I may be completely dating myself here, but do you remember those old personals ads, SWF seeks a partner for fun, dates, and possible LTR? When I first got into teaching piano, I was told (in my Simply Music training program) that I was embarking on a long term relationship with teaching music. Like any LTR, it would have peaks, valleys and plateaus (in feeling) over short, medium, and long periods of time.
Five years in, I can see that it’s true. My relationship with teaching piano and with my business has its ups and downs, just like my 11-year marriage. Lots of times I am completely filled up with how much I love my students and how much they accomplish. Other times I have fleeting fantasies of closing up shop and taking a full time job in Human Resources again.
Fortunately, I have the experience of MANY long term relationships with many things and people, such as school (16 years), a workplace (10 years), my parents (35 years), singing (32 years), my husband (16 years), to name a few. So it made a lot of sense to me to think of this endeavor, “teaching music” as another long term relationship.
Of course, it’s always easiest to manage in the peaks, when you’re on cloud nine and feeling great. Even the plateaus are okay, when everything is chugging along nicely without being extra good or extra bad. It’s those dreaded valleys that are terrifying, when you just want to scream “MAKE IT STOP!”
The valleys in my relationship with teaching music are especially hard. I sometimes feel like I shouldn’t have them because I’m the music teacher, AND I sometimes feel like I can’t let my students see that I’m having a valley. Each of my students has their own LTR with music to deal with. I’m afraid that if they perceive my “weakness”, that I will be less able to help them manage their own valleys in their relationship with music.
Actually, this is patently false, and more harmful than helpful. Beginning two winters ago (most of my personal valleys happen during the Minnesota winters), I made a point of writing and speaking about it when I was experiencing a valley. You can read a couple of these posts from my piano studio’s blog here:
I now firmly believe that when my students see me feeling down about music and doing it anyway, it gives them a positive example of how we should handle these fluctuations in our feelings about any long term pursuit. Everyone is going to have a valley sometimes. It’s what you do to manage and come out on the other side that matters.
There are also a few things that I do in my day-to-day life that help me cope with these valleys in my mood and in my long term relationship with teaching music:
- I have a file folder and an email folder called “Nice Things for Bad Days”. Whenever a music student or parent sends me a love note, or a thank you, or shares some musical thing that their child accomplished and gives me credit, I save it. I put it in the folder. Then when I am really feeling low, I can read through hard evidence of all the good I have done and the lives I have impacted.
- When winter comes, I make a renewed commitment to self care. I go on an anti-inflammatory diet (which involves cutting out dairy and gluten) and I get a massage once a week. I also maintain a year-round, 20-minute morning meditation routine.
- If I’m feeling overwhelmed and tired, I make time for little things that matter: Things like playing with my daughter, reading for pleasure, singing with friends, making a snow man, taking a walk, lunch with girlfriends… you get the idea.
- I have a therapist, and I see her regularly. Having someone to talk to about the dark things going on in the deepest recesses of my mind is really important. I know that I am a better music teacher, singer, wife, and mother because I have this outlet.
All these things and more help me through these periods of depression and dissatisfaction in my Long Term Relationship with being a music instructor. When I come out on the other side of each valley, I can look back and see how far up I’ve come! What do you do to help yourself keep going when you’re feeling down about your music teaching studio?