There is this kindergarten teacher I work with. She has one of the kindest, hugest hearts on the planet.
She didn’t always teach kindergarten. In fact, this is her first year doing it. For several years, she taught second grade.
Now, if you are not a teacher, you may be wondering why that matters. Teaching is teaching.
Have you ever tried to herd cats? Teaching kindergarten. It’s like that.
Couple that with the fact that most of our kiddos come in two years or so academically and developmentally behind other students of the same age. The picture becomes a little clearer.
This teacher has been riding the struggle bus since the beginning of the year. Only five-year-olds have been driving it. Five-year-olds that don’t have a map, have no clue what the destination is and can’t see over the steering wheel.
But my friend has kept going. Through the bad observations, the exhaustion and the tears. She has kept going.
And yesterday, after almost 9 weeks of school, we had a breakthrough. They came to the library like every other class this week. They listened to a story like every other class. They did an activity like every other class. They checked out books like every other class. They learned like every other class.
I made sure to seek her out later in the day to let her know that whatever she was doing was working. Reflecting on what resonated with the kiddos and implementing it. It all worked.
What has she done differently? She’s been more firm with students. She’s set boundaries that they are expected to follow. She has explained her expectations and they have responded. These five-year-olds have figured out that when she says something, she means it.
Guess who’s driving the bus now away from Struggleville?
For my lovely, huge-hearted colleague, setting boundaries was hard and felt really really uncomfortable. But she did it. She did it for her own sanity. She did it because it was her last resort.
Mostly, she did it for the love of her kiddos. She wants them to learn. She wants them to have a solid learning foundation so they can get out of the poverty and violence that have infested their neighborhoods. She wants them to have every opportunity they can to be whatever they want to be.
Boundaries. They are hard. But they are so necessary to happiness and health. Setting boundaries is about loving yourself, true. But it is also about loving those around you enough to be explicit with what you need from them.
And even though it may not seem like it at the time, it may be what’s best for them too. Just take a look at our kinders. Setting boundaries for them now sets them up for success later. And their success is all of ours.