3 Essential Tips to Keeping Your Studio Healthy
by Samantha Steitz
It's that time of year again that the coughing, runny noses, and general colds begin. As a teacher, it's crucial to stay healthy. Not only is finding time to make-up lessons almost impossible, but a sick teacher threatens all of the students with contagion. With many children coming in and out of your teaching space, it can often be a challenge to keep this space healthy and sick-free. Here are three tips we recommend to all studio teachers.
1. Wash Hands!
Adopt a "Wash your hands before every lesson" rule! This ensures that any germs students pick up in school or on the way to the studio are done away with before touching studio equipment.
A colleague, the wonderful June Manners, recommended this idea to me when I first began teaching and told me that she used to get sick all of the time. However, after her students began washing their hands before lessons, she stopped getting sick. This anecdotal testimony was convincing enough for me and I immediately adopted this as a studio rule. I’m happy to say that I did not get sick once from that point forward! Also, this added level of hygiene keeps your instruments clean. After all, the music teaching space should always be a safe space and part of being a safe space means knowing that it is clean and not a place where children will be exposed to unnecessary germs.
How to institute: Simply show children where to wash their hands and include a small footstool should they need a bit of extra height to reach the sink. Shortly washing their hands after removing their shoes will become a familiar habit.
2. A Strict No-Sickness Policy
Let's face it, nobody wants to miss a lesson, particularly if there is a no make-up policy and all lessons have been pre-paid (both highly recommended studio policies). However, it's very, very important that parents and students respect your space by considering the health of the other people who share that space. Therefore, students (or parents) who are sick should not attend to a lesson if they are possibly contagious.
On the fence? Many parents call to ask if I think their children are OK for the lesson (typically showing some signs of sickness). At this point, I ask them to call their family pediatrician for a recommendation. After all, music instructors are not doctors or health professionals. That said, if there is a question of being contagious, it’s best to "play it safe" and stay at home. Furthermore, the kids probably need the rest more than they need a lesson if they're feeling under the weather. As we all know, trying to remain focused when sick is unproductive and uncomfortable.
A Partial Solution: Two years ago, I initiated a policy in which students could skype with me during their lesson time from home if they were potentially contagious (or, alternately, if the parent bringing them was sick but the student was OK). While this option is only possible for tech-saavy families and teachers with this infrastructure (laptop + skype + stand), it was an interesting experiment and works well most of the time. Again, if a student is sick, they need sleep and rest more than a lesson. In these cases, we used a quick skype session as a 'check-in' to discuss what to practice the upcoming week.
Follow-Up: Students missing even a few lessons over the course of a winter can be detrimental to progress. Therefore, I always make sure to send a follow-up email to the families in the case of sickness to make sure the parent and child know what to practice the upcoming week so that no time is wasted. Since all parents in my studio take notes on a laptop that are saved to our studio computer, I can also easily add practice tasks to this list and send them over to the family to print out at home.
As a teacher, you also must do your part to stay healthy. After all, nobody wants to attend a lesson with a teacher who is sneezing, coughing and sleep-deprived! Remember to rest adequately (8-9 hours a night), stay hydrated (drink water consistently throughout the day), and prioritize your physical/mental health with lifestyle considerations (watch what you put into your body and find a type of daily movement you enjoy). What 'works' for you will be vastly different for everyone. For me, a daily meditation practice along with yoga, pilates, or a walk each day outside, wearing warm socks and eating well by limiting all processed foods, is crucial to staying healthy so that I can be at my best when teaching. What's important is to prioritize your own physical and mental health.
Summary: While these are merely suggestions that work well in my studio, make sure to build in a studio sick-policy and to consider your own health first! We can only teach as well as we feel.
We hope that these easy and effective strategies might help you and your studio keep healthy this winter!