6 Tips for Burnt Out Music Teachers

Feeling burnt out in the music classroom?  Stop feeling overwhelmed and get back to why you love teaching!  Check out these 6 tips to help you feel refreshed instead of stressed!
     Most of us have been there.  You had a great passion for teaching music most of your career, but now you are just done.  Kaput.  Burnt out.  
     I've had my fair share of this as I've gone from K-5 to K-12 this year.  Most of the time I've held it together, but there are some days where I just want to make it through the day so I can go home and not think about teaching anymore.  I can't say I've completely mastered not feeling burnt out (though with 3 weeks left of the school year I would say that's normal!), but here are some tips I have learned through the ups and downs of my year.

1.  Remember why you wanted to teach music to begin with.

     Sometimes going back to the beginning of it all helps take the focus off of the day-to-day and helps you remember the overall picture.  For me personally, I wanted to teach music because it was such a big part of my life growing up.  It was something I was good at, but more importantly, something that fulfilled me.  I am forever grateful for the teachers I had who helped to foster my love of music throughout my life.  I wanted to be that to someone else someday.  I didn't realize how challenging music education would be, but I knew that I could impact the lives of students the way my teachers impacted mine.

2.  Keep a wall of encouragement.

     Students sometimes make our day and we shouldn't just forget about it and move on.  I keep a folder with encouraging notes from students from the entire span of my career.  I also make sure to put notes and student art work up on the walls of my classroom so that I see them when I'm getting discouraged or overwhelmed.  And just when I hit a wall this year and literally wanted to quit education all together, one of my students wrote me a note.
I will NEVER throw this note away.  NEVER.  This student is a dream--so talented and such a wonderful person.  But she's mine and you can't have her ;)  We all have those students we would sob if they left our school, and she's one of mine.  And guess what, she appreciates me!

3.  Choose your attitude.

     Yes, we've all had to do a million PD's on school environment.  A few years ago, our principal had us read a book about the Seattle Fish Market and the concepts they used to make it a positive place for its workers and customers.  I don't know about you, but handling fish sounds way less fun than teaching music, so if they can make handling fish fun, certainly the ideas can help teaching!  One of the mantras we repeat over and over at our school is "choose your attitude."  Yes, it's true, some days I don't want to put on my big girl pants and choose my attitude, but you'd be amazed at how a conscious effort toward thinking positive can help your overall day and year.  Especially when you can help your co-workers do the same thing.  Complaining won't get you very far, problem-solving will.

4.  Surround yourself with positive people.

     I'm lucky to work at one of the best schools in the world.  Seriously.  We don't make a lot of money or have a flashy building, but the people are top notch.  We all work together to accomplish our goals at our school.  It's not about your classroom, it's about how it affects the school overall.  Yet, we still care about each other individually.  I was lucky enough to have a co-worker tell me in the nicest way that she saw how I was becoming negative as the year went on and it bothered her because I wasn't normally like that (thank you K-12 . . . ).  It actually helped me, because it reminded me to go back to the positive person I was before.  Now if you can't find a positive person in your building, make sure that you find someone outside of work who you can meet for coffee (or chocolate) to talk about your struggles in a constructive, problem-solving way.

5.  Go to professional development.

     Sometimes I'm overwhelmed and the thought of going to one more PD makes my head want to disintegrate.  But, most times, PD really helps re-energize me!  One of the best things that happened this year is that I had a clinician come in to work with my choirs.  It really helped give me new ideas and a way to move forward where I felt like the choirs were learning more and sounding even better than before.  I also went and observed another choir classroom for a day.  Those experiences were invaluable to me this year and provided a great pick-me-up!

6.  Re-ignite your own passion for music.

     My friend Bethany and I decided to get season tickets to the Wharton Center this year.  AKA--6 Broadway musical productions in one year!  It has been so much fun to go watch musical theater productions that touch my soul while I am watching them. They also give me new ideas for my own musicals.  And did you know you can use those tickets as a tax write-off?  Back to the real point though--watching a musical makes me remember why I do what I do.  I LOVE music and I LOVE how it affects the people who create it and listen to it.  What are you doing to make sure you remember how much you love music?

I hope these ideas give you something to think about.  I will probably have to come back and read my own post in the future and I'm okay with that.  Don't give up because something is hard, if it's worth fighting for, then do it.

Catch you next time I have something noteworthy!