This post also appeared on the Music Under Quarantine blog.
Each person around the world is facing their own unique challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the challenges many educators are facing is maintaining motivation and positivity, which is essential to help students stay engaged as we finish the school year.
One of the unofficial job descriptions for music educators is to embrace your role as a cheerleader and motivator. A good teacher must be knowledgeable and skilled at their craft, but they must also inspire creativity and enthusiasm from their students. But it can be challenging to motivate others when you’re feeling anxious or uninspired yourself.
So, how do you do find positivity in the face of a global pandemic?
Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve used to balance teaching and managing stress levels (both mine and my students’) throughout the last few months:
- Designate time off from technology. One of the great parts of technology is constant and instant access to information. The downside is that it’s easy to feel obligated to constantly stay connected to help your students. Set an alarm each day to remind yourself to power off your computer, tablet, phone, and yourself. Having clearly defined work time and personal time is essential to staying motivated.
- Manage your notifications. Review your notification settings on all devices so you’re not constantly flooded by pings, pop-ups, and other time drainers. Bonus: remove email from your phone. This was a big step for me, but it’s helped me to add a clear separation between working hours and time off.
- Consume the news and social media responsibly. In addition to limiting notifications, make sure you consume the news and your socials enough to stay updated, but not so much it creates extra anxiety. Now might also be a great time to unfriend, unfollow, and mute updates from any person or group that don’t spark joy.
- Prioritize self care. If you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s going to be difficult to take care of your students. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, and exercising. Don’t feel guilty for scheduling self care into your daily routine.
- Connect with your own support group. Make sure you stay in touch with friends and family so you can offer support, motivation, and encouragement when you all need it most.
- Help students figure out their routines. One of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself and your students is to create a consistent daily schedule to manage work assignments, personal obligations, and practicing. Once you’ve figured out your routine, help you students brainstorm ways they can stay productive from home.
- Set daily and weekly goals. Creating goals and making a step-by-step plan to achieve each goal is a great way to make sure your productivity level doesn’t take a nosedive. Having daily, weekly, and monthly goals can also help to keep your days straight and avoid one day from blurring into another.
- Listen to your students. This is the easiest way to show camaraderie and support during tough times. Be empathetic and compassionate, and remind your students that you’re there for them if they need anything.
- Reevaluate your expectations of students. While I don’t think you should completely revamp your syllabus or expectations, be understanding of students who might need extra time or those who lack resources to complete previously scheduled assignments and deadlines.
I realize this is a tough time for everyone, and I hope these tips are useful as we navigate our new reality. Sending you all virtual hugs as we make it through the semester!