I am sitting in Caribou on a Saturday, contemplating about how to begin this article about fostering wholeness and wellness in my classroom. While I think I’m pretty far from “mastering” the art of being a music teacher and staying well, I have made some pretty big strides in the past few years. It’s important to keep in perspective that I am a young professional who loves her job with a small family (just me, my music teacher husband and a few plants, hopefully a golden retriever down the road). I am able to dedicate a lot of time to my job right now, but it’s not something that I will always do, or even want to do.
I received my M.M. in Music Education at Michigan State University this past summer. After dedicating three summers to learning more about how to be an awesome music teacher, I am ready to slow down on learning about music education and I’m ready to learn a little more about who I am outside of my career. I created a presentation a couple of years ago about work-life balance in relation to music educators and music education. While my findings were not surprising to me, they were somewhat challenging to swallow.
Many music educators look at “work-life balance” as bimodal. That’s not necessarily true, as there are many facets to our lives. Sometimes things come up where we need to invest our time and energy into fostering relationships with loved ones outside of school; other times we need to put time and energy into our classrooms and students. Many students can see right through their teachers. They can see when we are tired, when we are frustrated, when we are sad. They can also see when we are joyful, full of love, and optimism. The power of positivity and optimism is quite profound.
Many people say, “You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” One year ago I was struggling a lot at school, and it resulted in stress outside of school that I did not anticipate. I was gaining weight, unhappy, unmotivated, easily frustrated by students, and I was at the point where I would openly cry at school. I still remember a conversation that I had with my sister about a student. I was so upset. I was reacting to this student’s attitude instead of slowing down and assessing the situation. I was physically carrying that student’s weight on my shoulders. My sister asked, “How old is this kid?” I said, “15 or so.” She said, “Zan, he’s a kid. You have to leave that at school.” That really put it into perspective for me. They are the kids. We are the adults. After that conversation, I made some goal for myself that have changed my life for the better:
Here I am, one year later, loads happier (and even 10 pounds lighter!). I teach a yoga class once a week, eat awesome food, hang out with my family and friends, go to bed at 8:00 or 9:00 most nights, read books, and teach incredible young musicians about music.