You know those days when enough things seem against you that you can barely hold back the tears [or not…and you end up finding a quiet store room to cry in for awhile], and you get home and want to just curl up on the couch with all your comfort items [like that super soft blanket, wool socks, and an episode of Top Gear], and no matter how your evening goes, you can’t imagine going back to that school tomorrow.
You just can’t.
I had one of those days this last week.
I had a student be extremely dis-respectful and demeaning to me, right in front of the rest of his 2nd grade class. He refused to go to the office. He refused to do anything I asked him to do. So when his teacher came, I told her that this child doesn’t want to come to music class. And I don’t want him to come to music class.
That was the absolute first time in my entire career I hit that point. And I’ve taught low-income middle school general music! It can happen to any of us, whether the student is in 2nd grade, 7th grade, or 11th grade.
If you’re interested in the whole story, watch my full confession on my YouTube channel HERE.
I was so grateful to have his teacher be so supportive, my principal was very supportive and came to bat for me, and his mom and I had a chat…all of us truly having this students’ best interest in mind. For that I am extremely grateful.
Nevertheless, that evening I had to confront the fact that I did NOT want to go back to that school the next day.
So I sat myself down and came up with some ideas for how to motivate myself back into teacher-loving-my-job mode. I tried them out and sure enough they worked for me.
I share them with you today in hopes that the next time you are in the pit of despair you can break through it and come out the other side a stronger, happier, more effective teacher than before.
This one should be easy for us, right? I mean,we teach other people how to breathe all day long, right?! Truly, though, this is the best way for our bodies to calm down, be present, and truly feel where we are in that moment. In a more…spiritual sense….our breath is connecting us with the energy all around us.
So sit, or lay, but with your best posture, and place your had 2 inches below your navel, and breathe into your hand. In Taoist tradition they call this ‘dantian breathing’. Just lay/sit there for 5 minutes, breathing to full extension of the breath on both inhale and exhale. If you struggle to keep distracting thoughts from assaulting you, assign a number to each inhale/exhale and count up to 10, then start back at one. Focus all your thoughts on the number. If any other thoughts crowd in, just resume counting.
#2- Take Some Comfort
Whatever form that comes in for you: anything from your favorite meal, to your favorite cocktail, to your favorite movie, or your favorite book or person. Or combine them all! Relish in the life that you have.
[Personally, I like to take a hot, bubbly, Epsom salt bath with some Lavender tea and a good book.]
#3- Don’t get drunk.
Or do anything else that would compromise your vitality. Go to bed early. Drink lots of water. You don’t want to do down the abuse hole because it’s much, much harder to come back out of it. You’re already down…why go further?
And yes. This did have to be said. So I said it.
#4- Be Grateful.
Open up a notebook, and for 5 minutes list everything you can think of in your life that you are grateful for. With each item on your list, don’t just write it, but FEEL it. Are you grateful for that awesome sunrise you saw while hiking that one mountain? Feel that feeling again. Are you grateful for that sweet note from one of your students? Feel that feeling again. Feel into every one of the items on your list.
Don’t forget to add all of the things you love about your job! Your friends at the school, that you get a paycheck regularly, that you are a professional, that you have awesome friends at the school, that your students love you [I have 280-ish students right now and only 1 has given me that kind of trouble. I am grateful for the 279 others, right?!]. There are so many wonderful things about teaching music. Express gratitude for every one.
If you’ve gone through all the steps above, then you’re in a good place. Now it’s time to forgive.
Start by forgiving yourself.
Then go through every interaction in your day and try to see it from the other person(s) view. Forgive them. Let it go. This is the hard part, but you’re in a good place and can do it.
#6- Look Forward
Think about the days and weeks to come. Is there anything that you’re looking forward to, that you’re excited about? Capture that happy, excited feeling. Memorize it.
Then think about tomorrow. List all the things you have to do [either in your head or on paper], and for each item, put that captured happy/excited feeling to it. It’s okay if it’s not something that you typically LOVE to do or are EXCITED for. Just put that feeling to it.
Of course this list is not definitive, but I do hope that it gives you a place to start. Right now, pick ONE and go do it for the next 5 minutes. I guarantee you’ll be on your way from $#!^ day to STELLAR days ahead.