Let’s be honest, one of the amazing things about being a music teacher is that we get to see so many students in one school day. By doing this we are able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students in a single day, which if you ask me is absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, we also need to be aware of letting one class’s behavior affect us after they’ve left our classrooms. It can be so easy to let one class put you in a funk and to carry that with you when the next class comes in for their music lesson. I’ve done it for sure. It can be hard to give each class the best of ourselves when we just got done with a particularly rough class before they entered the room.
However, for the sake of our students (as well as our own sanity), we need to make a conscious effort to start fresh at the beginning of each class and not carry the stressors from earlier in the day change the way we make music with our students.
This isn’t easy. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m sometimes not able reset. I’m definitely guilty of carrying over some stress from the previous class, and it rarely goes well.
So here are a few of the ways that I regroup between classes to make sure that I am always in a good headspace for my students.
Write Down a Positive Moment
Even in the roughest of classes, there will likely be at least a couple of moments that are positive. Maybe it's a quiet student that is finally trying to sing. Or maybe one of my students who has experienced a lot of trauma was able to make it through the entire class without needing to take a break.
Even in the worst moments, there are likely gems of magic that are happening too. Not only is this a great exercise after a particularly rough class, but it’s also an incredibly healthy way to view the class as it’s happening. I’ve found that it's a lot easier to make it through a difficult class when you are looking for the positive moments.
After the students have left and the dust has settled, take some time to think about why the lesson flopped. Had the students been testing all day? Were they not in the right headspace for what you tried to do? Was it too simple or too difficult? Did you give your students the tools they needed to be successful?
Take some time to think about whether or not anything was wrong with the lesson itself, or maybe it was just a problem in timing. Look at the entire lesson and see what was successful and what could have gone better. Take a look at the sequencing and make sure that you've given your students the tools that they need in order to have been successful with the lesson.
Take a couple of deep breaths. Take a moment of mindfulness and try to relax a little bit. If, like me, you don’t have any time between classes, you can even have your students join you.
Mindfulness is something that our students need to practice as well. If you need to take a moment and breathe and listen to music at the beginning of class to reset, then have your students join you. This can also be incredibly beneficial for our students as they transition into the music classroom.
There is a great episode of the Music Teacher Coffee Talk podcast that is all about mindfulness in the music classroom. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you want to learn more about how you can implement mindfulness into your classroom.
We've all been there: you spend an hour on a lesson and are so excited to finally get to share it with your students. You prepare all of the manipulatives and resources and jump right in with your students. Then the worst happens: the lesson completely flops.
There's nothing quite as unnerving as realizing the lesson you've worked so hard on isn't being received by your students in the way you had expected. It happens, and it stinks. It can be such a nasty blow to our confidence, and we begin to second guess everything.
Unfortunately, this is all just part of the gig. Lessons fail. Sometimes lessons fail for things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes the deck is just stacked against you. It is what you do after the lesson that really matters.
Take some time to remember why you teach, and work as hard as you can to leave one class’s behavior stay in that class and not bleed into the next!
Bryson Tarbet is the music educator and blogger behind That Music Teacher.