We are in uncertain times. Between coronavirus/COVID-19 & an upcoming recession things can feel pretty bleak. But, they aren’t. We are so fortunate to have a career where we have flexibility in how we work. We have much more control over things than we may think.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t things we worry or stress about. Of course. We’re human.
To be honest, I hear myself saying quite often, “We’ll take it day by day. It’s all we can do.”
But, I am by nature a worrier so this is a time of growth for me as I do my best to take my own advice.
Control What We Can
As a travel teacher I used to wonder just how much control I had over my work environment. After all I was the one coming into someone else’s home. Not the other way around.
And as I have listened to & read about the pandemic going through communities it has been a struggle to know when to move my studio to FaceTime/Skype lessons. Here in Alberta the government made the unprecedented decision to close down all schools within the province. We have been incredibly fortunate so far. While there are cases of COVID-19 they have been a small number & those individuals have self-isolated to help our community stay healthy. But, we are all having to do our part to flatten the curve of infection so our healthcare system can continue to provide care to those who need it.
What you may not know is that my mom worked as a nurse for decades. She’s my go-to person when I have medical questions that research has not quite answered. What I hadn’t remembered was that she worked as a nurse during multiple outbreaks & pandemics in her career.
As you can imagine, this had to have been stressful for her at times. Her job was to be in close proximity with people who may have been infected. There was no remote working for her.
She would have been concerned about passing this onto our family. She needed to balance her need & job to support the individuals & families she was in contact with while keeping her own family safe. What steps could she take that would mitigate the risk inherent in her job? Which information was truth & what was based on fear?
Does this sound familiar?
I think many of us are feeling those same emotions & having those same concerns.
(Before you skip this section … even if you teach in your home you will get good info as well.)
If you are a travel teacher, you have options. In fact, you have all the same options as a teacher who teaches in their home.
Even when you teach in someone else’s home, you have the right to create a safe & healthy work environment.
Or to leave if the client is not willing to work with you to make that happen.
This is something I have learnt from both my mom & my mother-in-law. (Turns out all three of us were called to serve others in different ways for our chosen careers.)
While you do your best to help those you serve, your health comes first.
Because of this, I have left a home without finishing a lesson because it was not safe to stay from a health perspective. Unlike my mom, I do have the right to work remotely if that is the best option.
Whether you are travel teaching or have students come to you, here is what you have the right to expect from your clients. And, I’ve included what to provide your clients to make this happen.
You can expect your clients to:
- Call/text/email that someone is sick before lesson time with adequate warning.
- If you are travel teaching, be sure all your clients can reach you on your cell phone regardless if you are on the road or not.
- Piano keys are wiped down when someone is sick.
- Provide an in-person demonstration or video.
- Have students wash their hands at the start of lesson & after any coughing/sneezing/fingers in their mouth or other “areas”.
- Go into the bathroom & demonstrate effective hand-washing.
- Insist the student goes to wash their hands before lesson starts or continues.
- Insist a student uses a tissue for runny noses or coughing.
- Keep tissue in your teaching bag if the tissue box is going to take too much time to find.
- Piano area & any supplies used during lesson or practice time are disinfected before in-home lessons if anyone has been sick or infectious.
- Link to public health organizations to ensure parents understand this is not a ‘nice to do’, but a requirement based on medical research.
Your teaching (bag) essentials
There are a few things that I always keep in my teaching bag to help mitigate the risk of spreading an illness from home to home. And, if students come to you this is a great list to keep on hand as well!
- Hand sanitizer
- Lozenges (only around cold/flu season)
- My own pencils, erasers, erasable pens that students do not get to use
I also make sure that all my devices are in sturdy cases. Every device has either a plastic or glass cover on the screen. This is not only to keep them safe if they fall, but to make them easier to disinfect as necessary.
Touch screen devices like cells & tablets have a coating to help reduce the appearance of fingerprints. The only problem is that this coating means you have to be incredibly careful in how you clean the device so the coating stays intact. A plastic or glass cover to the screen takes care of this problem.
I also ensure that my teaching bag is easy to clean as well. While I want something that is stylish, I also want something that withstand the rigours of any environment I’m in. It turns out some of my student’s pets are convinced that I am there for them each week, not to teach their ‘hoomans’.
When You Get Home
Most of the time I have no problems giving my kidlets a hug or husband a kiss when I get home from work. When it’s a highly infectious time (like Covid, flu or cold season) that is not the case.
Here is where I take a page from my mom & the nursing procedures she used to diminish the risk of bringing something home.
- Change out of your clothes as soon as you get home.
- Wash your hands & arms up to the elbows. Wash your face thoroughly as well. Get foamy for at least 30 seconds!
- Disinfect all devices & objects that were use during the lesson.
It was procedures that helped my mom set aside the worry of bringing something home from the hospital. She understood that if she followed the correct steps, the chances of infecting herself or us at home was as much as minimized as possible.
When to Teach Remotely
I heard an interesting interview on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) in regards to whether schools will be closing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Close too early & you risk inciting panic or placing undue strain on families as they try to figure out childcare. Close too late & the pandemic has already hit families hard. “There is no perfect time.” was what one of the interviewees stated.
Regardless of whether it is for a pandemic or another reason, it really will be up to you when you decide to move to online/FaceTime/Skype lessons for your studio.
There are many factors to consider.
- Whether your studio is at a high enough risk of passing on the COVID-19 or other infections viruses.
- How you will teach piano lessons remotely.
- How you will send music & other materials to families digitally. And, how they will make sure those items are ready before lesson.
If you’re feeling nervous about teaching remotely, keep in mind that everyone has had to figure this out at some point. The best advice I have heard is to use something you & your students are already familiar with. When you first start teaching online, it’s not the time to experiment!
Feel free to use video calling with just your cell phone if that is where your comfort level is. Or, you can choose to use other tech if that is comfortable for you & your clients.
Check out this tech tools list from Katie Wardrobe over at Midnight Music.
And, Jennifer Foxx has graciously shared her online teaching checklist as well. Just scroll down until you get to the course curriculum to find the checklists. (This may not stay available indefinitely as it is part of a paid course.)
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
I’ll admit this is the hard one for me. Can you believe I’ve been trying to master this for decades? One of the advantages to having had health issues is that you begin to realize over time that worry doesn’t help. In fact, it usually makes things worse. Each decade I’m getting a little better at letting go of the worrybug.
“Even during moments of adversity, we can find stability in the things we can control & relief in letting go of the things we can’t.” ~ Pat Flynn
It was the word “relief” that hit me when I read this.
I think a lot of us are looking for a little relief during this time.
Relief from bad news everywhere we look.
Relief from the “what ifs”.
And, relief from the uncertainty for the future.
What can you let go of this week?
The surge of support in teacher groups in social media has made me so thankful to be a part of this online community. That while we seek to serve our studios, so many teachers are also seeking to serve their colleagues near & far.
You are not alone.
You do not need to figure it all out on your own. Or even right at this moment.
Share in the comments below.
What support do you need right now? What will give you relief in letting something go?