every activity, always aiming to create that ideal learning environment. And if you're a people pleaser, you might often prioritize other people's needs above your own. You say yes to many requests, many extra tasks, even when it stretches you thin. It's that desire to be helpful and make a difference that really keeps you going, even if it means sacrificing your own wellbeing in the process. And here's the thing. Acknowledging these traits, that doesn't make you weak.

[7:25] Really makes you human the passion the dedication that you bring to your role, Those are remarkable, but it's essential to recognize that your well-being that matters, too Setting boundaries isn't about taking away from your students or taking away from your commitment. It's really, Preserving your energy and maintaining that mental health ultimately, Becoming an even better teacher and a better human for those that you care about So if you see yourself in any of these descriptions, know, please, you are not alone.

Setting boundaries is a sign of strength and self-awareness

[7:58] In fact, you're part of a huge community of educators who understand these challenges all too well.
I'm raising my hand here, and that's why I want you to remember that learning to set healthy limits, that isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength and of self-awareness.
So let's talk about why these four types of teachers absolutely need to set boundaries this school year, because there is a higher risk of burnout.

[8:23] The first one are HSPs or highly sensitive people. Now this is a relatively new term, or at least it is to me, but I'll be real with you here.
Like the actual life of an HSP, that's something I've dealt with for as long as I can remember.
Highly sensitive people have a heightened sense of sensitivity to various stimuli, both external and internal.
You see, HSPs tend to process sensory, emotional, environmental information way more deeply and way more intensely than individuals who don't identify as highly sensitive.
This trait is not a disorder, but it's rather a personality characteristic and it really affects how we experience and interact with the world around us.
Recognizing if you're a highly sensitive teacher, an HST, involves understanding your own emotional and sensory experiences in the context of the teaching environment.
So here are some indicators that can help you determine if you possess the traits of a highly sensitive teacher.
I'm gonna coin this now, instead of HSP, we're gonna call us HSTs or highly sensitive teachers.
So HSTs often feel deeply connected to the emotions of our students.
If you find that you're easily affected by your students' moods or their experiences or their challenges, maybe you've dealt with some compassion fatigue, you probably experience a real strong empathy towards them, and you might be an HST.

[9:52] HSTs also tend to notice really small details that other people might overlook.
So if you're frequently picking up on little subtle changes in the classroom atmosphere or you know in the in the lunchroom or in the teacher workroom, your students interactions or their nonverbal cues, this heightened awareness could really indicate that sensitivity.
If you feel emotionally drained after a day of teaching, even if it was a relatively smooth day, highly sensitive teachers can become super exhausted just from the emotional demands of the classroom environment. That requires more downtime to recharge.
And if you're sensitive to sensory stimuli like noise, lights, chaotic environments, or you know, these factors are going to impact your well-being in the classroom and you might align with the traits of an HST. They often excel at creating strong, meaningful connections with their students because If you find that you naturally build rapport or naturally gain trust with your students, they feel comfortable opening up to you, this could be a sign that you are a true empath or an HST.
And they tend to engage in a lot of introspection, a lot of reflection.
About their teaching methods, about their impact on their students' well-being.
So if you're frequently like assessing that kind of stuff, you might be an HST.

Traits and struggles of highly sensitive teachers (HSTs)

[11:19] Highly sensitive teachers struggle with setting boundaries because they're super empathetic.
They have a real desire to help and if you find it hard to say no or to prioritize your needs over other people's, this could be an indicator, okay? If you're resonating with several of these indicators, it's possible that you are in fact an HST just like me.
Recognizing your sensitivity, that can help you leverage your strengths and implement strategies to manage those potential challenges and just create a more emotionally supportive and effective learning environment for both you and your students.
And if you're like, yup, yup, yup, this is why setting boundaries and limits is so important because what happens is highly sensitive teachers may be more susceptible to that sensory overload, to that emotional exhaustion.

[12:09] And just really feeling overwhelmed by the demands of teaching.
Your heightened sensitivity, that's a valuable asset. It's allowing you to connect deeply with your students and create this empathetic classroom environment that is so important.
But it's also important for you to establish boundaries, to protect your emotional wellbeing and maintain those energy levels, or you just will not be able to sustain the bandwidth to use this as your superpower.

Identifying as a High-Achieving Teacher

[12:36] Trust me, I've been there, done that, I bought the T-shirt.
The second type of teacher who needs boundaries this school year is the teacher who identifies as being a high achiever.
Identifying if you're a high achieving teacher means that you're involving understanding those behaviors, that mindset, those habits in the context of teaching. So here are some signs that can help you determine if you align with the traits of being a high achieving teacher.
High achieving teachers are always seeking ways to enhance their teaching methods, the curriculum, the classroom environment.

[13:09] If you're regularly exploring new approaches or attending professional development or striving for that excellent.
Probably a high achiever. And if you're really goal-oriented, you are likely a high achiever. Think about it. Do you set those ambitious goals for yourself or for your students? I know that I do. Even now to this day, my goals are pretty lofty, but I think that they're attainable and I strive to hit them.

[13:33] Regardless. If you're consistently putting in extra effort to go above and beyond what's really expected to ensure that your students or your personal success happens, you might be a high-achieving teacher.
Your dedication is a huge indicator of being that high achiever.
High-achieving teachers often feel deeply connected to their students' outcomes, too.
So if you feel personally invested in your students' achievements and take their successes and their challenges to heart, ding, ding, ding, you racked up another quality.

[14:04] And if you regularly reflect on your teaching methods, your lessons, your interactions with students, that commitment to improvement and growth, That's another big indicator of high achievement.

Setting Boundaries for Perfectionistic and People-Pleasing Teachers

[14:15] High achievers are often those teachers who are super passionate about teaching.
I obviously have that quality as well.
High achieving teachers are driven by a strong desire to excel in all aspects of teaching.
While this drive can lead to really great results, it also leads to exhaustion and burnout if it's not managed properly.
When we're setting boundaries as high achievers, we're defining realistic expectations for ourselves while allocating time for that self-care, which ultimately contributes to a sustained high performance without sacrificing our health and wellbeing.
The third type of teacher who needs boundaries are perfectionistic teachers, because we are often striving for flawless outcomes.

[15:04] The pursuit of perfection, that can really be an all-consuming thing and it leads to feelings of inadequacy or frustration.
So when we are perfectionistic, we need to set boundaries to establish reasonable standards for ourselves and then recognize that some level of imperfection, that's natural, that's acceptable.
And so setting those boundaries is alleviating some of that undue stress and allowing us to reprioritize and focus on what truly matters in our lives as teachers and as humans.
And the last one are people-pleasing teachers. Now here's the thing.
As teachers, no matter if we've identified as a people-pleaser or not, we are trying to accommodate so many different people throughout the day.

[15:51] But the idea is teachers who are people-pleasers, those people often have a strong desire to meet the needs and expectations of students, parents, colleagues, administrators, other people in your life. And while this inclination can foster some positive relationships, it also leads to overcommitment, neglecting our own needs. Setting boundaries is what empowers you to prioritize your own well-being and make those informed choices about how and when to accommodate other people's requests, ensuring that you have that healthy balance between serving other people and taking care of yourself.
The reason that people pleasers often have difficulty setting those boundaries or even feeling guilty when they do is because, and I know this is hard to hear, but you're still using other people to make you happy.
People pleasing at its core is a habit of getting external validation or using acceptance of others to get a dopamine response to make you feel safe. And so, if we set boundaries.

[16:54] It can create a dip in your dopamine levels. And so to get over that guilt, you're going to have to make it a habit to not give a crap what other people think of you. I'm really curious how many of you identified with one of these, or maybe all of them, because I know I have at some point in another in my teaching career, identified as these. So feel free, shoot me a DM, tell me what you identify with. Here's the thing. Boundaries are about capacity. They're not about capability. So often we think, I can do this. I'm capable of doing this thing. But the truth is, it doesn't matter what you're capable of. It matters if you have the capacity for it. Capacity is very literal. You have 8 hours during your workday. You already know what work you're already going to prioritize, how it breaks down into your day. And so when somebody asks you, Can you take on this project or mentor a teacher or take on a club?
It feels elusive and it can feel like, oh, I need to read the room.
I need to do what makes them happy. But what they're really asking you to do is, do you have four extra hours to do this thing?

[17:59] And so when it comes down to, I have four hours, that's required for this task.

[18:05] And then you decide what boundary you need to set. You can set these boundaries respectfully and strategically and coming across as, I have control over my workday by just breaking it down into what is really being asked for this.
So yeah, of course you're capable of doing anything, but what we really want to focus on is capacity, because that's what's easier to measure.
One of the biggest things I hear from teachers is when they set a boundary, they may feel guilty.
They may wonder, you know, does it make them look selfish or like a bad person?
They have a desire like to take it back Automatically or a fear of upsetting the other person or second-guessing themselves feeling super uncomfortable and think maybe I'm just being dramatic But when you can shift it to this idea of capacity You're gonna feel more empowered to set that boundary because look you have more control over your reality Then you're giving yourself credit for you cannot sit here and let people walk all over you The pain you feel when you're stretched too thin, that's an annoying feeling you get when somebody asks you to take on one more thing.
That's insight that a boundary needs to be communicated. So if you're unsure what your capacity is, I do have a free 10-minute Audit Your Work-Life Balance workshop that's going to help you determine your energy draining and energizing tasks to really pinpoint what your capacity is at this point.

[19:29] But this capacity is really unique and it can change over time.
It's a reflection of your well-being and the realistic limits of what you can handle while maintaining that health and quality of life.
This capacity could be physical, it could be emotional, it could be cognitive, time, social.
And so embracing this concept of capacity, that's allowing you to reframe your boundaries as acts of self-care and self-preservation.

[19:57] Instead of feeling guilty, you'll recognize that setting boundaries is an act of respect for yourself and the people around you.
Rather than fearing that you're going to upset other people, you'll understand that prioritizing your capacity, that ultimately, it benefits everybody by enabling you to be more present, more engaged, more effective.
So if you need some templated responses for sharing your capacity, here are some of my top favorites.
For invitations to take on something that you really don't have the capacity for, or like a club or a meeting or whatever it might be, You could say.
Thank you for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to make it, but I would love to do blank, this different thing at this different time.
Or if you're responding to maybe an administrator, it might be something like, I'm really excited about these upcoming projects, these upcoming initiatives.
I want to ensure that I can contribute effectively while maintaining my quality of my teaching.
Can we maybe discuss how we can align my responsibilities with my current workload?
Your guidance would be much appreciated.

[21:00] We talked about this back in Episode 11 with Jen Manley. I'm going to link that in the show notes if you're interested in looking back at that.
But this response really explains where the priorities lie.
And without saying no, you're asking, how can you align your responsibilities with this current workload?
Getting your administrator or your colleague on your same playing field, that's going to demonstrate your dedication to your time. You can also simply say, I definitely can blank, but I won't be able to blank.

[21:32] Or right now my social battery is at zero, so I'm gonna have to sit this one out, have fun, hope to be back in commission after this busy season passes.
When it comes to maybe responding to parents or students, redirecting them to a time when you'd be able to give them your full attention might look like, is there any chance that we could chat during one of my open office times?
I'm really bouncing from thing to thing for the next week, and I wanna be able to give you my full attention.
Regardless of the words that you use, You're saying the same thing.
This is what I can give, and this is what I don't have to give.
And being aware of your personality type and your capacity, that's gonna help you as you begin setting your authentic boundaries. Remember, your boundaries aren't for them, they're for you.
And so I want you to reframe this if you're struggling with communicating those boundaries.
Would I rather feel uncomfortable for 30 seconds or continue feeling uncomfortable for the rest of my teaching career.

Prioritizing Your Well-Being as a Teacher

[22:27] Like, don't abandon yourself for other people. Regardless of who it is and why they're there, your well-being, that's most important.
And you've got to start realizing that.
So whether you're a high-achieving teacher, a highly sensitive teacher, a perfectionist, or a people pleaser, just recognizing these traits, that's your first step to a healthier and more balanced approach.
Embracing who you are and becoming aware of who you are, that allows you to harness those strengths and then address those potential challenges more effectively.
Setting boundaries isn't about limiting yourself.
It's really about empowering yourself. It's drawing a line that says, this is where I can give my best without sacrificing my wellbeing.
When you set these boundaries, you're showing yourself, your colleagues, your administrators, your parents, your students, that self-care, that's a priority.
And that is a lesson that they will carry with them. I wanna challenge you to share your boundaries this week with your teacher friends and start a discussion about this.
We're gonna be talking about boundaries all week in the Resilient Teacher community on Facebook.
So if you haven't joined us over there yet, hop on over by heading over to slash support squad, and I'll drop the link in the show notes as well.
Don't forget, you are a resilient teacher. We are in this together. You've got this.

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