PMP399: Boundary Setting for Leaders and Educators with Jen Schwanke and Will Parker

Hello, Friends! It’s Will Parker here from Principal Matters: The School Leader’s Podcast. We’re excited to announce that we’re approaching our 400th episode! Can you believe it? To make this milestone even more special, we’d love to hear from you. If this podcast has inspired, helped, or encouraged you, would you consider sharing your thoughts with us? It’s easy: find a quiet spot, record a 60-second voice memo on your phone, and email it to We’re eager to hear why the show resonates with you, your favorite moments, or anything you find particularly thought-provoking or funny. Thanks in advance for your contributions, and thank you for doing what matters!

In this week’s episode, William D. Parker and Dr. Jen Schwanke talk about how Assistant Principals moving up to Principal positions can set good boundaries at work. They respond to the following listener question: What strategies can be employed to set clear boundaries in a professional setting, both as a new leader and in interactions with others, to ensure respect and equity without escalating tensions?

Jen’s points:

  • Question what we mean by “boundaries” – are they like walls?
  • Suggests using words like “norms” or “protocols” to sound less divisive.
  • Boundaries teach others how we want to be treated.
  • Advises thinking about what you need and want from others.
  • Warns against making yourself seem unapproachable or disconnected.

Will’s ideas:

  • Think about setting boundaries with the help of students and teachers.
  • Keep it simple: Listen, join in, and respect each other.
  • Respect has to be shown and earned.
  • Acknowledge that trying to be fair might sometimes lead to tension, but it’s important to distinguish between helpful tension and harmful environments.
  • They both agree that it’s important for leaders to be approachable and to communicate openly with their teams, making sure everyone feels included and respected.

Throughout their conversation, Will and Jen underscore the significance of leaders being approachable and connected with their school communities. They agree that setting boundaries—or norms—is crucial, but it should be done in a way that promotes inclusivity, respect, and open dialogue.

Listen to the entire episode for a discussion that sheds light on the delicate balance between demonstrating confidence and fostering a supportive, equitable environment in schools. 

Thank you again for doing what matters!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker