Teaching both bodywork and music are deeply rewarding. But because they are professions that call us to give so very much of our hearts, minds, and bodies, it can be hard to "leave the studio," as such, and burn out can definitely be an issue with which teachers of all degrees of experience contend. I'll be the first to admit that I've learned this the hard way. As a young teacher, I was often "on call" for my students, thought about them extensively during my off hours, and, without really even noticing that I had done so, often put their needs before my own.
Our students don't so much learn from what we say as from who we are, so it is important to model the behavior - both as healthy humans and athletes and musicians - that we would like them to learn. Instead of trying so hard to please them in the moment, we may lead more effectively by modeling healthy boundaries and self care.
I find the following three guidelines helpful. They sound stringent, but I've found, in following them, that I'm able to give more to my students and I feel much more positive and energetic about teaching and my own life in general:
1. No. Such a small word, and yet so impactful. I think I barely used it during my first few years of teaching. It's super important to know what's too much for you. I know we all want to help, but, on occasion, parents, kids, or clients ask more than we can give. On these occasions, a firm "no, I'm afraid I don't have time for that" not only makes you feel better because it's truthful, self-preserving, and empowering, but the parent/child/student learns to think twice before asking you to go above and beyond next time - which not only helps you out, but also models healthy behavior.
2. My work-your work. It's so often the case, especially with music, that children come unprepared to lessons. This is less an issue with bodywork, but occasionally one can find oneself with clients who will "phone it in." Setting your personal standards early on is crucial. For music students this means that students must understand from the outset that if they don't follow my guidelines and practice efficiently at home, they simply won't progress, and this will not be a functional student-teacher relationship. The guidelines are my responsibility. Enacting them is yours. An understanding of these responsibilities is paramount. With bodywork clients, I find this responsibility standard more subtle - it takes some time to truly tune in to our bodies. I notice that, especially with people who are not super body aware, this tuning in and assuming responsibility for one's corporeality can take some time. Moreover, the western healing paradigm is one that urges the client to hand their physiology over to the healer. In my opinion, and that of most in my profession, this paradigm is inherently flawed, and takes some unbraiding. But most of my clients get here naturally and joyfully. I often find with new bodywork clients that I must work on grounding my own energy more firmly during their exploratory weeks/months, and avoid rushing in and over-assisting them in this process of assuming responsibility for their physicality.
3. Off hours. This one's pretty basic. Now that we're all essentially on call 24/7, it takes will power to protect your off hours - and trust me, if you're going to be a teaching dynamo, you've got to make the most of those! Personally, I turn off alerts on my devices and try to only check them regularly during work hours. But I'm not great at this yet - especially because my current job does involve being on call. But most of my students now know to only contact me for true emergencies, so I am pretty quick to respond. See!? Boundaries as a win-win!
copyright © cicely nelson 2016
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