Daily Anxiety, Part 2

(Originally posted 2/27/2017)

In the last blog, I mentioned that I would provide suggestions for dealing with the daily anxiety that confronts teaching careers, and students. This article give suggestions that have worked for me through my experience in both positions.

The paragraphs below give suggestions to handling the daily anxiety for teaching-based careers.

Keep set hours when you respond to emails/calls. Teaching can quickly become an all encompassing task with no relief from the work and the students, meaning a balance of work and life hours is essential to relieving stress. In the world of constant communication it becomes easy to assign a high priority to every email, text, or call. However, not all messages require an immediate response or action, and keeping set hours aside from work communication is key. I recommend not checking work email between 8pm and 8am weekly, and then once a day (if at all) on weekends. This will allow you to set boundaries that will allow your personal life to thrive and not become overrun by work. The exact times are not important, but make sure to set times that align with your personal schedule. 
Teach each student according to their needs. Each student is unique and learns in his/her own manner and it is the teacher's job to discover the best approach for each student. However, there are common problems each student faces, which leads the teacher to assign all students similar material. This is not the issue - the problem comes when each student attempts to play the common material. Two students may have similar sounding articulation deficiencies, but one is caused by over-tonguing and the other by a choppy air stream. While these sound identical, they are corrected by different methods. These type of problems can cause the teacher stress, but if we step back and listen by asking directed questions the answers will eventually present themselves. This may take years, or minutes. Patience and ingenuity are paramount during this process. If something does not work for the student, try a different approach or try phrasing your comments in several different manners. Something will resonate with the student. Once discovered, make a note of the learning style of the student and invent ways of teaching that align with the student's learning predisposition. Thinking of teaching as a logic puzzle will make it less stressful, and when the pieces fit together the job becomes rewarding. 
Admit when you do not have the answers. As teachers, we always want to provide an answer to students requesting information. However, as humans we cannot possibly know everything even about one subject. Admitting that you do not know the answers is good to show your students, and is not a defamation of your character or teaching experience. It shows restraint and experience rather than guesswork and youthfulness. However, if you do not know the answer, research the question and come back with a carefully thought out response for your student. Or, have your student find the answer and report back to you - this teaches independence and will help your student become self-sustainable. 
    
he paragraphs below give suggestions to handling the daily anxiety confronting students. 

Stay ahead on schoolwork. It may seem that schoolwork is an all encompassing, never ending chore. While this may be the case, it should not take over your life. This starts with starting your work well ahead of time. When your instructor assigns work, begging working through it immediately so that when other things fight for your time, you have time to give. You do not have to complete the project in one day. Steady, detailed work is much more effective. This method will also provide room for proof-reading papers and assignments several times, which will likely lead to better grades. This is how I survived during college, and it has greatly aided in my career.
Plan ahead for your future. You must always keep the reason for your education at the front of your mind. Everything that you accomplish in school should be to benefit the ultimate goal - being successfully and gainfully employed. The decisions made today will have an impact on your future, whether it is small are large depends on the situation. Avoid making simple mistakes - DUI, drug abuse, pregnancy, burning professional bridges, etc. These will have a great effect on your life, and before engaging in these activities think what your future employer would think and if it would prevent you from landing a job. This is not meant to say that you should not have fun, but rather to think about consequences.
Prioritize your practicing above all else. As a performance major, your job is to be the best musician in the country. This means that you schoolwork needs to come second to your practice schedule. Of course, you need to keep your grades up since that will effect your scholarships and entry into future academic programs, but if you cannot play your instrument well, you will not have a career. Also, prioritize practicing above your friends. Yes, you need friends and building relationships is a must, but you are at college to learn how to be a professional musician...not a socialite. Spend your free time with friends. 
Learn how to manage your time. Time management is the area in which most college students fail. This is usually the first time they are responsible for their daily schedule. During college, I planned out my days with practice, homework, free time, and meals. While I did not stick to my schedule every day, it provided a starting point for learning time management. Making a schedule forced me to think about my priorities and helped organize my day so that I avoided the majority of stress that may have ensued due to poor planing. 

I hope that these suggestions will help in your stress negotiation each day. As always, please contact me with questions or comments.

Philip Hembree