Exhausted from a long teaching stretch, I walk out of the studio and collapse on the couch. The last thing I want to do is cook dinner now. One of my students is on my mind — how can I help connect them better with their music making? A parent really got on my nerves, cancelling at the last minute and asking for a catch-up lesson. Was my reply to her too short? Am I responding reasonably, or am I edgy because I’m tired? So many things to consider, but there is no time to relax now; there are all the normal family things to get on with. My son needs his basketball uniform washed and my daughter’s class has a shared lunch tomorrow that I miraculously have to conjure something up for!
It’s no wonder that in all of this the importance of looking after ourselves first can be lost. Without prioritising ourselves we run the risk of being useless to the very people we are caring for.
So what can we do to prioritise our needs? To look after ourselves? Beyond the usual tips of drinking enough water, get more sleep and eat a balanced diet, what can we as teachers do to look after ourselves? This winter, why don’t you try one (or all) of these out?
- Do something creative for yourself.
It is important to do something that will fill up your cup. We are continuously investing in developing our students’ creativity; make time (schedule it in if you must!) for your own creative pursuits. Six months ago I started taking voice lessons again, just to have some space to be creative. It doesn’t have to be musical. You could be knitting, painting, flamenco dancing or playing the piano for yourself. The form doesn’t matter, just the space and time to invest in yourself.
- Learn something new
This could double up with the creative task if you pick something you’ve never done before. It could be learning to do Macramé, learn a new language, or look on Coursera for a free short course to study. Even easier than that is to read a book. Choose a topic that interests you and just read. Learning new things reminds us what it is like for our students and helps to reinvigorate us for the week ahead.
- Prepare ahead.
Nothing brings my world to a crashing halt more than there being no food. Sad but true. Planning meals and having ready snacks for those long teaching runs helps me stay sane and my family fed. We have a couple of fantastic crowd pleasing slower-cooker meals that you can put on in the morning and have a delicious meal at the end of the day. A word about snacks, for me it is nuts and fruit. Healthy, and easy to transport and have on hand.
In this often-isolated industry, it is getting easier to get connected to other teachers online. The Australasian Piano Teachers Facebook group is a great place to start. If you’ve got a question about pedagogy or excited about a win for a student, there are 2000 other teachers who can celebrate or commiserate with you. Attending professional development days is another way to connect. Not only do you get to invest in your own learning, but you also meet other teachers!
- Keep track of the positives.
Did something funny happen with a student today? Did a student have a great win? Write these things down and when you’re not feeling so great it can lift your spirits to reflect on them. I keep a folder with cards from students, little notes of thanks and funny anecdotes. It helps me refocus on my purpose whenever the need arises.