When schools shut down in March, I worried that this project, TACET for Teachers, had suddenly become irrelevant. Why would teachers need resources for well-being when they were no longer faced with the stresses of being in the classroom? WOW was I ever wrong! It only took a few days to realize that this project had become more relevant than ever! Music teachers were suddenly faced with a new set of stressors, things they had never even imagined before. With no experience to fall back on, they did what they always do – they made it work.
Many music teachers are reporting feelings of exhaustion, working long hours, doing too much, and having high expectations for themselves. No matter how hard we try, there is always the nagging feeling that we could do more. And with no physical separation between “work” and “home,” this is all very challenging.
Which is why this project, TACET for Teachers, is extremely relevant.
While working from home, likely your hours are different, the expectations have shifted, and your interaction with students may have decreased. However, your responsibility to yourself and your students is the same. You must take care of yourself so you can take care of your students.
T = Take Five
It’s easy to get caught up working, spending hours at the computer or in front of a webcam. However, taking breaks is crucial to efficiency and productivity. The premise behind Take Five is taking short breaks throughout the day to reset and recharge.
If you are someone who is now spending most of the day at the computer, consider setting a timer to remind yourself to stand up and move. The Pomodoro Technique suggests setting a timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a 3-4 minute break – perfect for some water, deep breathing, or a few push-ups! After four sets, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This is the perfect time to take a walk or eat a distraction free lunch.
Need more suggestions on what to do during your breaks? Check out the Take Five section of the website for ideas!
A = Accountability
Accountability right now can be a genuine challenge. Not having a typical teaching day, schedules often lack routine or have more flexibility. This makes holding yourself accountable for anything – self care included – difficult for many people. I’ve found having a few personal “non-negotiables” every day helps immensely. Every day I make time to exercise and read – these are things that I want to accomplish for myself. I write both at the bottom of my daily list of work tasks in a bright color so they can’t be missed. Keeping this number small makes it manageable and increases the likelihood of daily completion. Additionally, I know it’s not the end of the world if I miss a day. However, I will never allow myself to miss two days in a row. Jon Acuff in his book, Finish, talks about how the day after perfect is the most important. The day after you miss a day. If you don’t resume the habit, you risk losing it.
You may choose to reward yourself after a good week of accountability; order takeout, spend time binge watching Netflix, or maybe splurge on some online shopping. Whatever you choose, know that taking time for yourself is important. If your week wasn’t perfect, that’s ok. Just do better next time.
C = Care of Self
Some people find self-care easier when working from home, while others find it much more challenging. Both make sense, depending on your situation. The important thing is that you keep it in mind and do what you can. Focus on:
- Eating a healthy variety of foods
- Drinking enough water throughout the day
- Getting enough sleep each night (ideally 7 hours!)
- Exercising daily
I know for me, my exercise and water consumption has improved, but I could definitely eat better and get more sleep. I’m sure everyone has an area they can work on!
Another thing worth monitoring is screen time. Many people, myself included, are spending more time at a computer than usual, and this can have negative affects on our health! Spending too much time staring at a screen can cause headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, and several other problems. Some suggestions:
- Be sure to blink often to keep your eyes from getting too dry.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule – give your eyes a break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Make sure your room is well lit.
- Keep the computer monitor about 24 inches away from your eyes.
Here are some other resources I found that contain more information:
- Is Too Much Screen Time During the Pandemic Hurting Our Eyes?
- Screentime Overload: Here’s How to Find Balance
Until Next Time…
Hopefully this has given you something to think about in terms of taking breaks throughout the day, holding yourself accountable, and taking care of yourself! Next time I’ll dig more into tips for remembering that you are Enough and some practical Time Management strategies for music teachers.
Until then, remember to take care of yourself, so you can take care of your students!
Have you joined our Facebook Group yet? It’s a great community of music educators supporting each other in this mission!