How to Be a Successful Music Teacher as a Highly Sensitive Person, Part 2

How to Be a Successful Music Teacher as a Highly Sensitive Person, Part 2
This blog post is part 2 of a series, to read part 1, click here. :)

4. Give yourself grace.

I am generally more comfortable around children than adults, with the exception of my core group of friends and church community. It turns out that it’s easy for me to be “in front of” 120 children directing a concert or 30 children in class, but I get nervous talking with a parent or family. The irony makes me laugh, but it also shows me that I am making the most of my strengths and giving myself grace to work on the things that are harder for me.

As a teacher, you’re in a role where your HSP strengths are extra valuable. Don’t get too hung up on the parts of it where you feel out of your comfort zone.

5. Create a “stage persona” for stressful situations.

Not every highly sensitive person is a performer (some would dread it!), but most of us are creative in some way — which is a gift we can draw on in overwhelming situations. In my case, I use my ability as a performer to step into a “stage persona” when needed for my job.

My persona is still me (I’m not creating a false personality or anything), but I’m able to confidently step into that “role” even when my body or mind is on overdrive. It helps to center me and lets me address the overarousal when I cannot take a break or escape the situation immediately. And now that I teach freelance instead of public school full-time, I rarely need this persona now.

I believe any highly sensitive person can do this. Imagine what your “teaching persona” would look like, if there was someone cast in your role on a TV show or in a book or play. How do they talk? How do they act? What’s their signature phrase or look? Maybe even give your stage persona a name, and consciously remind yourself that that’s who you are when you’re feeling overstimulated.

6. When things get tough, lean on your support system.

My first semester, I cried in my principal’s office at least four times. I was so grateful that she saw these instances not as weakness, but as a sensitive personality that can be an asset to taking care of students in our school.

I’m also grateful that my husband understands when I need 15 minutes to “decompress” when I first arrive home from work, and he gladly creates that space. He also knows that if I’ve been home alone all day (spring break!) I will usually be excited, chatty, and ready to go out or do something fun with him.

Not all of us have such supportive, understanding people built into our lives, but it’s important to seek them out — or learn how to speak up for our needs with loved ones. Especially when you’re in a profession where you have to nurture others, you need your own support system in place. Know who you can turn to, and don’t hesitate to open up to them when you’re stressed. They may be the difference between burnout and success. This is why I created Freelance Music Teacher Moms -- to be just that kind of space for people. Come join us, if it would bless you to be surrounded by these kinds of awesome educators.

7. Adapt your environment to fit your needs.
I don’t play music in my classroom as loudly as some students would probably like it, but my students who are HSPs would thank me for that decision! Likewise, my classroom has two banks of fluorescent lighting, but I only ever use one set. (Often, I turn the lights off altogether and use the window or strings of lights to create the atmosphere I need to work well, or light covers like these.) And I definitely don’t give twenty-five kindergarteners each a triangle all at once, even though it is music class. I’ve learned to teach differently so that all the students are engaged even if just one or two of them have a triangle.

The list goes on and on. My biggest breakthrough personally is to schedule concert nights, when possible, the night before a “non-student” day, like professional development or a grading day. These are my personal adaptations — but it’s essential for any highly sensitive person who’s going to teach to find ways to adapt like this.

Much of your arc as a teacher will involve continuously modifying your environment from a hectic one to a soothing, creative one. The result will not just make your days easier, it will also improve what your students get out of it, whether they are an HSP themselves or not.

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I hope you found these tips helpful! Let me know below which one you're looking forward most to implementing in your own teaching.

Like what you read here? You can catch more good content on my YouTube channel here or grab the planning concert considerations checklist here.

How to Be a Successful Music Teacher as a Highly Sensitive Person, Part 1

Being a highly sensitive person or HSP as a music teacher isn't necessarily a walk in the park; it comes with some challenges for sure. But it can be done well and you can thrive as a music teacher HSP! I know because I am. :) Check out these tips below or watch here to get you started on thriving rather than feeling so overwhelmed:


Let me paint you a picture of my life a few years ago. My first music class comes into my classroom at 9:30 a.m., talkative and full of energy. We are ready to begin our fun but hard work for the day of becoming tune-ful, beat-ful, and art-ful people. I have a 30-year plan for my students: to be able to sing to their own children one day, to clap on a steady beat at a ball game or concert, and to be moved by expressive music in all sorts of contexts. My students experience the joy, the seriousness, the hard work, and the playfulness of music, and I consider it a great joy to accompany them on the journey.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I also consider it an exhausting vocation. I work with more than 500 children total: 10 half-hour classes per day with around 200 K-4th grade children. On my feet the whole time, every day, five days a week.

Not sure what an HSP is or if you are one? Learn more here.

When my last class of the day walks out of my classroom, I sit briefly before bus duty and I sigh, always worn out but some days more encouraged than others. I might have more energy in the evening if I had a regular desk job, or perhaps a job that is less emotionally and physically taxing. Sometimes, I envy those jobs. But I don’t believe I would feel as fulfilled as I do knowing the impact I am making on the young people at my school.

Here’s why highly sensitive people like me are drawn to teaching — despite the overstimulation — and how I don't just survive but thrive.

Why Highly Sensitive People are Drawn to Caring Professions Like Teaching

Not all teachers are highly sensitive, and not all highly sensitive people are teachers. But I do believe that we HSPs are drawn to caring, nurturing, and creative professions like education. I’ve personally met countless other teachers who are sensitive (and some who are not...) and I think there’s a reason for it. Highly sensitive people tend to love students of all ages, learning, and helping others. In some ways, teaching fits us like a glove.

That doesn’t mean we’re necessarily well-suited to the environment of the classroom — in fact, my first semester teaching was awful. I struggled to balance my work and home life. Many of my students came into the classroom dealing with trauma of their own, and took it out on me. (This still happens, though each school is different.) I didn’t feel at all equipped to handle it. Honestly, I cried on the way home from school most days, and I'm not even much of a crier for being an HSP, I just had no other way to express the overwhelm I felt.

But I believe that highly sensitive people can overcome these challenges. In fact, I think our empathy, our creativity, and our awareness of others’ feelings help make us especially valuable in roles like teaching.

And I’ve learned a few strategies and ideas to make it much easier.

7 Ways to Succeed as a Teacher When You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

1. Learn to let go when your lessons don’t go as planned.

In my desire to do everything really well, I struggled a lot my first semester. Most things in education don’t go “as planned.” I learned that it’s more important how I respond when things don’t go as planned than IF they go as planned. This realization (which can be applied to most things in life) will take a lot of pressure off of you and allow you to be a better listener and educator.

2. Give yourself permission to say no.

It’s okay to have a day to eat lunch by yourself at work (even if you feel weird at first for not joining your coworkers in the staff lunchroom). It’s okay to build in “down” weekends to rest. It’s okay to stay home for an evening or two during conference week or concert week. It’s okay to not get another “real job” during the summers (in my case, I do odd jobs and plan for the next school year, teach music lessons, and teach occasional community education classes). Your body and your loved ones will thank you in the long run.

3. Your empathy is the superpower your students need.

There are many students who struggle in louder, chaotic, collaborative spaces like a music classroom. It’s more unstructured and less predictable, and that can be over-arousing for me as well as many of my students (whether or not they’re highly sensitive).

As highly sensitive people, our ability to say, “I see you, I understand you, and I am with you” — even while challenging them to grow and take risks — is a game-changer! It helps them confront their challenges without shame or self-doubt.

Our empathy also means we need to be gentle with ourselves. For example, you may struggle with secondary trauma when you see the hurt some of your students go through, or experience it yourself when they lash out. Being able to recognize your feelings not as being weak but as caring helps separate their pain from your own, and be a little more resilient on days when you struggle.

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Click here for part 2 of this series!

My Top 5 Current Favorite Growth Books

My Top 5 Current Favorite Growth Books
I have GROWN so much in the past year -- physically stronger and truly healthy (nope, I wasn't really that physically healthy before, though to most in our culture I would have looked it), emotionally more stable and empowered, mentally fitter and challenged, relationally in connecting with others, and more grounded in who I am and my God-given purpose.

Much of this growth has been through being challenged by mentors in relationship (a HUGE perk of our wellness team. I would have never met these amazing people who encourage and spur me on were it not for this journey over the past 3 years!), but a lot of my own growth has been having the space in life to READ again. Of course I read and was reading the Bible, but I used to read a ton during high school, both personal development books but also fiction. College left me with only time to read assigned textbooks and such, and after college I found myself super overwhelmed figuring out my career and reading got put on the back burner.

One blessing from this pandemic season has been getting back to reading! It's been so healthy and transformative for me. So without further ado, my top 5 recommendations for personal development and growth:

1. Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf -- Mindset and emotions work. SO powerful. She talks about retraining our brains, as our brains are a muscle and SUPER adaptable just like other muscles and parts of our bodies. I gift this book to people who join my Empowering Emotions/Managing Mindset Challenge (contact me for more info!).

2. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell -- I've learned a lot about the skill and art of relating to people recently from this book. It really IS something we can get better at and learn how to do (it's not just something some people are born good at and others aren't). I'm in a Tuesday morning book club right now going through this one and LOVING it!

3. Sensing the Rhythm by Mandy Harvey (70% off on Amazon as I write this!!) -- A memoir type book following Mandy's story of losing her hearing but still going on to be a singer/songwriter, her spiritual and growth-driven perspective isn't just inspiring, but motivating. I see SO much of my own story in hers (my journey through TMJD to the other side and the unexpected blessings from pain).

4. The Superior Ningxia Wolfberry by Hugo Rodier -- I just HAD to learn more about why I am feeling so much better and my body is doing so much better now than I was a couple years ago. This little book was a goldmine. And if you'd like to start this wellness journey with me and join our natural wellness community, I'm happy to give you this one for free. Ask me for more details if you're interested.

5. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron -- This book started our (my and Gabe's) journey to understanding ourselves better, so much better, in the context of relationships with others and with God. We are SO grateful for reading this book first, but also being able to dive deeper in learning about ourselves through some amazing friends/mentors. If you're interested in learning more about yourself via the Enneagram or coaching opportunities with my friend Kristi, you can check it out here.



There you have it! What are your favorite books that have led to growth and personal development?




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How I Chose My Chiropractor as an HSP With TMJD

How I Chose My Chiropractor as an HSP With TMJD
There are SO many chiropractors in the world... SO MANY.

How to choose?!

As a highly sensitive person with TMJD, I really had to take a good, hard look at what I needed from a chiropractor and what my goals were before being able to find someone that would fit my needs and help me achieve my goals.

My goals at the time were: more better sleep, less TMJD discomfort and more range of motion, less anxious thoughts and emotional swings, and stability in health and wellness. And I am reaching all of those goals through the choice I made -- yay!

1) What is their philosophy of wellness and health? Are they going to keep you coming back because they want to keep you, or have you come back at certain check-points or as needed? Do they also offer different nutritional supplements or support? Is that something you want as part of what they offer?

2) What is their actual method(s) of practice? My chiro is a part of NUCCA (National Upper Cervical Chiropractors Association) and practice a specific technique that is gentle, non-manipulative to the body, and focuses on specifically the atlas (V1) with the focal idea that most issues stem from there. If the main nerve of our spine is being pinched due to misalignment, many other issues (like TMJD, IBS, aches, etc) result. But each person is different, so the issues can be different. Once that is in alignment, the rest of the body can heal itself in its time usually. This was SO important to me because I'm really sensitive, so "twisting, cracking, and popping" my body was just not gonna happen. I'd been to one of those chiros as a kid and HATED the experience. I'd literally feel like crying in fear/dread.... yep, not happening. Very grateful to find NUCCA!

3) Do they listen and educate? Or do they just adjust and move on without taking time to care? Example: my husband has a rib that once in a while comes out of place and rotates. After adjusting his atlas, our chiro will sometimes gently adjust his wonky rib if needed, but only if it's not doing it's job. He normally doesn't do those things, but a rib out of wack isn't always going to find its way back to staying in alignment without a gentle nudge (literally, haha).

4) Do they adjust automatically if you come in, or just when you need it? Since my chiro is a NUCCA doc, he only adjusts me if I'm actually out of alignment. He has specific ways to tell if my body is in alignment or not, and he does not adjust me if my body does not need it. This allows a more natural body healing process to stay in place rather than outside forces (literally) interrupting that process. My NUCCA doc also charges half as much if he doesn't need to adjust, which is nice! Saving money but still checking on my alignment if I think I might be out.

Interested in NUCCA? They have a website where you can look up a NUCCA doc to find one near you. Their website is found here.

I'm no expert and no doctor, but this has rocked my world, and I hope can help you too, friends. TMJD can be addressed naturally.

I also have a little secret, a "chiropractic assistant" that helps me stay in alignment longer because it supports my body's skeletal and muscular systems in doing their job properly. Learn more about that here!