Monthly Series: Personal and Professional Boundaries

PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES

Maintaining healthy personal and professional boundaries is an important skill for educators. The more support a student needs from you, the more you need to be aware of special circumstances and issues around personal and professional boundaries. In this post I’m going to review some of the types of boundaries that educators need to know about.

Staff-Student Boundary: This involves differentiating yourself as an adult and a staff member. If you dress or act like a student or if you engage in too much joking around, you will jeopardize your ability to work effectively with students.

Work-Home Boundary: This boundary involves keeping your personal life separate from your work life. You should not visit or communicate (including emails, and social media) with students outside of school hours unless it is directly relevant to your job. You should be very careful with the personal information you share with students and never share anything you don’t mind being front page news tomorrow. Remember: you never have to answer personal questions if students ask them.

Personal Distance Boundary: Maintaining personal distance is important in today’s school environment. You never want to engage in any lingering or prolonged touch, or stand or sit too close to a student. This is important to keep you from being accused of impropriety and protecting your professional reputation.

Advice Giving: Refrain from giving students advice on things that are not part of your job. Tempting as it may be, don’t play therapist or give advice on dieting, legal or medical issues. You can listen to students and guide them to the school counselor or parent. In the same respect, never put a student in the position to give you emotional support or advice.

Secret Keeping: Never agree to keep a secret if a student asks, especially if it is from a parent or other educator.

What are some other things you are aware of in maintaining personal and professional boundaries with students?

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