Letter to an Overwhelmed Teacher

Dear overwhelmed teacher,

You started this year with so much energy and enthusiasm.  You were excited, if not a bit anxious, about seeing your students and getting started.  You pinned on Pinterest and searched Teachers Pay Teachers all summer long to prepare. You planned lessons, made manipulatives, and set up your space to be welcoming to your students.  But now the year is in full swing, and the energy is fading.  You’re exhausted and overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a music teacher.  Grading, conferences, meetings, performances, and so much more have you worked to the bone. Sleep and time to eat are distant memories, and you don’t know how to get back on track.

We have all been there. Here are some ideas to help you through.

4 tips for the overwhelmed teacher

PRIORITIZE.

I know, I know.  There’s a pile of papers that have been in the “to file” drawer since probably last quarter, centers materials to laminate, and your desk looks like it threw up.  But you don’t need to be perfect; you just need to do your job.  So make the desk look somewhat decent (junk drawers don’t need to be just for home) in the meantime, and  sit down to prioritize.  Make a list.  What really needs to get done today?  What can wait?  What can you delegate to a helpful student or a partner?  My husband Steve has cut out lamination almost as much as I have.  It’s okay to ask for help.  And kids LOVE to help during recess or if they finish a task before everyone else in their class.  Don’t think you have to do it all by yourself, or that everything needs to get done immediately.

 

 

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF.

This is a lesson I am working on a lot this year.  I feel like if I take time for other things, I’ll just have to do the rest of my work later.  But I’m finding that it’s so worth it.  I started to going to a gym this past year, and the time I spend at the gym is time to let out my anxiety and frustrations.  I de-stress, and I feel much better when I leave.  Working out doesn’t do it for you?  Join a local ensemble.  This year, I joined a choir, and it feels wonderful to make music with my peers, as well as socialize.  Maybe you could join a book club?  Do puzzles?  Whatever it is, find something that relaxes you, and make sure that you don’t let it fall by the wayside when work gets stressful.  A hard lesson I had to learn was that my students could tell when I was stressed.  I wasn’t as effective as a teacher, and class wasn’t as joyful for the students or myself.  So no matter what is going on at school, make sure you do some self care.

 

 

FIND SOMEONE TO TALK TO.

As a verbal processor, talking to someone about my day is very important.  My husband is a very good listener.  But sometimes, he just doesn’t understand what we teachers go through.  So for those times, I go to my best friend.  She’s also a music teacher, and she just understands.  I don’t need to explain to her why I’m frustrated that the copier was down during my prep.  She gets it. Talking to a friend or partner is good, but being able to vent to a fellow teacher is the most helpful.  They’ve been there, and they might even have some tips for whatever you’re struggling with.

Many districts also have Employee Assistance Programs, where you can receive a certain amount of confidential therapy sessions for free.  I highly suggest finding out what is available to you.  Teaching is a stressful job, and there is absolutely no shame in talking to someone about it.  Whether you would benefit from talking to someone every week or so, or just need to get through a particularly tough situation, therapy is an awesome option.

Teaching is a stressful job. There is no shame in talking about it.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

You can only do so much.  In teaching, I find that we have trouble saying no, or setting up boundaries.  You don’t need to feel bad about saying no to joining a third committee, or not volunteering for that fifth after school event.  Until they start handing out cloning machines, there is only so much you can do.  Yes, it is good to be helpful and involved in your school.  But it is okay if there are times when you can’t help out.  And the layer of dust covering the shelves in your classroom?  It can wait.  There’s only so much you can do in a day, and that’s fine.

 

So please remember that you are enough, that the work you do is important, and that you are your worst critic.  You will get through this stressful time.  After all, you’re a teacher, and you can do anything.  …Just not everything.

 

New Year’s Resolutions 2018

Yay first blog post!  I plan to share so many ideas here, but since it’s the beginning of 2018, let’s start by sharing my resolutions for the new year.

                                      music teacher resolutions

SCHOOL RESOLUTIONS

  • Get to know my students better.  The first year in a school, you learn the students’ names, and learn the particulars about your school.  But the second year is when you truly get to delve into the school community.  You get to know the families and students’ backgrounds much better in the second year.  Don’t get me wrong; I learned a lot about my kiddos last year.  But this year, the goal is to learn so much more about my nearly 800 students.  It really helps me connect with them and plan engaging lessons for them.
  • Modify my curriculum. The scope and sequence for General Music in my district was designed for a schedule that my school stopped using this year.  I see my kids less often this year, *insert frowny face here* so I’m trying to squeeze our curriculum to fit.  I’d like to find more “double dippers,” or songs that teach more than one concept, so that the loss of contact time doesn’t put as big a dent in our learning.
  • Organize my storage closet.  When I came to my current school, I inherited a mountain of a mess.  The large storage closet was packed with materials older than I am, broken instruments, and THREE textbook series.  Slowly but surely, I am tackling this mess. Hopefully, I’ll finish it up in 2018!
    storage closet
    my messy storage closet
  • Attend workshops.  I love attending workshops, but because of schedule conflicts, I’ve only been able to attend two workshops since moving to Arizona.  I’d love to attend more this year.  I always leave them feeling refreshed and excited to incorporate what I learned.

 

PERSONAL RESOLUTIONS

  • Move.  My husband and I hope to move to the East side of Phoenix before the new school year starts.  We moved from Illinois to Arizona a year and a half ago, so from one side of a city to the other hopefully won’t be too bad!
  • Work out consistently.  I had been working out three to five times a week for six months… until I started teaching after school.  Not getting home until 6:30 (after school), 8:30 (voice lessons), or 10:30 (choir practice) each weeknight brought this schedule to a screeching halt. So I need to get back to the gym. Even if it’s just on the weekends, a consistent workout routine helps me feel energized and ready to teach.
  • Sleep.  Like many of you, I’m sure, I haven’t been getting enough sleep. I’m going to make a conscious effort to get more sleep this year.  When my doctor found out a few weeks ago that I average five hours a night during the week, she (with good reason) was not happy with me.  I’m going to go to bed earlier.  Coffee helps, but it doesn’t replace a good night’s sleep.

 

TPT RESOLUTIONS

  • Post on this blog at least once a month.  I love writing, so hopefully this will be an easy resolution to keep!  I hope to write more frequently than once a month, but monthly is a good minimum. Posts will include Kodaly-inspired activities, classroom organization ideas, ESL supports, stories from my classroom, and more.  I’m so excited share my teaching with you!
  • Update old resources.  I have so many products in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but I would love to do some updates to some of my older ones.
  • Add a new product once a month.  Last school year, I put up very few products, because I was very busy with my first year in a new school.  This school year, I’ve been better about creating resources on a regular basis, and I’d like to continue to do so.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

I’m so excited for 2018!  What are your resolutions?  If you haven’t done so yet, sit down with some coffee, and really reflect on where you are, and where you want to be.  Anything special planned for this year?  Leave a comment below.  Thank you for stopping by!

 

coffee and notebook