Coping is important, but it isn’t always easy. I just wanted to share some of the ways I cope with life as a music teacher.
Firstly I want to start with the reality for me – I don’t cope! Not all the time, that would be impossible. There are days when life gets too much, teaching is tough and the pressures of the job get to me. I end up moody, lacking inspiration and probably no fun to be around.
But there is a forgotten flip-side to this reality, and I bet it is the bit you also often forget. The thing is, most of the time I do cope, we do cope. But we forget that don’t we. We forget that most of the time we are brilliant at what we do and coping isn’t an issue. We manage to Mark, Plan, Teach and enjoy our time with the students. SO start by reminding yourself of this one simple truth – you are doing a good job!
I have a number of Coping Mechanisms that I like to use in my daily life. Some are very much part of my daily rhythm, and some I am working on and nurturing week by week. I hope that some of these things are helpful.
- As mentioned above, some days I don’t cope. But my coping mechanism here is to remember that I am a human being and it is fine not to find every day amazing and perfect.
- I find I cope best when I keep fit and exercise. A morning run sets me up for the day, clears my head and gets me ready for the students. It doesn’t have to be far, fast or too early.
- I work with great people and I make sure that I surround myself with people that are supportive, helpful and friendly. And I try and be that to others that I work with. Working in isolation is not a good coping mechanism and it is good to use the people around you. This can be senior students as well!
- Coping often boils down to planning a realistic and manageable day. There are only so many hours in the day and sometimes I fill them all up, and then some. Coping with all that life throws at us means building in time when we stop, relax and leave work behind.
- I find a lot of benefit from moments of silence. I don’t get many of them, but when and where possible I just like a bit of quiet. Silence and Solitude is a lovely thing if you can find it, but I am trying to do it more and more to break up the hectic life of the department.
- Coping for me is also about planning in things that I enjoy as part of my working week. I love rehearsals as it gets young people together making music. I love reading, although I don’t read enough. There is joy in our jobs, so we have to seek it out and make it a regular fixture in our week
But what about that moments when you just get overwhelmed, swamped, bogged down. How about that lesson where things just seem to fall apart. The ICT doesn’t work, the software doesn’t load, the ukuleles are so out of tune you can’t even begin to tune them.
We all have those moments, and coping with them can start with the reality that we are all in the same boat as music teachers. Someone else is also having the same experience. It isn’t that you are a bad person or teacher, it is just life, and it is often a passing moment. If you teach 44 hours a fortnight you are bound to have at least one or two awful lessons!
But do we sometimes allow ourselves to get overwhelmed with our own bad habits, misconceptions and bad mindsets? Can we overcome them with positive thinking, more simplicity and a slowing down of life? Are there shifts and changes we can make that will help us to cope?
Rules of Life
One way I am combatting & coping is to think about some rules for my life. “Rules” is a funny word, but I mean it in a very positive way, and there are lots of people in the world talking on this idea.
It can be simple things like:
- At 8pm I turn off my phone and stop.
- I don’t check my email before school.
- In School holidays I have a break, take a holiday and focus on family.
- I don’t bring my making home with me.
I am sure you can come up with lots of ideas that will help you to cope, slow down your pace of life and gain some rhythm to your days. Come up with some rules for your life. My big one is to look at how much time I spend on my phone, I have a love/hate relationship with it!
The Year Ahead
I am conscious that I want to end by saying that I am on a journey in 2020 to consider how I can cope better and get through the year without burning out. So far I feel like it is going well. But I know that there will be hard times ahead – coursework season, summer concerts.
But coping for me will always be aided by the thought that I am making a difference to the young people I teach. Most of the time I cope and I get the job done. And when I don’t, well, that is okay. There will always be another lesson and another day to improve. And sometimes it is good to forget the past and just press on. Remember why you starting teaching and let that be the best coping mechanism in 2020.
Have a great year and a wonderful January!