“The only constant is change.”—Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher
There’s a lot of change taking place throughout the world, all at once. Schools and businesses have closed overnight, and we’re being asked to stay and work from home as much as possible in a global effort to slow the spread of a deadly virus. How did we get here?
Yet, if we think of instances of change as they relate to our greater evolution, they’re par for the course. As long as humans have existed, we’ve stood resilient in the face of adapting to new circumstances, both good and bad. Yes, change can be very difficult. But change can also be a very good thing. While this crisis has posed innumerable challenges for everyone, there is a lot that we can learn from this experience. And as teachers, we know all too well that facing a challenge head-on is one of the most precious opportunities for personal growth.
While adjusting to a new pace and a new routine can be very difficult, it’s important to remember that if we take things in incremental steps, we can ease into a new routine and make it feel as normal as possible.
Working from Home
Perhaps the biggest professional challenge facing music teachers is the mandate to work from home. Aside from the technical issues of having to translate such a social, emotional, and physical activity into an online, virtual learning experience, for those who are also not used to working inside their personal space, the transition to a work from home lifestyle can pose its own unique challenges unrelated to the job you’re trying to conduct.
So, how do we balance that?
Establish a Routine
That’s right—routine, routine, routine! Resist every urge to replace your morning commute with a little extra sleep. Start work at the exact same time, every day. During the day, try not to be tempted by that overflowing laundry basket, or the sink piling full of dishes. However convenient, these tasks can slowly start to become too distracting. Additionally, don’t treat evenings like you’re on a vacation, staying up too late because (again) you may think you have a little more time to sleep in the next day.
Maintaining that day-to-day structure is crucial in making this change feel less harsh. Keeping your normal, everyday schedule means one less thing that actually needs to change.
Keep Your Workspace Separate
This may come naturally for some, especially if you already have an office space in your home, but it needs to be said. Setting up a designated workspace is like physically setting up a boundary—when you are in that space, you are working. When you step outside, you are not. Of course there will be some exceptions, and it’s impossible to keep both worlds entirely separated all the time, but having a deliberate workspace that’s not in front of the TV, or in bed, is ideal for your productivity.
What do you normally do during recesses? During lunch periods? This may be one area where without supervisory duties, or without students to physically interact with, you may feel a change. But remember, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Social distancing and working from home doesn’t equate to complete isolation indoors. Consider scheduling breaks each day so that you can step outside of your work/home space and get some fresh air. Meditation can be a great mental exercise for stressful times such as these. Or maybe you briefly FaceTime a colleague, family member, mentor, or friend to commiserate over the crisis and feel less alone. It’s important to stay connected, and we’re lucky that technology has evolved in such a way that we’re able to do so from far apart.
Whatever it is that you decide, it’s important to be intentional with that time away from work. Think of it as recharging your batteries at designated times, similar to how you’d plug your phone in to maintain its charge throughout the day. Taking your mind out of your mental workspace momentarily can make all the difference when you step back into it.
Keep “Home” at Home
When you’re not working from home, you’re just at home (see “Keeping Spaces Separate,” above). It can feel weird when you clock out for the day, and then… vualá! You’re home! Just as it can be tempting to do the laundry or dishes during the work day, it’s just as important to try to leave work where it is. Students will certainly have additional needs during this transition, and it is important to be there for them, but balance that as best as you can with your own personal life, and your own need to process what’s happening in the world. Spend time with your family (from a safe distance), and try to make time for exercise and physical health. If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of others.
As with facing any challenge, there will be bumps in the road. What advice would you give to a student who was being challenged? Now, more than ever, it’s important to be kind to yourself. We are all learning, and no one has all of the answers, but try to find the comfort in the fact that we’re in this together. Recognize that the value you are creating in the world through music education extends far beyond this moment, and use that as motivation to just keep up the good work… from home.