This is my first post of the COVID-19 American society shut down. My school closed down last Friday and I have now been through one week of preparation for online instruction beginning on Monday. I know that most of you are in the same boat as well.
If you are anything like me, your news feed has been filled with other music educators, parents, and classroom teachers walking through this situation together. My feed has been full of innovative instructional ideas, wonderful musical performances, expressions of fear, faith and hope, and a variety of other fairly intense posts.
If I am being honest, I feel a bit overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I am very comfortable teaching in an online or Zoom environment. I am regularly involved in Zoom meetings with organizations around the country and have actually taught Online Beginning Guitar throughout this school year. I have taught numerous interactive video conference classes over the years through NCSSM Distance Education programs. So, the need to go online isn't particularly daunting to me. (However, my wife, who teaches Kindermusik, is completely intimidated by the prospect of Zoom classes. So, if this is brand new to you, I certainly feel your pain.) In the end, the nature of the instruction is not what makes me feel overwhelmed.
Honestly, I believe I have so much information hitting me at one time that I can't seem to sift through it or organize and prioritize how I want to receive that information. I feel like I, too, should be creating and sharing innovative content delivery methods and plans. I feel like I, too, should be recording awesome music in my home studio. I feel like I, too, should be encouraging my colleagues and finding ways to lift my community up. I feel like I, too, should be inspiring my two sons who are at home. I feel like I should be helping my wife get up and running with Zoom. and, all the while, I need to be planning my own curriculum and preparing to support my students through the upcoming weeks and months of uncertainty and disconnection. I also feel like I need to be getting exercise, making dinner, doing the dishes, and generally continue being a whole human. And, this is hard, because I am used to being the guy who "does it all."
It's all a bit much. So, my message today is that you don't have to do everything. In fact, I would recommend that we all do a little bit less. Have you seen the hilarious video on YouTube of the mother ranting about how much work her kids have? I have had conversations with colleagues who have small children and they are feeling overwhelmed with their children's work. My 17 year old son doesn't really know how he will complete all of the assignments that he has been given. My 19 year old college freshman is feeling alone and overwhelmed with his work as well. Even my older son who is a graduate assistant is feeling overwhelmed with the amount and type of work that he has to take care of. This feeling seems to be pervasive. This online and screen environment is exhausting.
So here is my pledge. I am going to do my best to not feel compelled to keep up with the Jones's. I am going to lead with grace and compassion for my students. I am going to do my best to not contribute to their higher stress levels and overwhelmed feeling of not being able to complete their work. I am going to modify my syllabus accordingly. Meanwhile, when the creative bug hits me, and it will, I will do my best to share my heart freely through my art and pedagogy.
I encourage you to do the same. Don't let it overwhelm you. This is hard. We will all get through this together.