Battling Burnout: Actions You Can Take Today to Ensure You’ll Still Love Teaching Tomorrow
By NAfME Member Elisa Jones
Have you read some of those “venting” posts on social media all about how your fellow teachers have “had it” or “get no respect” or are “so frustrated” and just cringed? Or maybe you have felt the same way—wondering why you got into music education at all?
Yes, it is possible to have a long and happy career as a music teacher!
I recently polled 100 music teachers and discovered that those biggest frustrations had nothing to do with what actually happens in the classroom, but what happens outside of it. Fortunately, there are steps you can take, habits you can apply today that will help you want to keep teaching 20 days, 20 weeks, and 20 years from now.
Five Tips for Battling Burnout
- Learn Diplomacy
Whether it’s dealing with a non-supportive administration, angry parents, or classroom teachers who don’t care, having a solid foundation of conflict resolution could be your best tool for mitigating your own frustrations. It’s a skill you can learn and will serve you throughout your life—not just in the school setting
Find joy in the teaching of students, in combination with the subject matter, and let go of any unreal expectations.
- Master Classroom Management
It’s far easier to stay calm when you know how to keep your classroom on-task. Just like when you teach tuning, or vowel matching, or the names of the notes on the treble clef, the more tricks you have up your sleeve—the more tools in your tool bag—the better off you will be. Start with becoming the “focus ninja”; have at least five ways to get your class back on task and practice them with your students until they are trained better than Pavlov’s dogs.
- Stay Flexible
Too often the need in our communities isn’t consistent with the “dream job” you may have always wanted. Sometimes a horn player with lots of marching band experience ends up needing to take a job teaching K-5 chorus. The lack of “dream jobs” can be surprising to newly graduated music educators, but it doesn’t have to be the dream-killer if you can be flexible. In fact, the more philosophies and techniques you learn, the more you can adapt them to any music teaching situation. Find joy in the teaching of students, in combination with the subject matter, and let go of any unreal expectations.
- Maintain Your Health
If you can’t afford to take a sub day, you’ll probably just come in sick. I know. I’ve been there! That’s why we have to focus on prevention; on taking care of our bodies every day—from our voice to our toes—so much of our personal happiness rests on our physical and mental well-being. Eating healthy foods, exercising daily, and taking time to recharge mentally and physically all need to be priorities for longevity in your career.
- Remember Your Priorities
From getting tired of music to neglecting family, keeping life “balanced” seems to be one of the greatest challenges for music educators. If you look at truly successful teachers though, they aren’t ever truly “balanced.” As your priorities shift from concert to fundraiser to your son’s track season, you’ll feel the weight of your priorities shift, and that’s 100% okay—embrace it! As long as you know your priorities and focus on them every day, then you’re doing what really matters, and you’ll find your job and your life is a very satisfying place to be.
Additional Reading on Personal Development
For additional reading, some of my favorite books on personal development for a long career are:
- The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai, OMD
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- 5 Factor Fitness by Harley Pasternak, M.Sc.
- Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy
About the author:
NAfME member Elisa Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Elisa Jones presented on her topic “Battling Burnout” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference last November in Dallas, TX. Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference!
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