Read the Episode 89, with Beth Duhon - The Comparison Trap

Introduction

Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 89.

And so it is with sadness that I announce that this is the final in our series of Music Teacher Wellbeing. In this episode, Beth and I will chat about the comparison trap, there is no point comparing yourself to others. There’s a great deal of point in learning from others, but not comparing yourself to others. Let’s not compare apples to oranges. Let’s not compare length of experience. Let’s not compare those who have time to create Instagram worthy posts to those who don’t have time to prepare those things. Just do the best you can with the knowledge you’ve got. I think that’s what we do as music educators. I believe that is what we do. So let’s not fall into the comparison trap.

Enjoy my final episode in this series with Beth Duhon.

This podcast is being recorded on the lands of the Turrbal people. I acknowledge them as the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to elder’s past, present and emerging. They were the first music makers on this land.


About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too!
The transcript of episode 097 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Debbie
Welcome to the Crescendo Music Education Podcast where I get to chat to Beth Duhon again. Hello Beth.


Beth Duhon
Hello, Debbie.


Debbie
We’re going to look a little bit more at your book and talk about music teachers looking after themselves. So I would like to talk about comparison, oh my goodness, I’m assuming we’re talking about comparing yourself to other say Instagram worthy music teacher, classrooms, just that very dangerous habit of comparing yourself to someone else and falling short.


Beth Duhon
Well, it has never been easier to do it than in this current day and age. When I was a kid, if you were going to compare yourself to the neighbouring music teacher, it was probably a few times a year at the district band competition when y’all chatted and people might, you know, people might have a little bit of one upmanship. Now you can be in bed in your jammies and click and see someone else’s Veterans Day Program. And you’re not just guessing that their program is better than yours. You’re seeing it in living colour that yes, indeed, it’s way better than yours and it’s nine o’clock at night. So I think it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed.


Debbie
Oh, and it’s so dangerous, because you have got to remind yourself that you’re not the other person, their journey is completely different. Maybe they’ve got 20 years more experience, maybe they haven’t had a sick child at home for the past two weeks. Everybody has their own story, their own passions and focuses, foci. So you can’t compare, it’s comparing apples and oranges. It’s so difficult to compare yourself with others and not get trapped into a toxic sort of a comparison instead a woah what are they doing? Oh, I’d love to do something like that I might learn from them. Because I think there’s two ways of comparison isn’t there, where you can be more positive and learn from other great people or just feel sad about it?


Beth Duhon
Agreed? We mentioned earlier, what a beautiful time that you can be Australia and I can be in Texas, and we can be chatting about music education, hopefully for the betterment of our listeners. Again, some people will use it for pride or for self abasement. It could be either one. But hopefully, if you’re using it for collaboration, yes, and just realising that what you see with other people is a snapshot. And we don’t know what we don’t know. Every student, every campus is so unique. And they hired you for that campus for a reason, not the other person. So being younger and thinner, would not make me a better music teacher.


Debbie
Mind you I’d like to be younger and thinner.


Beth Duhon
It wouldn’t hurt my feelings. So as far as your energy I’m big on things being finite. Our energy is so finite. Are we really going to spend our finite energy on comparing ourselves negatively to other people? And I just finally had to talk, you referenced yourself a couple of times where you you said Debbie, and you told yourself something? I had to tell myself a couple of times. My son’s elementary music teacher was just excellent. She was her campus music teacher, campus teacher of the year, she was the district elementary teacher of the year.


Debbie
Oh, wow.


Beth Duhon
She was the Whata teacher, which is like the Whataburger Teacher of the Year. But when I talked to her, she’s my biggest cheerleader. So you know, instead of us feeling threatened by each other, she really is the biggest sweetest cheerleader and I want to do the same thing for her.


Debbie
That’s so good, because I do believe there’s real power in supporting and encouraging each other.


Beth Duhon
Well it’s amazing when I share good news, you know, like in a group text. There are group texts where I’ll just hear crickets. I’m like, Okay, well I guess chirp chirp, no one’s very happy about this. And then other group texts I’ll put it in there and two seconds later they’re literally cheering for me and will be in the front row when I go present someplace. Because they’re that kind of friend. And so I think with time and experience, you start to weed out who your people are and investing in those people. And then also hopeful investing. I’m going to the age where I’m investing hopefully in younger teachers and encouraging them too. That’s what I want to do.


Debbie
Yes, absolutely. I’m going to even say I see it almost as our duty. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I don’t mean duty as an obligation. But isn’t it best for our profession to pass on what knowledge we have gleaned? I mean, I’ve been basically in my profession for 42 years. So I would like to think there’s a little bit of some common sense and savvy and things that I’ve learned along the way that I would like to pass on to other people. And yes, the younger teachers, the less experienced teachers, the teachers that are just having a little slump in some particular area, I might be able to just give them a little boost, a few ideas and actually, most importantly, tell them that they’re actually not doing badly at all. They’re doing amazing work.


Beth Duhon
Who doesn’t need to hear that?


Debbie
I could not agree more. But it is hard, isn’t it, flicking on Instagram, looking at some of those classrooms, mines pretty colourful and fun, but not the colour, the colour coordinated, I’ve done it in this theme this year classroom, I just, I look at some of those classrooms and think that’s so not me.


Beth Duhon
Well, and I also think that may be a music teacher thing, a few of us are like that. But if you’re like me or like you, that really does not light us up, that does not give us joy. So I will delegate the stuffing out of that. We had a door decorating contest. And I’m like, Oh, I am getting in the water before we start, so my friend the music two long term substitute, I’m like, this door is your oyster, go for it, have a wonderful time.


Debbie
Go for it. And also like I do turn things up, talking about doors at the beginning of the year, every child decorated a little note. We put it all on giant staff. And that was for Harmony Day, which we have here in March, 21st of March, about everybody getting on together. I think how Harmony Day’s a particularly nice name for a day to support in music. So they all had their own note and how everybody’s different and unique. But together we make music together and I like to add meaning to things that I do with the kids. But you are absolutely right, the comparison game can be very dangerous, you’ve got to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, where you are at the moment.


Beth Duhon
Well and some of it, you mentioned on Instagram, you have the power to not allow all of that into your feed, or you have the power to scroll or not. And you know, an add or select it as you will. I think a lot of times we have different capacities for it. And it’s okay to selectively let it in. Or to take a break. You don’t just have to subscribe to it all the time.


Debbie
Yeah, that is true, because we can get caught in that vortex a little bit can’t you.


Beth Duhon
And one of the chapters it talks about when you go to the district meetings and conferences. We call it flexing, sometimes you go to those conferences. I think we want the awards so badly when I find myself doing it and I’m trying to get some award someplace that I shouldn’t. And so we just want the stroke so badly because maybe we’re not getting on our campus or we’re feeling a little insecure. Or we want to make sure we measure up and so we get in the group and it just feels like we’re all trying to just flex a little bit.

So it is really okay to remind yourself. I even talk about this in the book about learning and connecting. That what you’re really there to do is not to impress anybody. If I’m at my best when I’m presenting it’s not about me, it’s really about serving whoever’s in front of me and helping them be better.

When I’m at my worst It’s Oh, how am I doing? How am I being perceived? You know? And so I’d much rather flip the focus to learning and connecting, make some real true connections with some colleagues, do some real learning that I will take back and leave the flexing at home.


Debbie
Yes, I do love that, flexing, I’m going to use that term. And do you know, I think it’s very obvious having sat through many, many professional development type sessions, I’m a bit of a professional development tragic, you know, I will be there, because I’m learning. But I love that flexing, flexing. And the people that are they’re doing it just to flex, you just don’t learn from them as well do you?


Beth Duhon
You’re being talked at.


Debbie
Yes, you don’t relate to them, you’re not forming a relationship, because you can? Well, the way I look at it, if I get to present even if it’s to hundreds of people, I am forming a relationship with them. It’s not a close personal relationship at this stage, because there’s hundreds of them, but it is still a relationship, I still want to respect them and their point of view, and I want to learn from them. And there’s a humble sort of attitude, rather than a flex. I like that I have my own terms for those people and you’re not going to learn a lot from those people.


Beth Duhon
Agreed. It’s just a humble posture. And like I said, we can all get out of alignment a little bit. But when you read the room, and sometimes if especially if you go by yourself, you’re like trying to figure out who to be by and all those type of things, you will quickly figure out.

There was a conference where this man was mansplaining the ukulele to me and would not get out of my personal space and I was about in tears. I’ve got it, thank you. And then there was something else to my right, who was like quietly explaining it to me and giving me help and feedback. And it just felt completely different. So you can see out and you can kind of figure out who the safe people are there. And who you’d like to spend the time with and who you maybe don’t need to spend the time with at that conference.


Debbie
Yes. I love it. Great advice. Great advice. Now we’re coming towards the end of just this bit of a superficial look at your book. And I do hope everybody’s going to get in there and get it. And did you say it was it’s come out on Amazon now?


Beth Duhon
By the time this is broadcast it should be officially out on Amazon and also on F Flat Books.


Debbie
Oh, wonderful. Well, we’ll make sure that all of that is in the links. All the links are in the show notes is what I’m saying. Sorry, I’m reading at the same time. So you’ve got other little bits in this last section of your book with Oh, things scary, like sugar is bad but God is good. You’ve got some nice little bits, would you like to elaborate on any of these last little bits in your book?


Beth Duhon
Let’s see. What do we have there? We have sugar is bad but God is good.


Debbie
Yeah, you’ve got whitespace? Oh, I referred to whitespace. Between things, whitespace. It’s really important, you know, you can create, I’ll just go off on another little tangent. I try to create whitespace, even if it’s 30 seconds, between releasing one prep class and letting the next one in. I have 30 seconds of whitespace where you can reset and make the most of that little gap, they’re really quite powerful white spaces. Is that what you mean with whitespace?


Beth Duhon
It sure is. So a lot of the things in this miscellany chapter are what I’m going to be presenting on the next OAC conference. It’s a couple of things, a couple of S’s and a couple M’s. So the whitespace is margin and like you talked about my cell phone is a big tool in that for me, because I will set a reminder alarm about two minutes before the class is supposed to go. I can actually literally wrap my class up on purpose instead of looking up and realising what time it is.


Debbie
That’s a good idea.


Beth Duhon
It’s worked well for me and it gives me a chance to close my lesson, get them in a somewhat organised formation and out the door on time before I have the next class. Because otherwise, you know, we run something one more time. It’s frantic and you literally have your classes back to back and my catchphrase for music teachers is we have no time, no voice and need to pee.


Debbie
I have heard that catchphrase. Yes.


Beth Duhon
And you don’t have time for any of it between so it just gives you a little bit of control. And even right now I’m on Christmas break and having a little bit of whitespace so that I am not working straight up until the last day I go back after break.

I’m giving myself a little extra time to do those things. And when I’m going shopping, I give just that little bit like I said it’s just a little buffer to keep things feel a little more manageable and a little bit more sane.

Because if I’m not careful on my own, I will just schedule it to the last second. It’s completely full and if any one thing does not go right my whole day has just collapsed. But if I have a little bit of margin, and also, when I’m doing that, I’m not worried about the other people in front of me, I’m really worried about me and my schedule, and my pace and my stress level and my productivity. So it’s much better for me to just give a little margin, it helps me treat people more like a human being, and be more about the people and less about the product.


Debbie
That’s excellent advice, I think we could all take that. The other thing I like about creating whitespace is that if you want to do deep work, if you want to get in the flow and make the most of something, whatever you’re doing, even if it’s lesson planning, or developing resources, or in my case, if I’m working on podcasts, or blogs, or whatever you’re working on, you need to give yourself the margin, to have the time to actually get in the flow and do the good creative work. If you’re scheduled out, you know, you’ve got a meeting that you have planned at 11. But you need a bit more time to get into the flow and do that deep work. I just think creating the space and the margin also provides the opportunity for you to do better quality work.


Beth Duhon
Well, it sounds like I’m ragging on this society in this interview. But you know, I know my attention span has never been stellar. But it just gets shorter and shorter and shorter. And like research is even showing that across the society, you know, we just we hear the ping of our phone and we get distracted, and we’re back and forth.

So even something as simple as just turn off the notifications on your phone, put it on the Do Not Disturb, having a certain amount of time that is blocked for that activity. All of that helps me and one of the margin things like I mentioned in the beginning, that morning routine for me, you mentioned your walk, when I am able to have my quiet time and then add on the walk. That’s about an hour of time, it is not insignificant, but it makes the whole rest of the day smoother and more relaxed.


Debbie
Yes, you are better off for it psychologically and physically.


Beth Duhon
Agree.


Debbie
I think that is a wonderful place to finish our series on music educators and their wellbeing. Thank you so much for your insights.


Beth Duhon
Well I hope it’s helpful and I sure enjoy chatting with you. I could do it all day.


Debbie
Me too. Okay, bye Beth.


Beth Duhon
Bye Debbie.


Sign-Off

I appreciate you and all of my colleagues, and hope this episode has been enjoyable and useful. Don’t forget, you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au. I’d love a share, rate or review to help other music educators find this podcast. All I can be as the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. Until next time, bye.


Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieves stress don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.

I’m glad that I know some sign language. It’s pretty handy.


Links Mentioned in the Episode:

📕 Happier Music Teacher by Beth Duhon

🎙️ Ep 83: Introduction to The Wellbeing Series with Beth Duhon

🎙️ Ep 84: The Wellbeing Series: Rest and Recharge

🎙️ Ep 85: The Wellbeing Series: The Commute

🎙️ Ep 86: The Wellbeing Series: Fuel Your Body

🎙️Ep 87: The Wellbeing Series: Vocal Health

🎙️Ep 88: The Wellbeing Series: Movement

Where to find me:

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