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Summer Self-Care for the Private Teacher

Updated: Apr 25

Summer break is almost here. As you work hard to prepare your students for end-of-year recitals, auditions, or music exams, don’t forget to develop a summer self-care plan for yourself. Here are some things I’ve done during past summer sessions to rejuvenate myself for the following year. 

Reclaim your own music space.

Mustering up the continuous creativity, energy, and patience that teaching requires can gradually sap our desire to play for ourselves. Carve out some time this summer - maybe a whole week or two - to play music you love, just for you. Use this time to remember why music is such an important part of your life so you can better transmit this core value to your students in the fall.

Assess the previous year

Teaching is tiring because it’s a demanding career, for sure. But if your end-of-year fatigue feels more like burnout, there might be some things you can adjust in your lesson structure, self-expectations, or lesson policies to mitigate this in the future. These questions help you identify which practices you might want to change:

  • Lesson activities. What lesson activities really paid off for you and the student? Which ones required more patience or effort than they were worth? Consider other ways to teach the same skills that offer more pay-off. 

  • Personal expectations. Do you routinely expect more from yourself than you do your students? In my experience, regularly putting in, say, 80% of the lesson effort for each student that invests only 20% is a recipe for burn-out. Someone once said to me, “Never work harder than the client”. I’ve found that adjusting my teaching expectations based on each student’s level of dedication and effort has saved me a great deal of frustration - and has enabled me to show up fully energized for the students who work the hardest. (It’s important to remember that piano isn’t equally important to all students, so teaching each student equally doesn't make sense.) 

  • Update your policies. Are your lesson make-up policies, practice expectations, and payment policies clear and streamlined? If not, this can cause a lot of stress and hassle over the school year. Consider updating (or developing) your policies in anticipation of the new school year. (You can view mine here.)

Take a music class that inspires you

Maybe your Studio is running smoothly but your teaching feels a bit stale. Consider taking an online course to improve your skills, network with other teachers, or learn a new pedagogical approach. A few years ago, I took an online piano pedagogy course at the Royal Conservatory of Music and it was well-worth the cost and effort. I was excited to start the new school year and apply the new skills I learned. 

Remember...teacher ain't happy, ain't nobody happy

If you need a career pick-me-up this summer, consider putting a self-care plan into action. I guarantee that addressing your needs and rejuvenating yourself in this way will pay off for you and your students come fall - a win/win!

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