Music teachers work hard, have bulging schedules, and manage a lot of stress. Here are some suggestions on how to re-energize from the general music forum.
Find a music activity
Participate in music just for fun—play or sing in an ensemble, attend a concert, discover a new group to listen to.
One member joined a wind ensemble. “It helps remind me that I got into music because I loved it. It’s a new challenge to myself as an artist rather than yet another challenge as a teacher. It forces me to learn new things.”
Listen to music
Listen to inspiring or your favorite music.
Sing along while you listen. “As we’ve seen in studies with stroke patients, music/singing can repair the brain. Even pop in some instrumental stuff that you’re not familiar with so your mind is getting musically fed.”
Keep on top of your health
Eat 3 full meals a day—“even if your lunch break is shorter than humanly necessary.”
Go to bed at a reasonable time and allow “for a full 8 hours for your brain to be refreshed.”
If you’re feeling sluggish, get checked for vitamin deficiencies. “Getting those vitamin levels up has really helped me. Ideas are flowing, I’m excited for class, and I have the energy to do some of those great workshops that everyone else is talking about.”
Exercise. “Yoga has been shown to reduce the level of cortisol in your body, which is often what gives you that ‘on edge, I just can’t relax’ feeling.”
Don’t neglect your needs. “Too often those of us who are teachers and parents spend most of our time giving to others, at the expense of neglecting ourselves. If you completely ignore yourself and your own needs, you’ll burn out a lot quicker.”
Look for positive experiences in your teaching
“Look for positive things happening in each class you teach: ‘For the first time, Anna found her head voice today.’ ‘Johnny finally got the concept of ta and ti ti.’ When you look for the positive, you’ll find many wonderful things happening.
“Then at the end of the day, assess the positive about yourself—like your fifth period listening lesson was inspirational, or you listened attentively to a sad child. I find that negativity just breeds more of the same.”
Look for the moments that can carry you through a tough week or day. “Yesterday I was so tired and didn’t want to do anything. Then my last class came in and the lesson when so smooth and great that I felt so much better by the end. It was a great way to end the day.”
Plan a day off
Use personal days for you. Often if you don’t use them by the end of the year, they’re gone. Planning a personal day gives you something to look forward to.
“My best friend is also a teacher. If we both have personal days by the end of the year, we take off together. We sleep in, then meet for shopping or a trip to the zoo, and then dinner. We have something to look forward to, and the day off lifts our spirits.”
If you’re facing budget cuts, communicate with parents. “Parents who know what their children are learning in music can become powerful advocates.”
Read Part 1.
—Linda C. Brown, December 14, 2010, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)