Normally, I’m not prone to injury. In fact, I usually try to go out of my way to make sure I don’t get hurt. Especially after suffering from painful tendonitis back in my late high school/early college days, I’m a BIG advocate of spotting tension in my students (especially with my private piano students) and helping them recognize the warning signs so that they can adjust accordingly and stretch properly to avoid injury. However last year, I let my guard down and the result was an 8-month-long sloooow-going recovery from an injury I received while teaching music on a cart. Here’s what happened…
Disclaimer: Even though I have extensive experience in applying Dora the Explorer and Disney-themed bandaids, I'm most definitely *not* a medical doctor. Please be sure to consult your personal physician if you feel you may have acquired an injury. And now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading...
As a traveling music cart teacher, I’ve come across 3 particular hazards while rolling about the school:
- Area Rugs
- Elevator Gaps
Which, in turn, creates 3 problems:
Ah, those lovely “morning meeting” and “circle time” area rugs. I even remember my own music rug back when I had a music room. I love them, but my cart does not. The wheels on my cart have such trouble going over them, resulting in a bunched up carpet headache of a mess and boys and girls suddenly scrambling to ‘help’ (bless their hearts, but it’s mayhem). I like to call it the "carpet crumble."
Classroom entrance thresholds create a bump or uneven surface from the hallway floor to the classroom floor, causing items to go flying off my cart’s shelves when the wheels hit said threshold/bump.
My school's elevator has a 1.5-inch gap between the hallway floor and elevator floor, so my cart's wheels get stuck and only budge with considerable effort (which also causes items to fly off my cart's shelves...*sigh*).
Solution to Problem #1:
Extension Cord or Rug Slide -> SUCCESS!!
To avoid the carpet crumble, I park my cart as far into the room as I can, then utilize an extension cord to reach the outlet. Or, in some cases, due to the classroom teacher’s chosen layout, I’ll have assigned students help by sliding the carpet a few inches over so that I can roll my cart into the room at music time and they slide it back at the end of class when I leave. Who knew such a little gesture would be so fun for my students, but they love to help and do it, so I gladly accept their help!
Solution to Problem #’s 2 and 3:
The Leg Lift -> FAIL!!
Rather than lifting up the side of the cart with just my arms and potentially injuring my lower back, I hooked my foot under the bottom tier of the cart and used my legs and arms to give it a small lift so the wheels can go over the thresholds and elevator gap. My logic? My leg muscles were a lot stronger than my arm muscles, so assisting with my legs would help.
Day after day I did this, over every threshold of every class and each time I got into or out of the elevator. I vaguely began noticing some pain in my right foot, but chalked it up to standing on my feet for so many hours, long rehearsals, or possibly hitting that foot on a door or on the cart...ANY excuse I could come up with to reason it away. Until one fateful day, I did my usual leg lifting method over the elevator gap and suddenly felt a SHARP pain radiate through my foot.
It. Hurt. So. Bad.
And then, my friends, the lightbulb went on. Although I was correct in that my leg muscles were a lot stronger than my arm muscles, I neglected to think about all of those poor tendons and ligaments in my right foot that, day after day, also bore the strain of my cart lifting. And boy, did I strain them. A trip to the podiatrist confirmed my injury.
The prescription? Rest.
My response? HA!
She noted that the x-rays showed no broken bones in my foot (hooray!), but went on to explain that the length of recovery from a strain would take longer than a broken bone would (booo!). I explained my job situation and what it entailed. Her estimate for my foot returning close to normal was approximately 3-4 months, but due to my crazy teaching schedule and cart teaching circumstances, it took a little over 8 months.
- 8 months of finding another way to get the wheels over the threshold/gap (a slight running start and some student help was my solution)
- 8 months of no high heels or boots (which I rock when not teaching and REALLY missed during those winter, spring, and summer months)
- 8 months of epsom salt foot soaking every night (which I *loved* and I still do on occasion)
- 8 months of learning to pay attention to my body again to respond and to adjust when noticing pain or feeling out of sorts (must practice what I preach to my students!)
It wasn’t until fall of the following school year when I could finally wear shoes other than my work sneakers and walk around pain-free.
So please do yourself a favor and learn from my mistake!
Have you ever suffered an injury while teaching? If so, how long did it take you to fully recover? What advice would you give other teachers to prevent going through the same pain you did? In the future, I’ll address other workplace injuries to be wary of, but for now I'd love to hear your thoughts and for you to share your own experiences in the comments below!
Encouraging you to rock as you roll,