Around the world, you can almost hear the collective sighs of exhausted relief as teachers stumble towards holidays. In the northern hemisphere, it’s the long summer break, while in the south we shiver towards the winter recess. But it matters not if the weather out there is frightful or delightful, there is no time like the present to take stock of your time and teaching.
So grab a pen and a piece of paper (we’re doing this the old fashioned way!), and draw up 3 columns-
Where your teaching is at
Where you would like it to be
What you can realistically achieve
Where is your teaching at?
Take a good look at the amount of teaching you are doing at the moment. Does it feel like too much or do you think you can take on more students in your schedule? Are you struggling with balancing out teaching with performance commitments, or with keeping up with the family schedule?
Have you found yourself doing more school based teaching, or spent the past year building up your own private studio? And what is the main demographic of your students? Are there students who you are struggling to engage with, or are you using method books that no longer thrill or motivate?
As an example, I feel like I have a good balance of hours and types of students at the moment. I teach in 2 schools, and have a reasonably full timetable of private students. I enjoy teaching all ages, but particularly enjoy teaching adults, which is reflected in my daytime teaching schedule. I’m teaching from a range of books, and have been doing more arrangements and writing for students which I am gradually turning into publications.
What does your teaching look like?
Where would you like it to be?
Time to get realistic about what your teaching goals are! Would you like to take on a few more students, or even cut back a little? Do you enjoy teaching a particular age group and would like to focus on them? And if the repertoire isn’t cutting it, would you like to try some new books, or even have a go at writing your own student pieces?
Grab that piece of paper, and list 5 things you’d like to achieve in the next year to take your teaching to the next level!
What realistically can you achieve?
Jon Acuff in his book ‘Finish’ states that 92% of people fail to finish their goals, because of a little thing called ‘planning fallacy’ (p.15) Basically, we either get caught up in the whole power surge of goal planning, or we fail to place our abilities at anything other than superhuman. I know I’m prone to making grand plans in the holidays, when I have all the time in the world, and then completely fail to bring them to fruition when the start of term kicks over. And then I get really frustrated, and am left with 2 options: a) work myself to death or b) forget the grand plan. Neither of these, it has to be said, it particularly attractive.
Acuff’s advice is to cut your goal and/or double your time. The funny thing is, that in case after case, when people did just that, they more often than not achieved their halved goal, and then felt so good at finishing, they went on to achieve even more anyway. The pressure was off, it all seemed doable, and, lo and behold, it was.
Back to the pen and the piece of paper. You’ve got an overview of what your teaching looks like. You’ve made a list of 5 things to aim for next. Now realistically appraise what it is you can achieve. If necessary, cut those goals and double that time. Even if, through this exercise, you’ve pinpointed one thing you’d like to work on more, then you’re a step closer to being a better harp teacher!