A few Sundays ago, I hopped into the morning group session for my Bridge Online Cello Studio. My students are a bunch of smart, hard-working, enthusiastic, and generally awesome people between the ages of 15 and 20. They are super talented, and they show up each Sunday morning greeting each other with a smile.
That morning was different. 3 of them were late. 2 had overslept, and the 3rd, when I texted to see if she was on her way, snapped at me in a way that was totally unlike her. I chose to let it slide. Once everyone was there, I was faced with a sea of grumpy, unsmiling faces. I wondered if I had done something wrong. I asked them how they were all doing.
I asked them how their school week had been.
“The same.” They said. “Nothing ever changes.”
For 9 months, these amazing students have greeted every opportunity with excitement and grit. Districts, All-States, Concerto Competitions, Masterclasses, etc. School online? Sure thing. In-person? Okay. Hybrid now? Got it. They took everything in stride, and and they all had big wins under their belts from throughout the year: Musically and Academically.
By all accounts, they had been thriving.
So what was going on?
“Senioritis” basically. And although they aren’t all seniors in High School. They (we!) are all in the “Senior Year” of this pandemic. We’ve been putting in the work, slogging away with our great attitudes and resiliency and grit, and now here we are…the sun is out, the vaccination roll-out is going strong, and everyone has their eye on this being over.
“This” of course, being the pandemic. Lockdown. Closures. Online calculus class. Masks. Not having a social life.
But like a senior who just wants to get on to their college existence, can’t be bothered to show up to their favorite class, and doesn’t show much interest in their beloved activities, they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Unfortunately, I’m seeing it with a lot of adults as well. Collectively, everyone is just DONE with all of the restrictions. We have all had varying degrees of personal trauma this year, but every single one of us has been through a lot just by existing this year. Wanting desperately to be past it we run the danger of feeling, or at least acting, “done” with everything else too. Even the good things.
Years ago, when I taught at a school in MA, the headmaster would get up in a morning assembly each spring, and would give his talk on “Finishing Strong“. I remember thinking the first time I heard it: “Man, I wish someone had said this to me my senior year.” And by the time I heard it for the last time, some 8 years later, I realized: This applies to us teachers as well.
And while most of the specifics of his speech have disappeared from my brain in the Bermuda sun, the basic principle of it remains with me.
So friends, students, colleagues, let’s all do our best to finish strong. In a handful of weeks, the school year will be over. Summer will bring new activities, new friends, new opportunities, and when we return to “work” in the fall, things might look very different. When you can simply hire a babysitter and go out for dinner with friends again, you might forget all about the next-door neighbor you created a pod with just to give each other some childcare relief once in a while. The one you texted with throughout the day for much-needed support.
Students who return to you in person in September might remember how you were barely there for their last lessons, and how the usual end of the studio recital didn’t happen last year because you were too overwhelmed to get it together.
And my dear student readers, I beg of you, especially, to finish strong. Your reputations matter. Especially in the music world. Throw yourselves into the preparation of your last lessons, your recitals, your festival recordings as well as your AP exams, your finals, and your end-of-year projects. Give yourself some kind of 6-week challenge to mix things up and stay focused. Go to class and turn your camera on. Say something to the quiet new kid who never had a chance to make new friends this year. Write notes to your teachers, reconnect with your friends, and take the time to properly reminisce about what you have all gone through together.
Focus on the funny moments.
We can do this. We’re almost there. Let’s show up as our best selves until the end. Because the stronger we finish out this year, the better we can begin the next.
Do you like free stuff? Because I created two helpful (I hope!) pdfs as a thank you for being a part of this community.
This one is for all the teachers out there: 30 Things you can offer your online music students
And this one is for anyone looking for just a bit more motivation. It’s my 5 Strategies to Boost Motivation
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