Right now, many of you have already started school. Some are still waiting, because your district might have postponed the start of school, hoping to provide staff more time to prepare. Some of you are fulltime in the classroom. Some of you are doing virtual teaching. Some of you are on a hybrid schedule. Some of you have been moved out of your rooms and onto a cart. Some of you have masks only. Some of you have shields. I’m willing to bet, however, you all are just a little stressed.
This is part three of a three-part blog series collecting various tip Memes of the Day on my Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. Because I’m retired, I’ve wanted to help, so I began posting these memes, but then realized having all of them in one place might be nice. This third set is going to focus on YOU, and how you can care for yourself.
Find an Easy Place to Dump Your Thoughts
Music teachers are famous for running, creative thoughts, often turning into “Drat, what was that?” after 5 minutes because that brilliant idea just flew out of your head since you didn’t have a place to record that thought. This incident probably happens 10 fold now with the additional concerns of planning distance learning. One remedy: open a Google Doc as a second tab on your browser. If you get a random thought at 3 a.m. and your phone is near you, open Google Docs on your phone, jot it down, and it will be there when you do your work a your computer. If you get that thought while driving? Use Siri (or the equivalent for Google-based phones) to send you an email with that idea. One minor snafu: sometime Siri doesn’t translate well. So instead of “Don’t forget to cover the tubano heads,” you might get “Don fogged coming to the bano said.” Hey, that might jog your memory, though!
Take Social Media Breaks
I don’t think it’s news that the atmosphere in the United States is on tenterhooks right now. Amazingly, one of the biggest “bones of contention” is the handling of safety measures for COVID. Branching off from this is how administrators/governors handle the beginning of school. Couple this with the freedom and “anonymity” that many people feel on social media, even with their names posted, and hard feelings and backlash can ensue. The “old” adage of not sending an email while angry holds even more for social media, because many eyes will see posts and responses. As difficult as it is, when you see posts that stringently and rudely criticize teachers based on rumor and propaganda, walk away. There are even apps to help. Phone apps are listed here. I use Waste No Time as a Chrome browser extension to help me focus only on sites I need (such as Teachers Pay Teachers or my blog.). Be careful on Facebook, even teacher groups that are supposed to be “private”. Some teachers have unfortunately been turned in to their administrator because of advice they seek in groups because a parent or other staff members got into the group, even with the screening questions common in groups. So, if you use any apps, go to Netflix to watch “The Office” before it flies to Peacock. Download the Kindle app or read an old fashioned book. Use your Calm app. Reading comments can wear you down physically and emotionally after a while, like emotional trauma, because, in many ways, it is. I am saying this as someone who has to tell myself this all the time. We KNOW the benefit of teachers, and we KNOW there are people who appreciate us.
Be Respectful, but Don’t Be Shy about Advocating for the Importance of Music
Teachers aren’t the only ones who are stressed. Administrators have to field angry/scared parent phone calls, adjust lunch, and work out necessary schedules so the students’ education is as thorough as can be during a pandemic. And on top of all that looms the possibility that everything can turn on a dime with just one positive COVID test if school is in live session.
However, they do need to remember that the arts are still a crucial part of a child’s education whether they are assessed or not. Principals, sadly, might forget that and still regard the arts as break time. They may put you on a cart without consulting you. They may cancel your classes at the last minute or not be concerned about safety measures for your room. Unless they have been an arts teacher or have family members heavy into the arts, it just might not even show up on their radars. This is a time when “specials” should get together and ask for a meeting with the principal. Offer your suggestions on how your disciplines will enhance the learning. Ask how you can make your room safe, if you can at all. (Unfortunately, many music rooms will not accommodate distancing.) Show the principal examples of technology you can use for music class that will allow for musicking. If you come at it with a proactive, gentle, but assertive demeanor, the principal will not be put on the spot. Make sure you relay your message from the viewpoint of how it benefits the children, not how it makes your life easier or supports your ego.
Team Teach with Someone in Your District if You Can
“Two heads are better than one,” (John Heywood, 1546). This can be especially true in times like these, where information is spinning about what constitutes safe teaching, to mask or not to mask, and everything else in the world. (What’s on YOUR 2020 Bingo Card?) Sometimes, you just have to work with someone to cure the monkey mind. If it is at all possible, team teach with a colleague. This may not be practical if you are in the building with students, but if your school has an adequate Zoom account, why not combine classes? Maybe two music teachers can break their classes into Zoom groups for a composition competition. Perhaps your P.E. colleague and you can collaborate with students on a folk dance that calls for individual moves.
At the very least, share ideas. Interdisciplinary activities should not become a dinosaur simply because you have to use a screen. The classroom teacher can work with students on a particular country in West Africa. The art teacher can work with them on African work indicative to the area using materials in their homes. You could work with them on West African drumming with buckets. You get the idea! The kids will love it, and you will probably love it as well, because you will be getting adult interaction and not feel quite so lonely.
Don’t Be a Hero
Full disclosure here: at the time I posted this meme in July, I had no clue how parents would negatively react about district decisions for school, especially with hybrid or virtual learning. My meme says, “Parents and kids will understand.” I’m going to be blunt here: not all parents understand. I can sort of get this: they are scared for their jobs. They are scared for their kids. However, like I said in my section in social media, they often whip out a negative post without thinking. One post comes to mind in responding to pictures in a local paper showing kids in their classes on the first day of school. Most were wearing masks. One parent commented: “Take off those masks! We can’t see their cute faces!” I sat stunned. Of course, there was backlash, but not as many people chastised her as I thought. Some parents, out of fear, denial, or frustration, are expecting the impossible. But don’t wear yourself out trying to make everyone happy so they don’t complain. For some, it’s very deeply ingrained, and you won’t be able to do much to keep them happy.
But I can almost guarantee 90% of the kids will get it. They are there. They see what is going on daily. And it’s the nature of most kids to respond positively to a teacher, even if they don’t always act like it. Do your best. And if you have a child who doesn’t appreciate it? Consider the old adage: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Love them anyway. Do what you can, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to playing #5 in Volume I from memory. (I honestly do not have my Music for Children open, so I have no clue what #5 is, LOL).
Which leads to….
Take Care of Yourself
It is NOT selfish. How can you care for your students and family if your brain and nerves feel like this?
Politics getting to you? Turn on a streaming service and pull up an outrageous comedy. Find a movie featuring someone who has overcome adversity to inspire you. Put on Zen music and do some yoga stretches. OR, put on some classic 70s and beyond and dance like Erkle. Allow yourself some indulgent food, measure it, and SAVOR it. (I have finally learned how to do that and am losing all my after-baby fat. My youngest is 28. BUT, I’m down almost 50 pounds into a 100 pound weight loss goal!) I’ve found several websites that list foods that are good for helping to alleviate stress, but I’ll post this one.
Or just…..create music. Listen. Use YOUR music……….
And please take care.