Its been a while since I last blogged and I thought I would start back with a simple question – How are you?
It has been a crazy few weeks what with CAGs, TAGs, announcements, exams, revision and ever changing plans. We have had to juggle so much as teachers and it is always good to check in and see how people are doing.
Why do you ask?
I ask this question because I know it is something I liked to be asked from time to time. We often don’t stop to think about how well we are coping with the job of teaching. We can find ourselves moving from day to day not realising that we might need to stop and think about us for a moment. When someone really asks “How are you?”, you have the chance to be honest and real with them. Of course we often ask this question in passing, a bit like when we say “How was your weekend?”. We don’t really care, we just say it out of habit.
Well I do care and I am asking because I want to see if I can help or support you in some way.
How am I?
Let me start by telling you how I am doing at the moment, as that might help to get the conversation started. I am okay, I think, but I must admit I have found the last year really tough. As a music teacher I have watched as musicians leave the school without a final goodbye concert & send-off. I have cancelled a tour that I spent a year planning, and cancelled a musical that I had auditioned and cast already. Lessons moved online, then back to the classroom and then online again. I have had the disappointment of not getting to see colleagues at conferences and I have feared for my students who have missed so much learning. I have doubted myself and worried that I am not doing enough. Jugging my own children at home with my online community has at times been tough.
I am coping, but I am tired and drained, often lacking motivation. But I always try and remain positive and passionate about what I do. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that things will get better and I can bounce back. So how am I – similar to you probably! Ready for the summer and excited about the future post-pandemic.
But do you know what, I am still feeling positive and I know that next year is going to be amazing. When I feel down I embrace it, process it and don’t worry about it. Then I look at how I can move forward, get perspective and focus on the good things.
How am I coping?
Having said all of that, I think I have coped well and I am coping with all that is being thrown at me.
Here are some of the things I have been doing:
- I chat regularly with colleagues both in school and in others schools. Colleagues & fiends have helped me no end over the last year.
- Reading has helped me to consider my own teaching and focus on how I can support the students going forward. I have enjoyed the time to reflect.
- Honestly has been important to me and I have learnt to be honest with myself, not taking on too much or being hard on myself.
- Me time has never been something I have been good at. I think the first 10 years of my teaching career were so focussed around work that I didn’t find time to stop. So I now make sure I carve out time for myself, to escape and relax, not thinking too much about work.
- Planning for the future is also helping me to cope. That might sound strange, but I love thinking about all I will be able to do when we come out of these covid days. I can’t wait to get things back to where they were and it really helps me to think about that.
I recently bought myself a Stand up Paddle board. I have wanted one for a while and it is my new form of escapism. Whenever I get a chance I head to the lake or rive and just set off. As you can imagine, paddle boarding is all about balance, and it took a while for me to find my balance. But once I did, I was able to stand tall, paddle along and just take in the world around me. My wellbeing has improved and I am feeling my mental health has already improved.
Finding balance in our work, thoughts and life in general can be hard. At the moment you may feel overwhelmed, not knowing quite where to start. I know that I am often sat at my desk trying to work out what to do next because there is so much to get through. The important thing is that balance is personal to you and is different for everyone. Work/Life balance is a term that is so often banded around, and there is not short answer or quick fix. It is something that you have to find. When you do, you will feel great, but it can take time and sometimes you will fall off balance. And also we have to keep in mind that at times the balance will tip slightly in the other direction, particularly for us music teachers.
The one thing that is really helping me at the moment is looking forward. I mentioned planning a moment ago and that is something I am really enjoying at the moment. It is good to think ahead to next year and now is the time to do it. Have blogged recently in my 10 Minute CPD series on planning and how it can really help us to get perspective and get excited for the future. At the moment we don’t fully know what the future holds, but I am optimistic that next year will be better for us all. I am starting to look at new lesson ideas, fresh repertoire for ensembles and dreaming of a music tour and musical.
Planning doesn’t need to be arduous and time consuming, but it can be fun and enjoyable. Start by writing down all the things you have missed during the pandemic. Then look at what you want to prioritise for next year. Then think about new things that you have never done that you want to try. It is good to think about September now, but just keep it positive and light, nothing too heavy!
Music Teacher support
Hopefully you have heard of Music Teachers Association (MTA formerly MMA). I have been part of this association for a number of years now and I currently sit on the committee. Over the last year MTA has been an absolute lifeline for me – and I think it has been the same for many more. We have seen our membership grow and we have been able to support teachers on zoom more and more. I can’t imagine getting through a week without engaging with someone in MTA and I am so grateful that it exists.
I have recently been given the role of Music Teacher Support Lead. This basically means that I am focussed on supporting music teachers as they journey through the profession. This is something I love to do and I am going to be focussing on this even more. So when I ask you How are you, I mean it, and I hope I can help. Obviously this is something that will span beyond MTA, but I do hope you might consider joining us, especially if you are about to embark on your NQT year.
How are you?
“How are you?”
I mean it,
“How are you?”
“What do you need?”
“What questions do you have?”
“How can I help?”
Obviously I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t think that I am a guru. But if I can support you in any way, then please do get in touch. And hopefully this blog has given you a chance to stop and think about how you are coping and getting on in your role as a music teacher. And if I don’t have the answer, I will find someone who does.
My advice is, don’t do it on your own. We are all in this together and teachers must stick together. Teaching Music is the greatest job in the world and when I am feeling down I always stop and remember that. What we do matters and we must make sure that in the process of everything we look after ourselves so that we can keep doing a great job.
Get in touch, join MTA and maybe find a colleague today and ask “How are you?”