Is it possible to be a Music Teacher, Head of Music or Director of Music and keep our own wellbeing in check?
Last year I was in a place where I needed to consider how I could look after myself more. I believe it is possible to be a music teacher and look after your own wellbeing. Music Teacher wellbeing is something we all need to consider.
What does “Wellbeing” mean?
Essentially it is all about quality of life. Wellbeing is about mental health, emotional stability and sustainable living situations. To focus on our own wellbeing is to focus on creating a stable, sustainable and happy life. Wellbeing means being happy. But it also means being able to sustain this happiness throughout the day, week, month or year.
It isn’t that easy though. As a music teachers we can easily fall into the trap of being overwhelmed, out of energy and out of ideas. We can end up burnt out, exhausted and ultimately unhappy. So we need to start by considering that our own wellbeing is important. It is a state of life worth striving for.
If I am honest with you, I have been on a rollercoaster of emotions since I started teaching. Throw in the journey through life – marriage, kids, mortages etc – and life does feel like it is turbulent. Yet it is also hugely exciting, rewarding and wonderful. I love my job immensely and I strive to do all I can for my schools & students. But at times I have failed to remember that at the heart of it all is me. I have often in the past forgotten to look after myself and this has had repercussions on those around me.
I am an open person and happy to admit that being overwhelmed is something I often suffer from. But more and more I am realising it is down to me to ensure that I don’t let things get on top of me. I look at the many parts of my job that I love and I remember why I do it. I also look at colleagues in other schools & departments and realise that I am not alone.
Our wellbeing is important and it is something that I have really been thinking about as I go into another year of teaching.
Fortunately I work in a school and for a trust that values music. I have had, and still have, so much support for all I do. I love my job and department and day to day I still see so many positives. But just because I love my job doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t ensure that I take breaks. Looking after my mental health is crucial for my career.
Work Life Balance
This is something I find hard and I am sure lots of you find it hard. Will I ever reach balance, I am not sure. But I am finding more and more, that just considering a balance is helpful. I don’t want to list obvious things here, but I will say that I have been finding this balance more. I still work long hours, but I find balance by considering why I am doing things. I strive to reflect and avoid them if they aren’t benefitting the students, school or me as a teacher.
Achieving a work life balance if only possible through careful thought over why we are doing what we are doing. But it is also achieved by reflecting on how we do things, our own practice as a teacher. There are so many little tips that you pick up along the way and I have a great one from Ross Morrison-McGill. He spoke at our school and mentioned recording your voice and converting it to text. Check out his thoughts on Voice dictation – https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2019/04/07/voicetechnology/
My own Wellbeing Agenda
This year I am serious about staying healthy both mentally and physically. But I am also serious about moving my department forward and giving my students the very best. Music teacher wellbeing is also about ensuring that we have a good career. Our wellbeing is linked to success and achievements. But Music teacher well being isn’t just about creating a great department.
So I have been coming up with my own wellbeing agenda. This all started around May 2019 when I looked at my weeks and realised that i basically didn’t really do much for myself. I needed somethign in my life that would help me to escape. So I renewed my Royal Opera House membership and booked up to see all of the operas at ROH in the winter season. I was able to log on early and grab the cheap seats up in the amphitheatre and I have so far seen two operas since the start of term.
Part of my agenda has also been not offering myself to everyone and being careful to just do the things I know I can do and the things that matter. There are things we simply have to get on with and do, but we don’t need to then offer to do more and more.
I would encourage you to work out how you can escape work and have some time to yourself. I also like running and I try and get out to clear my head at least 3 times a week – although it is getting cold and rainy again now!
Don’t do it alone!
Finally, don’t suffer in silence and try to do things alone. I would love to help or lend an ear. So please email me or get in touch somehow. As music teachers we must pull together and support each other. I am a member of the Music Teachers Association (MTA) and I find this really helpful. The conference every year is great and I have made some great friends who I know I can call upon. I really do recommend joining MTA
So if you need anything then please get in touch! And keep going, you are doing an amazing job and the kids you teach are lucky to have you. Music teacher wellbeing is important to me and I would do anything I can to help support colleagues in the profession.