Leading by Example

Making Key Changes in Your Career

By NAfME Member Dr. Lori Schwartz Reichl

“There comes a time in your life when you focus solely on what you believe is right, regardless of what everybody else is doing.” Alexander McQueen

In May 2019, I published an article for the teacher edition of In Tune Magazine entitled “An Individual Path: Thinking Outside the Box When Making Career Changes” which was later reprinted online with permission for NAfME. Since its publication, I have suggested the article to several people as a resource. I have also received emails from people I do not know who located this article online and found it helpful. Almost four years after writing it, I still believe in its message and my reason for writing it. Within the article, I provided questions to ask oneself before reaching a decision about a career change:

  • How long can this change take place?
  • Do I understand my contract?
  • How will this shift affect my health?
  • What impact will it have on my family?
  • How will I grow, personally and professionally?
  • What will I sacrifice—and what will I gain?
  • Who will be my support system?
  • Have I thought outside the box enough?

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I did not feel nearly as affected as many of my family and friends. I felt like I had experienced my own personal “pandemic” a few years prior when I made the decision to step down from my band directing position and leave the classroom on a full-time basis. My priorities had shifted in many ways. I had a dream in my soul, and I wanted to explore it. However, I had little guidance for how to make these key changes in my life. Fortunately, I had worked hard at putting into place many opportunities that continued beyond my former position. I also followed a calling in my heart and trusted that my path would continue to grow. I have kept that dream in my vision and remained laser focused on my desired path. I have enjoyed the opportunities to connect, collaborate, and grow. Anxiety and doubt have crept into my mind at many stages on this path. However, I have learned that when they do, it is once again time to reflect and potentially revitalize.

Almost seven years later, that dream has expanded to my current work where I am fortunate to collaborate with educators globally. Together, we reflect on our teaching practices while making key changes to refresh strategies that represent a shared vision to enrich the curriculum, classroom, and community. We also reflect on our personal career paths, dream about the future, discover the steps needed to achieve such transitions, and encourage one another to maintain the desired path. Colleague Dr. Jenny L. Neff and I also co-authored an article entitled “Has Your Flame Burned Out or Have You (Temporarily) Lost Your Spark?” as a way to guide others to reflect with a promise to reignite:

“More than anything, the pandemic taught us that our programs and professions are not linear. There are curves to maneuver, mountains to climb, and valleys to roll down at all stages of our careers. Passion, priority, and purpose may have centered us during this historic educational era; however, they may have also led us to new interests, dreams, and aspirations.”

Change is in the air! Fall is here and the leaves are beginning to change. I have spoken to many colleagues who are ready for a change in their careers, too. Some want to attempt a new grade level or area of teaching, some want to explore a role in administration, some are considering a leave of absence for such things as caregiving or study, some are questioning retirement, and others are contemplating a new professional path altogether. These are natural feelings to have as we progress through our careers. They are also expected as we exit a global pandemic.

Some people are commenting that they feel “lost” or “stuck” in their work. Others are motivated (both positively and negatively) to make a change based on what they have experienced. Others are having difficulty putting into words the reason why they want a change. Regardless, we need to establish a plan for making a change. This action should begin with deep reflection and dedicated focus.

Take some time, possibly away from work, home, and others to independently review these questions for why, how, and when you want to make a change. Write down your answers if that is helpful.

Questions for Reflection: 

  • What are the reasons for wanting this change?
  • How are you preparing for this change?
  • Who will you include in the conversation?
  • What questions will you ask?
  • What feelings are you experiencing?
  • How will you fill the void of what you are currently doing?
  • How will you achieve the void of that teaching “high”?
  • How often do you feel the need for that teaching “high” in your life?
  • How will you own the decision once you have made it?
  • Who will you reach out to when you need support?
lone man standing outside

Photo by Luke Leung on Unsplash

Our lives cannot parallel others for our entire careers. Everyone has different needs in their lives at different times. If we do not reflect on our personal needs and wants, we may remain following the crowd. Let’s lead by example! Let’s demonstrate to our students, our colleagues, and ourselves that we can make key changes in our careers at any point. These key changes may be exactly what we need to do to reignite the spark that brings joy to ourselves and those we serve.

About the author: 

Lori Schwartz Reichl 2021

Photo: Richard Twigg Photography

Dr. Lori Schwartz Reichl is a champion of mentorship and motivation in education. Her mission is to encourage educators to reflect on our teaching practices while making key changes to refresh strategies that represent a shared vision to enrich the curriculum, classroom, and community. Dr. Reichl’s unique educational experiences have permitted her to expand her multifaceted career into a portfolio as a clinician, conductor, instructor, writer, and speaker. She is the author of nearly 100 educational articles and has designed these mentoring pieces into a graduate course that she instructs at The University of the Arts (Philadelphia) and VanderCook College of Music (Chicago). Musically, Dr. Reichl has served as an adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor for honor bands in a handful of states. Generally, for all areas and levels of education, Dr. Reichl has presented countless professional development sessions and keynote speeches for school systems and organizations in 16 states including for international events. She has spoken in dozens of collegiate classrooms nationwide and has been interviewed for 13 education and leadership podcasts. Learn more: MakingKeyChanges.com. Subscribe to the Making Key Changes monthly newsletter or peruse Dr. Reichl’s professional development offerings and articles. Check out Music Reading Class, too!

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

October 12, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

October 12, 2022


  • Careers
  • Music Education Profession


October 12, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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