What NOT to do in Lockdown

There are lots of things that we should be doing in Lockdown, but I want to think about What not to do in Lockdown. Obviously I am talking about teaching here, but also thinking about our own Wellbeing and general approach to life as a teacher in lockdown. I would say that the most important thing is to follow the Government rules & advice, but I thought I would share some of the things that I am not doing in Lockdown!

No.1 – Attempt to get everyone singing on zoom

I think we all know that this just does not work! Live ensembles vs. bandwidth = disaster. Therefore consider providing a backing track for everyone to use and sing along to. That way students still feel the benefit of community.

No. 2 – Start something that you can’t Finish

I am thinking along the lines of concert videos, choir multiple-person videos or some kind of resource. What I am getting at is that starting something you can’t finish can be frustrating. And the reason you can’t finish it is that sometimes we are “Time Optimists” and end up with too much to do. During Lockdown we need to make sure we Arne’t taking on too much! So, at the start of any project or idea, work out if you have time to finish it.

No. 3 – Compare yourself to others

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and social media in general are all great. We get to share ideas, follow what others are doing and very often get inspired. But we can also very often get quite down in the dumps when we see what others are doing. Getting the most out of social media is important, but we mustn’t compare ourselves to others too much. Someone might be up all night creating lessons, or spend the whole evening re-writing a scheme of work. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. You also don’t need to judge them for doing just that, because we are all individuals. Whilst I don’t like working late or at weekends, sometimes it is the sacrifice I make to ensure I spend time with my family at another moment. Don’t compare yourselves to others and just do you!

No. 4 – Rewrite all your schemes of work

It is rather different teaching online, but I don’t think it is a good idea to rewrite everything! Indeed, our schemes of work may require some tweaking to deliver online. But is it all in need of overhaul or just a different approach. I am in no way judging anyone who has done this, but my advice is to think through how you can deliver a healthy online programme without the need to rewrite everything. Having said that, if in the future we do go into a lockdown again, then a bespoke online scheme might be a good thing to have…am I contradicting my own point!

No. 5 – Work all weekend

This is something I really think you need to avoid, no matter what your context! Working all weekend is a bad idea during lockdown as it will sap all your energy and enthusiasm for the week ahead. Of course you will spend some time planning maybe, but not all weekend. When I read that people are having to do that I really worry for them. I know that I made this point a bit in No. 3, but it is worth stressing again that you don’t need to do this to be a good teacher. Being a good teacher means being consistently good, not always outstanding. It means be ready, happy, full of energy and there for your students. Monday morning will be okay, you will get through the day. So don’t work all weekend!

No. 6 – Learn something you won’t ever use again

There is so much going on at the moment and we are tempted to do online courses, webinars and zoom calls. But it seems pointless to invest time into things that we won’t ever use again. I am mainly thinking about learning new technologies & embracing fresh websites that we are likely to not go near in the future. I am putting my time into learning one or two new things that I know I will use in the future. So I guess I am saying, fig you are going to learn something new in lockdown, make sure it is something you will use in the future.

No. 7 – Jump on any “Band-wagons”

This is similar to the point above, but a little more focussed on the wider world of music teaching. We all teach differently and in different settings. Some people will be doing things that you think look really great. But if we jump on the band-wagon then it may mean a bumpy road ahead. We can’t embrace every single new fad in music teaching because there are only 24 hours in the day. It is crucial to consider what we are embracing and getting ourselves into!

No. 8 – Set too much work

It can be very easy to get over-excited and set students far too much work to complete. They will struggle to get everything done as it is, and we need to give them time away from screens. Think about what you set and how it will be useful. Vary tasks and make some non-screen based.

No. 9 – Focus on Negatives

We can easily focus on the things that go wrong or the criticisms that we received. During lockdown, don’t focus on these things as they will simply steal your joy and make things worse. Remember that for every criticism you received, there will be plenty more positives.

No. 10 – Think you can do it all

There is a big difference between what I want to do and what I can do. There are not enough hours in a day, and I have to stop at some point. Thinking you can do it all will lead to stress and tiredness. You have to remember that you are doing your best. Keep in mind that teaching isn’t easy at the best of times. Thinking you can do everything that comes to mind or that you see on Twitter will end in disaster.

What NOT to do in Lockdown

Hopefully some food for thought as you continue to navigate Lockdown Learning in 2021. But I think a lot of these points can stay with us post lockdown. I don’t get it all right, but I can tell you that I have got lots wrong in my career. I have at times thought that my status as a teacher came down to how late I worked, how many days a week I spent in school and how “tired” I am. But in fact my teaching is about how well I deliver my curriculum to my students, and I do this a lot better when I am not tired and stressed. I work best when I have spent time with my family at the weekend and spent time refining what I do in light of new trends and ideas.

It is important to always remember that teaching is a journey and you never stop learning. It is a conveyor belt of new ideas, fresh strategies and changes in technology. But we can choose how fast to set the conveyor belt and it is fine to get off every so often and reflect, refresh and recharge. And it is fine to ask for help, seek advice and turn to your GP if you feel you are suffering from low-mood, stress or depression. Talking Therapies is a fantastic tool and I can highly recommend their work. Do NOT try to do it on your own and suffer in silence!

Enjoy teaching! It is a great job, hard, but rewarding in equal measure.

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