To the Discouraged Piano Teacher
Dear Discouraged Piano Teacher,
I see you. I can tell by the slowness of your step, the downward tilt of your chin, the slight slump in your shoulders, that you are discouraged.
Maybe you've been trying to build up your clientele numbers for months. You've posted the fliers, spent money on Facebook ads, followed every single lead you possibly could, and still those numbers aren't climbing the way you need them to.
Or perhaps you've had one of your favorite students leave your studio. Not sure if they just got tired of lessons, or they couldn't afford them anymore, or why they left, but it hit you hard. Harder than you expected, maybe harder than you think it should.
Maybe you're just tired of balancing life and piano lessons and everything else. When you finish your piano lesson day and walk to the kitchen, you still have no idea what to fix for dinner. Or when all you want to do is lie comatose in a quiet room, your teenager needs help with chemistry and your neighbor wants to talk to you about the tree leaning over her side of the fence.
Regardless of what it is, piano teacher I see you and I get it.
It may be a huge blessing to be able to do what we do, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. You may get to work from home, or from another studio, but that doesn't mean it's always convenient.
To the discouraged piano teacher, I'm with you. Here are three things that I try to do when I find myself in that plum-tuckered out spot:
1. Write down on a post-it note, or in your planner, or in your lesson notebook, WHY you are giving piano lesson. That may seem trite, but I'm being straight up with you - sometimes we have to remind ourselves why this even matters.
Then, force yourself to look at that list of "why", every.single.lesson. That's right. Every lesson. Why? To remind yourself. To imprint it on your mind and heart. To give you external motivation to keep going.
Teachers ask me all the time how long they should do that -- one week of lessons, a month? The answer is simple: Practice this "looking at it" for as long as you need to. You'll know when you don't need to keep reviewing your why. And you'll definitely know when you need to start reviewing it again.
2. Schedule yourself a tiny time window after lessons to regroup.
I know, I know. This one seems hard.
Every single week, around 5:15 p.m., while I'm in lessons, I hear my two teenage daughters get home from school. I hear them trying to quietly rummage in the pantry for a snack (thinking I can't hear them). I generally have almost two more hours of piano lessons to go at that point.
So, by the time I'm done and that last student leaves, my daughters have two things on their mind: what's for dinner and when is it? Not to mention my 9 year old son who is now released from having to play quietly in his room or finish homework up on his own.
The moment that front door closes, my kids are like moths to a flame. And, me? Well, I'm not ready for that! And just in case you worry that that makes me (or you!) a bad mom, you'd be wrong. It makes us human.
So, when that last student leaves, I literally walk out of my den (where I give lessons) and I tell my kiddos that I will be downstairs in ten minutes. To the protests of "But we're starving!", I tell them the can get a banana while they wait for me. (They never do - ha!).
I leave everything in my piano room just the way it was and a disappear. I go lay on my bed, and stare at the ceiling. Just to lay there in relative quiet, without moving, without answering questions, without leaning over a piano keyboard, without smiling at anyone -- yep, that's heaven after a long day.
I know that's hard, but see if you can pull that off. If you have a super little one, seriously, give them a frozen fruit pop (see how healthy I'm being?!) and cuddle them for ten minutes. Rocking quietly. You're not alone, but you're zoning.
That's the key. 10 minutes of nothingness after a long afternoon or day of piano lessons is crucial.
3. Take a week off from lessons for no other reason than to give yourself a break.
Now, no rioting. I know this sounds scary and you might be thinking "how on earth can I do this?"
It's easy. Without losing clients and without losing money.
It's easy if you make sure your piano policies reflect that fact that you will be taking time off.
Policies that have students paying tuition at the beginning of the month instead of at the end of the month per lesson means you make the same when you teach and when you don't.
Policies that have you lay out a quarterly calendar. Policies that allow you to schedule breaks without explanation. Policies that have a set rate of tuition, but with an outlined number of lessons per year.
Every quarter, I sit down with my personal calendar and I figure out when I need time off. Of course, there are holidays and other natural times, but I deliberately schedule myself a week off from piano lessons every 6 - 8 weeks, even if there is no holiday to warrant it.
Why? Because then I can see that on my calendar, knowing that I have some time off coming up. It doesn't hurt my clients, because they understand my policies and know well in advance when I'm not teaching. It doesn't hurt my budget, because I'm paid at the beginning of the month.
This may seem like a pipe dream, but it can be done. (I'm doing it just next week actually -- a week off from lessons to recharge and refresh -- wahoo!). If you want a step by step guide for setting up policies like that in your studio, I encourage you to check out my policies resource in the pianolessonmom shop.
But the purpose of this blog post isn't to pitch my product. It's genuinely because I get it, piano teacher friend. I get that you might be discouraged. You might be wiped out.
And that's ok. Try to do those three things -- write down your WHY. Set aside a tiny time window after lessons to decompress. Take an entire week off from lessons.
Take care of you. Fight the discouragement by refocusing and resting.
Trust me, your studio will benefit from you refocusing and resting. And most importantly, you'll be glad you did.
Want help crafting and implementing policies that allow you to take multiple weeks off and still make the same amount of money? Check out my step-by-step action guide for setting studio policies: Crafting Your Studio Policies.