Piano teachers face many challenges as we welcome clients into our studios, music schools and homes. We feel the pressure to meet every individual need and request, some which may be easy to fulfill and others which may not.
Last year I attended a workshop with the principal of a busy city school. Her days were very taxing, with children who came from stressful backgrounds. Some of the students in her school were immigrants from war-torn countries, some had witnessed crimes, some had high emotional needs. One of the best pieces of advice she gave to the teachers at the workshop was to give a little attention each day to your own self-care.
This experienced teacher had to deal with many difficult situations in the run of her day. One of the things that got her through was the knowledge that at home on her kitchen table was a tea cup ready and waiting for her. All day she looked forward to that hot cup of tea. Just thinking about it helped her have the inward resolve to pull through.
Besides the regular stresses of being a teacher, in the autumn, many people in the northern hemisphere are susceptible to SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — depression that is connected to the change of seasons. Depression is a serious thing and is very stressful. While there is no easy solution, these ideas may help you get through days of lessons that might otherwise be a struggle.
Wouldn’t you like to take better care of yourself?
1. A cup of tea — something to look forward to
Something as simple as setting out a tea cup can make you feel better throughout your day. With all the challenges you’ll face, you’ll remember that you’re all set up for a little nurturing with a soothing drink that will warm and relax your spirit. It’s uncomplicated, it’s cozy, and it’s just for you.
Before you begin to teach for the day, prepare the cup on your counter or table and just let it wait there for you all day, for that moment when your final student closes the door and you can warm up your kettle. This tea cup gives you permission to sit back for a moment and take time to adjust back into your regular life, to decompress from your day of teaching.
Just knowing that your tea cup is there waiting for you will give you a sense of inner calm all day, a sense of knowing that after all, everything is going to be okay.
2. Smile — it reduces stress!
Did you know that a smile can reduce your stress and lower your heart rate? But sometimes when we need it the most, we are so stressed that it’s difficult to smile.
Scientists have discovered that even when you don’t feel like smiling, you can activate your facial muscles to trick your brain into thinking you are smiling. Amazingly, this trick has the ability to improve your outlook and view other people in a more positive way.
It’s as simple as biting your pencil or pen between your teeth. Holding your pencil in your mouth extends your smiling muscles, relaxes your face, and sends messages to your brain that you are okay (and that others are okay, too).
So, the next time you are in the middle of a challenging lesson, just pop your pencil into your mouth and secretly know why you’re doing it! For your own preservation.
To read more about pencil-activated smiling, go to Dr. Mithu Storoni’s blog and read, “Don’t write with your pen, BITE IT”.
3. Sing — join a choir
Are you looking for a natural ‘high’ to combat the lows of life? Sing! More specifically, sing with others. The benefits of singing, on your own and with a choir, are backed by scientific research.
Health benefits! Singing…
- Boosts your immune system
- Improves circulation
- Increases your energy
- Benefits the heart
- Can even reduce snoring
Mental health benefits! Singing…
- Reduces stress
- Makes you feel good by releasing endorphins (chemicals that reduce your brain’s perception of pain)
- Improves your memory
- Fosters clear thinking through correct breathing
- Increases social fulfilment
The good news for piano teachers is that we don’t need to wait for choir practice to sing. Each and every piano lesson offers us the opportunity to sing — with our students.
To read more, go to the Voice Council Magazine Blog and read 5 Benefits of Joining a Choir Backed by Science.
4. Positive words — take time to be thankful
To boost your mood and make you feel happier, reflect on your blessings. Take time to feel gratitude. According to the website, Harvard Health Publishing, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
With Thanksgiving in the autumn, I created an activity page for piano teachers and students designed to shine a light on feeling thankful about piano lessons. It begins with, “Because of PIANO, I get to…” and allows you and your students to fill in the blank with words, a picture, or both.
What special thing does piano add to your life? How are you thankful for piano? What do you get to do because the piano is part of your life? One thing is sure, once you ponder these questions, you’ll feel gratitude for what the piano has done for you.
To find out how you can do this activity with your students, go to the blog post, ‘Because of piano I get to…’ activity shines light on gratitude [Printables].
It seems only fitting to sum up this post with this song, ‘Smile’, written by Charlie Chaplin and sung by the legendary Nat King Cole. Take a listen! Sing along! Remember it on difficult days and of course, remember to smile!
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I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching!
Video of the week: ‘Friends of a Feather, Madge and Katniss Duet’ (Unequal, Levels 3 and 5) from Madge’s Notebook, A Piano Tribute to the Hunger Games, Intermediate to Late Intermediate piano solos that capture the strength and innocence of youth. Friends of a Feather brings friends together with music.