I have too many students. It used to be that the teaching was all fine except for the scheduling and invoicing – but now I can’t see straight during the lessons either. Or maybe it’s just this week that feels like that. I know that all day Monday I dragged myself from lesson to lesson feeling like a boring teacher and having no amazing insights for anyone. Then the same thing happened Tuesday. Wednesday was a little better, but then Thursday we had some baby meltdowns to deal with and I had a hard time recovering. It’s not that I’ve never taught weak lessons before, here and there, but that I worry that this trend can only continue as Zoe gets more and more active and needy, and I get more and more overbooked. Of course, a full night of sleep once or twice would probably help, too.

I feel like the Ten of Wands in the tarot deck. That’s the card with the guy carrying a tremendous burden of wands, with the destination far far off in the distance. The responsibilities that I’ve accepted – enthusiastically, eagerly – over time are threatening to take me down, and the end is so far off! Every forty-five minutes someone new comes in, and I feel overwhelmed by all of the need. They all are coming to me to improve, and I am – or can be – good at diagnosing their problems and fixing them, but I’m struggling to find the energy.

I’m probably putting too much on myself – I am not that important to any of these people. I know myself as a teacher because I am the one there in every lesson, and over the course of 8 lessons in a day or 23 in a week I can see a trend, but most of them only see me for a short time once a week and view our relationship very differently. It would take weeks of slump to make it really noticeable to everyone, probably. I hope.

Don’t the students themselves have some responsibilities here? I’m not dealing with people (for the most part) who come in with their guns blazing and their repertoire firmly learned and their eyes all starry and eager. This is the midpoint of the semester, deep enough in to have worn everyone out, and still a long way from the end and the blissful xmas break. No one is all that into it; it’s the grim middle of the race and we’re just slogging our way through and they’re not bringing me the kind of energy that I always try to bring them.

Is that an acceptable excuse for the boring teaching I’m doing? I have always felt that it was my job to inspire good music making as well as to teach the mechanics of it. I love what I do and my enthusiasm comes through and helps to keep them (and me) moving through these dark mid-semester times. But do I have to? Is it not OK for me also to be tired, and distracted, and uninteresting? For four days in a row once?

I don’t know what the answer is here. Fewer students would certainly ease the strain, but whom would I cut? I’m getting good at turning people away over the phone, but once we meet and have a lesson or two I’m hooked. I genuinely like them all, and don’t see how I could choose who to fire. Maybe the answer is more in me – I could stop beating myself up and accept the level of energy I have at the moment. It’s not as though I actually am teaching BADLY, or LYING to the kids – I’m just not having or being as much fun as usual. Does everything in my life need to be fun all the time? I love my work, but I understand that traditionally work is a synonym for NOT FUN. Can I just get through this semester, however I need to, and then reassess?

2 thoughts on “Overwhelmed”

  1. i recently had to make studio cutbacks as well and trying to decide was really agonizing, because i too, like all of my students. in then end i made cuts based on the following criteria:1. students who were personally invested in having me as their teacher vs. students who are really invested in the school i teach for (this may apply to you in a slightly different way, but you know what i mean).2. having a great teacher ready to step in and take some of my work, i took the personality fit with that teacher into account. it's also a great reassurance to give your student a new teacher referral so they don't feel left high and dry.3. in come cases, i kept the younger kids around and phased out some older ones with the idea that less turnover due to graduation will keep my studio numbers somewhat predictable for a little while.4. schedule — gone are the days where i would do just about ANYTHING to make scheduling a non-issue for my students; from now one, if they can only come on a certain day and a certain time and i'm not available, bummer. i realized that often times, difficult scheduling is symptomatic of other issues (over-committed students or parents who don't respect your time enough to be flexible are 2 of many reasons), and i ultimately didn't miss those situations in the end!as much as i miss my former students, i'm not as heartbroken as i thought i'd be, because the luxury of added time and feeling like i'm a little more on top of my game is SOOOOO worth it!hope this is helpful! good luck — you'll make the right choices. 🙂

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