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Thinking Outside the Box … Looking Ahead When Things are Uncertain

Wouldn’t it be great if you could look in a crystal ball to see what is coming up?  It would certainly save a lot of time & wondering, wouldn’t it?  But, alas it not meant to be.  While looking ahead is important, we don’t get to know all the answers.  And, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

As I was thinking about looking ahead when things are uncertain, I couldn’t help but think of Doris Day singing “Que Sera Sera”.  While the lyrics certainly remind us that it’s from the 1950s with gender-specific concerns, the chorus seems to be the perfect reminder for now.  Specifically …

“Whatever will be, will be.

The future’s not ours to see.”

Knowing some things are out of your control can be freeing.  There is no point in worrying about it.  Or, stressing over what may come next.

Control what you can.  And let go of the rest.

A plan when no plan is possible

In talking with other teachers, one of the biggest questions that come up is when to return to teaching in-person.  Governments are still determining the best plan forward.  And that means many teachers feel in limbo on when things will return to “normal”.

Saying ‘Que sera sera.’ is all well & good.  But, going into a new academic year with no plan doesn’t feel great either.

So, what do you do when no plan is possible?

Make a plan that allows you to pivot quickly.

We’ve already done this.

And, we did it with little to no warning!

As you look ahead, what can you plan that allows you to teach in-person & online?

Assume the ‘worst-case’ scenario

Previously, I wrote about a strategy I use when I’m stressed & not sure what to do

By planning for the worst-case scenario, it gives you the freedom to plan while also reducing the risk of worst-case ever happening.

For you, it might be having to switch between in-person lessons & online lessons during the academic year.  Or, dealing with ever-changing regulations on how you can safely teach.

While I’ve chosen to permanently move my studio online this year, I also have a family that will continue with in-person lessons once they are safe. That being said, I don’t have a crystal ball telling me when it will be safe to teach in person. 

If you happen to have an extra crystal ball that does tell you these things, would you mind sending it my way?  Thanks!

Looking ahead realistically

The situation we found ourselves in during early 2020 was certainly no one’s cup of tea.

It’s also a situation that is unlikely to resolve itself any time soon.

And, that means looking ahead realistically.

Rather than worrying about what constitutes ‘safe’ for in-person lessons, I’m planning as if I will teach online.

Even if I was planning on returning to in-person lessons in my studio for all my families, I would still make this choice.

Why?

Planning for both the ideal & not-ideal

There is a high probability that you will need to teach online at least part of next year.

Since the workload is higher for online lessons, putting your efforts into preparing for that situation makes sense.

If you get to teach in-person, great!

You will have:

  • Videos that can be sent as reminders during the week
  • Activities that can be used whether your student is next to you or not
  • A plan that keeps your students engaged & moving forward in their musical journey
  • Systems in place that allow you to run your studio regardless of what regulations come your way

Doesn’t that sound better than waiting & wondering what to do?

Putting things into perspective

Part of this approach comes from when I was teaching in the classroom. 

In the span of 3 university practicums & about 5 years teaching professionally in the schoolroom, I taught:

  • Almost every single grade between Grade 1 – 12
  • Almost every single subject at the junior high level (Grades 7 – 9).

I typically had 1 – 2 weeks before school started before the grades & subjects I taught were finalized.

Things got more interesting when I was teaching all junior high grades at the same time at a special needs school.  Trying to teach math classes to students who count barely count to 10 with those that needed advanced Grade 9 material was certainly a challenge. 

Did I mention that math is not my specialty?  Thankfully, I married a self-professed math geek that was willing to teach me what I didn’t know before I was expected to teach it.  Sometimes it was less than a week beforehand, but I muddled my way through.  Ironically, my advanced students told me the next year they had liked how I taught math.

Look.  I get it.  This sounds like an absolute nightmare for most people.  And, I certainly don’t miss the frantic planning before my students arrived fresh-faced in September.

That being said.  It was great training for running my own business.

I don’t regret pushing myself to teach classes or grades I had never taught before.  At times, it was:

  • Uncomfortable,
  • Stressful
  • Messy
  • Overwhelming

But, it also:

  • Pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone
  • Was rewarding
  • An opportunity to explore & improvise
  • Helped me deal with uncertain situations

In listening to other teachers, I’ve seen these same words & descriptors come up over & over again.

Regardless of the circumstances, uncertainty has its pros & cons.  It isn’t all sunshine & rainbows.  But, it isn’t all hail & lightning strikes either.

Think outside the box

You have more freedom than you may realize. 

As a teacher, you can think outside the box when it comes to meeting the needs of your students.

As a studio owner, you can think outside the box when it comes to keeping your business not only running but thriving.

Thinking outside the box means focusing on the available possibilities,

rather than the obstacles that might stand in your way.

As you look ahead, focus on planning what you can. 

Remember your students & clients stay with you because of their relationship with you, not because you have a crystal ball that shows what the future holds.

For next year, what if you focused on activities that continued to build on that relationship?

Some activities that work well regardless of what is going on are:

  • Off-the-bench activities
  • Listening to music together
  • Playing games
  • Relating music to student interests
  • Improvising or composing

In each of these examples, you have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with your students & show parents that you “get their kid”.  As a parent, I can vouch for the fact that any teacher that gets to truly know my kids as individuals is automatically amazing in my book.

Looking ahead when things are uncertain

If all of this sounds overwhelming & you want someone to help you navigate the best plan for you, I offer individual private coaching sessions for teachers & studio owners.  I can help you cut through the obstacles while looking ahead & creating a plan with you.

Purchase Your Private Consultation

Before you go on with the rest of your day, I hope you enjoy this cover of “Que Sera Sera” by Sophia Ng! 

It brought a smile to my face.  I hope it does the same for you.

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