Music teachers and PIES!

When I first started teaching music I was told by my peers and mentors that it was an exhausting career. “Don’t expect to have evenings to yourself” and “to only expect to have time for yourself in the holidays”.

Who was I to question these seasoned and successful teachers?

So off I went in my career, building successful programmes, sharing my love for music, running many extra-curricular groups, concerts and shows on top of the hectic classroom timetable. Attending meetings, planning, writing curriculums, assessments policies, huge department handbooks (that no one ever read) all of this had to be mastered. Then OFSTED, NC, GCSE, A Level, lack of budgets – it just kept coming.

But, it wasn’t all gloom. Along came opportunities for this driven young teacher to be promoted and grow professionally. Opportunities to work in schools with more facilities and to work abroad. All in all I have been blessed to teach amazing students who are still in touch to this day and have grown into amazing adults.

However, my mentors were WRONG!

Had they given better advice along the way I would have been a much healthier and happier teacher. When did we get it so wrong? Why are we not helping staff with stress management? Why is there shame placed upon teachers who are struggling to juggle a hectic schedule? Why is it that there are still admin who try to make teachers feel guilty when they say no to adding another school show to their over-extended term, particularly those departments with only one music teacher?

So what happens – burnout, stress, exhaustion, negative mindset, depression… Staff leave, morale is low, it impacts teaching and learning. Yet, it still keeps happening.

Over the last few years I have been working so hard to find healthier ways to cope with stress and burnout for teachers and in truth it started with a search for myself. What I discovered was a wealth of strategies that were being used in other industries that were never shared in schools!

So my mission – to help teachers like myself find better coping mechanisms to work in an out-dated system that still runs demand-relationship styles of leadership. Until this changes (and I really hope it does), we need better strategies.

So what are PIES??

You have probably heard the term self-care thrown around this year. But how do we actually do it? Humans need continuous growth and we need to do that in a number of areas on a daily and weekly basis. Self-care is not selfish but essential for self well-being.

PIES stands for Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social growth. Consider those four areas – what do you daily, weekly or monthly in those areas? Are there any that you aren’t doing? For me, when feeling stressed, it is always physical that is missing – exercise, sleep and eating healthily. So consider – what aren’t you doing enough of and make that a priority for the next 21 days.

Remember – our mentors were wrong. Yes teaching is hard, tiring, and of course rewarding BUT you have to look after yourself before you can help others. I was led to believe that self-care was selfish – but that was so wrong!

So spend some time with your PIES on a daily basis my friends.

Rachel x

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