In This “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Take Time for You and Yours

Lesley Schultz • December 2021String Section • December 18, 2021

With “back to normal” in full force around a good portion of the world, this upcoming holiday/winter season seems much more chaotic than in the past. The concerts are back on, traditions in full force, this party, that party, this staff gathering, outside gigs for your run out groups and more. 

Rebuilding and improving the traditions of your program are important, but all of us need to take stock that this is a new normal. All programs are now seeing the relative chaos of the last year or so. We have discovered (some to our dismay) that our grand plans are getting derailed, having to scale back, take more time, reteach, work harder to keep students, all while the community and administration expectations continue to be as high or higher than pre-pandemic. Teacher burnout and anxiety looks a little different for us, but it is still a very real thing. Do not ignore it, and seek support if you need it. 

We know where we were with our pre-pandemic programs, and we know we aren’t where we were (if you are, then kudos to you). This series of concerts is usually the best attended of the year, with the community, alumni and all the administration in attendance besides sometimes being streamed, or on local TV. This is the year to welcome everyone back, maybe share warm-hearted stories of student perseverance through the pandemic, and make sure everyone has a positive experience. It is okay to choose music where you know your students will be successful and have a successful performance. We are lucky that in most cases we get to choose the standard our students should meet, and the flexibility to choose the instructional material to meet those goals. Maybe this is the year to choose that exceptionally cheesy Christmas selection with all the crazy toys and get your admin to join in! This is also the year that if there was a particular tradition you didn’t care for, to change up that tradition with a new one.  

The most important piece we as a teaching profession need to learn is to separate ourselves from school. Your own children will not be young forever, your parents/grandparents will not be around forever, other folks you care about and love. We pour so much of ourselves into teaching; it is a part of our identity, but there are other aspects to our identity as well. Take time for yourself, a hike in the woods with the snow, taking part in your hobby, doing something with your family. Unplug from school. We as teachers are not supposed to be on call 24-7. We aren’t paid that way, and in our line of teaching we give up more outside time than any other, and not all of us get paid for that time and expectations. You cannot give your program what it needs if you yourself are burnt out. The work will still be there, keep your deadlines of course, but if it isn’t done tonight because you are spending an evening with your grandmother, don’t stress about school. Enjoy your time.  

The season is fleeting. Don’t let it pass you by with regrets. Jackson Browne puts it best in his song “These Days” These days I seem to think a lot about the things that I forgot to do for you and all the times I had the chance to. Take those chances. Don’t forget about yourself. Don’t forget about your family. I hope everyone who reads this has a great holiday season, and a great entry into 2022!

Lesley Schultz currently teaches secondary general music and orchestra at Princeton City Schools (Cincinnati, OH). She earned her Bachelors of Music Education from West Virginia University and her Masters of Music Education from Ohio University. Lesley is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Lesley keeps an active performing schedule around the state of Ohio, performing with several regional symphonies on viola. She is a member of TI:ME (Technology In Music Education) and serves as the Ohio Chapter president and on the National Conference Committee. Lesley is a columnist for SBO Magazine. In her copious amounts of spare time, she enjoys knitting, watching West Virginia Mountaineer sports and spending time with her family and making TikToks about her cats.

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