Cold and Flu season can be a challenge in the music studio where we sing, (literally sending out our germs into the air), and playing the piano (touching the keys.) With many people coming in and out of the studio each week, it’s tricky to keep the germs at bay. We have around 75 students. With siblings, friends, and parents coming in the door, it’s safe to say that we have 100 people in our house every week. We have students from several different schools. If we aren’t careful, our house can be a germ center.
Kids are little Petri dishes. When I was a new teacher, I was sick all the time. As a teacher and a mother, it felt like the cycle never ended. My students or kids would get sick, then myself or my spouse. It would just go around’ and round. We were all continuously passing sickness to each other. It was miserable.
Being an independent music teacher meant that I didn’t have paid sick days. If I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. Also, if I missed too many days, I had to worry about students losing momentum in their studies, and then quitting. So, I often worked sick.
Now, that I have been teaching for two and a half decades, I don’t get sick as much. I attribute this to a few different things. First, my own kids are grown. (Still, it’s not uncommon for them to come over sick and bring their germs with them.) I do feel like I have developed some resistance. I am also more proactive than I was as a new teacher.
Here’s how I intentionally stop the cycle of sickness in the studio and my home:
1) I have a policy that I hand out on the first day of lessons that the parents sign.
“I will not bring sick students to lessons. (Example: runny nose, cough, fever-Better to lose a paid lesson, then cycling sickness and potentially more lost time and money for everyone.”
This policy is golden. Since adopting this policy, my students rarely show up sick anymore. Parents usually text me that the student is ill, and I text them the missed lesson assignment. I do still get paid because of my no-makeup policy if they miss a lesson. I do not feel obligated to make up the lesson because they are sick. I am saving everyone money and time by not cycling sickness. I have never had a parent complain about this policy, but I have had many thank-you’s.
2) I have the students help me clean the keyboards at the end of lessons.
I spray a natural antiseptic on a paper towel and hand it to them. They wipe down the keys and throw the paper towel away upon exiting the classroom. The students also have their own headphones that they keep in little bags with their names on them in the studio. This keeps things hygienic.
3) If a student does occasionally come in sick, I may send them home.
If they are running a fever, or are coughing. (Or clutching their stomach.) They need to go home. If I do have them stay, I open the window during the lesson. I also, wipe the keys and doorknobs down upon their exit. Because of the golden don’t come sick policy, this is a rare situation.
4) If I am sick, I generally will take a sick day.
I will have to offer the missed lesson at some point since the lessons are prepaid. I use this as an opportunity to give them extra help close to the recital. For class students, I offer a one- day group practice the week of the recital.
I usually close the studio the week of the recital and only offer the recital as their paid session that week. This leaves me time to schedule any lessons I owe any students. Parents are grateful that their students get more practice time with me the week of the recital. Other solutions, is that I offer the students an hour lesson on a Friday, earlier on a weekday or a one day-Saturday workshop.
5) I get a Flu shot.
I didn’t start doing this until last year. But I had an adult student who is a scientist, who actually mixes the flu shot. She knows everything about it, that’s her job. So, she debunked any false ideas I had about the flu shot. I had heard that they had mercury, and so I had avoided the shot. She assured me that this is absolutely not true. Also, you don’t get sick from the flu shot. If you get sick from the flu shot it’s because you were already carrying the germs at the time of the shot. Notably, I haven’t had the flu in the two years that I have been getting the shot.
6) I take a daily multivitamin and a daily over-the-counter allergy pill.
The allergy pill is called Allerfex (I get it at Costco) and was recommended to me by an allergy doc’s nurse. I have seasonal allergies all year. I am also allergic to cats and house dust. I opted out of getting expensive shots, and the daily pill works wonders. It also doesn’t make me drowsy. I really believe it helps my respiratory issues. Not having a handle on my allergies in the past contributed to asthma flare-ups and getting Bronchitis every year. (A doctor I saw confirmed that was part of the problem.) Those of us susceptible to respiratory issues have little resistance. We need to be preventative. I try to keep surfaces dusted and avoid cats.
7) I keep the humidity levels at 30-65% in my home.
This is something I have recently become smarter about. I have a humidity sensor on my fridge that lets me know how much humidity is in the house. We have a wood stove and I fill the kettle with water. This puts moisture back in the air.
8) I wash my hands all day long. I also ask the students to wash their hands when they come in. Unfortunately, not all of my students do this. As I have back-to-back lessons, I can forget to enforce this. This is an area I plan to get stricter on.
9) If I feel a cold coming on, I take zinc and Emergen-c on the hour. I gargle with an antiseptic mouth wash. I may also gargle with hot salt water.
10) I drink water continuously.
That’s pretty much it. Getting enough sleep is also important. So is saying no to too many commitments. I try to stay on top of it. I take better care of myself, overall and that helps. Not allowing the students to come sick has made a world of difference.
Dear teacher, if you don’t have a strict policy on sickness prevention, I recommend getting it put into your studio policies immediately. You’ll be so glad you did, and don’t forget to take your vitamins!