I just finished my first week of teaching voice lessons back on campus after a year and a half of virtual lessons. I wasn’t sure how it would be, going back to work in-person after so much time away. Without a doubt, I was ready to go back. I have been so incredibly blessed with my students and the ability to teach them virtually throughout the pandemic, but...enough is enough. There is no real replacement for that in-person interaction–lessons are just so much more efficient and more fun! That being said, there were many unknowns. Would I have a full studio? Would I be able to adjust back into the regular routine? Would the students be excited and engaged? So far, the answer to those questions is a resounding yes.
In the crazy pre-COVID times, my studio that year had 73 students. Which is insane. I have no idea how I handled that plus opera and my church job. And accompanying choirs for concerts and contests. That workload (which had I had maintained for a few years) was not sustainable. So right before COVID, I had made the decision to reduce my studio size to a more manageable level. It was either that or give up doing anything else but teaching, and I was not about to stop doing opera! Then...the pandemic happened. It definitely helped hold me to my plan to have a smaller studio size! As we approached this new school year, I set a goal to have a full but manageable studio size, one that would allow me to have Fridays off, and would allow me to maintain my other work without absolutely losing my mind. But as I said, I had no idea whether the studio would be full, waaay overfull, or full of vacancies. As luck would have it, I hit my goal number and am actually 1 over (the goal was 50, in case you are curious).
Knowing that I had a full studio was a tremendous relief, and once I figured out the jigsaw puzzle of putting everyone into the schedule, I just had to wait until lessons began. I wasn’t expecting to have any particular emotional reaction to this school year. I figured it would just be business as usual, and thankfully, returning to my more normal routine. What hit me, overall, was a profound sense of happiness at returning to the schools. I was driving to the middle school, before I even had a definite schedule of students, and as I came over the hill and pulled into the teacher parking lot, I found myself smiling. I’m not an overly emotional person most of the time, but I absolutely had some feels as I walked through the school on my way to the choir room. The same thing happened upon my return to the high school–despite so many questions, I was just happy to be back!
That was all before I had taught even one lesson for the school year. This week was the real test–how would I handle a full schedule of in-person lessons? The short answer: It. Was. Great. I’m not gonna lie–every day this week I was exhausted when I got home. When I’m teaching in person, I find that I give so much more energy, and when I’m on campus, I don’t have nearly as many breaks in between lessons. My voice felt a bit tired by the end of the week as well–between all the talking of going over studio policies, extensive modeling for new students, and being in louder spaces in general, I’ve got to get the daily stamina back up. It’s also not my favorite thing to lug my air purifier with me every day, and teaching in a mask is THE WORST. However, in spite of the exhaustion and the annoyances...I have felt so much more fulfilled, so much more joyful, and so much more...myself. It is only the first week, so I’m sure this joy will be tempered by the daily grind of the work, but I am so happy to be back with the students, and they seem thrilled to be back as well.
It is amazing how much we all take for granted in our daily lives, and how much we don’t appreciate the little moments as they happen. We tend to reflect on them once they are gone, and really only appreciate something when it is lost to us. This week has reminded me all over again how important it is to recognize what I am doing NOW. You can’t ignore the past, and you certainly have to prepare for the future, but the only moment you ever have is the one you are currently living.
There is a long school year ahead, and I don’t know how it will go. I’m sure there will be peaks and valleys, and I’m sure that at some point I will be griping to my fellow voice teachers about the latest frustration. And yet...I’m thrilled with these challenges, both the familiar and the new. I am looking forward to experiencing this year one moment at a time and really living in it, rather than barreling through it like a freight train as I have done in years past. I hope that this year I am able to be fully present in each moment, connecting with my students and sharing my newfound appreciation for the simply joy of singing together in the same room.