Avoiding Music Teacher Burnout
You cannot pour from an empty cup. I repeat… You will have nothing left to give, if you don’t first take care of yourself! Should we lose cabin pressure, please secure your own mask first before assisting others… How else can I say this y’all?
We enter the field of teaching knowing that our job is to love our students. We are equipped and ready to put in hours of hard work, attention, and energy into our job. Music Education is a field that I truly believe people are CALLED to. I also believe that we as educators are our worst critics. Do you measure your success by the number of extra hours you’ve spent at the school or studio, the number of recitals/concerts you host each year, or how many times you post on social media about how much you just “looooove your job”? This school of thought simply won’t do, my friends. It is not sustainable. Music Education is a physically and emotionally demanding field. This we know. Teacher burnout is a REAL thing and I don’t know about you, but this is about the time of year it starts to creep in for me.
So, I want you to take a deep breath and listen closely to what I have to say next… Here it goes…
-You have permission to take care of yourself FIRST-
I’m no source of authority here, but maybe you just needed to hear it from someone else. So, let’s gather some simple ideas of things we can do to re-fill our cups before dumping it all back out over the kids we care so much for!
1. Practice Self-Care and Self-Compassion
Take a moment... Think about the dialog you have going on in your head about yourself. Would you say these same things to your coworkers or students? The answer is likely a resounding NO. It’s time for us to start showing ourselves some compassion… To start treating ourselves with love, understanding, and patience. And for goodness sakes… Bust out that bath bomb that’s been sitting in your bathroom drawer for over a year!
2. Prioritize your to-do list
Next, let’s tackle that monstrous to-do list. What things on your list have an immediate impact on you and your program? Put those in your “Must-Do” category. These are items that absolutely have to be done in order for you and your program to succeed. Take a look at the rest. I want you to look hard at this list and ask yourself, “Can I delegate any of these items to someone else?” If so, start a “Delegate” category. Whatever is leftover makes it into the “May-Do” category. This final category is for the little things that are not immediately necessary, but can be accomplished at a later time. Summer break projects anyone??
3. Make a list of 5-10 things you love to do!
Now, let’s take a minute for YOU! Can you think of 5-10 things you love to do? Examples could be reading a book, journaling, exercising, watching your favorite TV show. Whatever it is that you enjoy, PLEASE make an effort to fit at least one of these activities into your life each day. I know we are all incredibly busy. But I promise you will see and feel the benefit of intentional “me time” for even just 10-15 minutes a day.
- You can love your job tomorrow, because you left it behind today -
4. Realize that when you are feeling burnt out, your students probably are too.
Things feeling a little chaotic in your classroom? Barely getting a mumbled response from your private lesson students? Maybe you keep checking the sky to see if we’re suffering a perpetual full moon. One thing is for sure... It’s NOT your fault. Just as we’re feeling a bit on edge or burnt out, I can almost guarantee that our students are experiencing similar feelings of their own. When things are a tad misaligned, it’s not your fault. Breathe deep and try your best to practice patience. You can almost see the light at the end of the school-year tunnel.
5. Reflect on what you have learned this year.
As we’re nearing the end of our school year, it’s imperative that we take some time for reflection. How did your year go? What situations still have you cringing and which ones will you hold dear to your heart for years to come? Instead of burying those experiences, take a moment to reflect and even journal a bit. The only way we can improve and achieve balance in our lives is to learn from the experiences we have each year. What strategies worked? Where can you make improvements so that certain activities/events aren’t as stressful next year? Maybe you’ll also recognize that you didn’t take enough time for yourself. Can we vow to implement some strategies to improve that next year? Reflection is essential for self-awareness and growth.
I hope you find this exercise helpful. It’s my sincere hope that we can all take some time to ourselves to re-fill our cups and finish the year strong. Hang in there and remember that the work you are doing matters. Your students need you and you’re positively influencing their lives in innumerable ways. So, pat yourself on the back... You’re basically a gorgeous, well-caffeinated, musical, unicorn, super hero. :)