Ten Tips for Tired Teachers
Why is Annie yawning? Can't she tell I only got three hours of sleep last night?
No matter how hard we try, the late afternoon hours are challenging for students and teachers alike.
Here are my favorite ways to combat fatigue, exhaustion, boredom and just plain weariness in myself or my student or both of us.
1. Talk Funny.
I'm serious. If you want to get a student's attention, nothing works quite as well as sounding like someone else. I've written about using a southern (American) accent in Try A Drawl. If you have trouble doing accents, just talk like someone you know who has a funny voice. It doesn't have to be consistent. Just change the way you sound.
2. Reverse the Roles
If you want to spice up a lesson, kick your student off the bench and put her in the teaching chair. Play something and see how she reacts. For example:
Eloise was having trouble playing the accompaniment quietly enough. I played the accompaniment SO LOUDLY that the melody was inaudible. "How was THAT?" I asked eagerly, grinning from ear-to-ear.
"Um, well...I think that you need to play the left hand a little softer."
So I'd play it a tiny bit softer. Still far too loud.
You've got the idea.
Here's a video showing another way to reverse the roles:
The piece is Cool Ghouls by Melody Bober.
3. Stop talking. Use your hands. Use THEIR hands.
Is there a way to teach what you're trying without saying anything? Could you demonstrate the concept with manipulatives?
Here are some examples of manipulatives
4. Japanese Puzzle Erasers
Posts about using Puzzle Erasers to teach:
- Sharps and Flats
- Pentascales or Five-Finger Patterns
Use them to teach both the theoretical pattern and where to place the fingers on the keys.
- Flashcards and basic note-reading
Using puzzle erasers in combination with flash cards is incredibly effective.
It may sound odd to bring out the stickers when you and your student are floundering, but it's one of the best times to use them. Here are two posts with specific methods for using stickers other than as rewards.
- Six Simple Tips for Teaching with Stickers
- More Tips about Stickers including information about exactly why stickers are such effective teaching props. (Did you ever realize they don't require handwriting, for instance?)
6. Thumb Puppets
Getting the focus off me and onto something whimsical is always a plus. Read more here...
7. Stand Up.
Get both you and the student up and off the bench. Even a 30-second walk around the room can help. Ask for help putting away some music. Kids love to help. Whatever you do, don't give in to the fatigue. and let their flagging energy weigh you down. Pull up your energy AND theirs.
8. Try an energizing hand lotion or essential oil.
Activating your sense of smell can bring you back to your body, space and time. Here are the two I use almost every day. Also works well to cover any unintended smells emitted by anyone in the room.
9. Break it down into teensy fragments and use incentives.
Too often we forget that kids' sense of time is completely different than ours. Miniature incentives can work wonders. Read more about using mini-incentives for mini-tasks here...
10. Play a recording for your student.
Listening to a recording can offer a much-needed break for both of you. Listening while following the score can give you an opportunity to discuss the music without it being specifically about the student's performances. There are scads of recordings I've made of standard teaching literature available as single tracks and in albums. Most single tracks are only 99 cents and it's worth more than that if it saves a failing lesson.
Here's to staying a little more alert on the long winter afternoons!