Do you ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong? If so, you are not alone. "Bad" or "off" days come to everyone.
However, what if you begin to notice that most of your days are "bad" days? Maybe you arrive late for lessons and aren't well prepared. You notice that you're more short-tempered and impatient with your students, and after lessons are done for the day, it's all you can do to even contemplate what's on the horizon tomorrow. You feel lost, alone and dejected for much of the time, and you're also not sleeping very well.
Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, then you may be suffering from music teacher burnout. This doesn't mean that you made the wrong, or even a poor, career choice. It simply means that you have gotten a bit run down from the daily grind.
The good news is that there are ways to deal with music teacher burnout. Even better, there are methods that you can use so that burnout doesn't happen again.
Let's take a deep dive into this critical topic.
Defining Music Teacher Burnout
Everyone has a bad day from time to time. This is completely normal, and it does not necessarily signal that you are burned out.
On the other hand, if you are feeling continual anxiety about your professional responsibilities, then this can have a negative impact on both your work and personal lives.
According to Psychology Today, burnout is defined as "a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment."
Unfortunately, stress is a common component of modern life. Everyone experiences it far more often than is healthy, so how do you know that you are suffering from burnout?
Know the Symptoms of Music Teacher Burnout
Here are some of the most common and telling symptoms of music teacher burnout:
- Exhaustion: If you are physically and emotionally exhausted yet have a hard time sleeping and struggle with forgetfulness, this can be a sign of burnout.
- Believing that your efforts are ineffective: This symptom also may be characterized by irritability, hopelessness, apathy and poor performance.
- Feeling cynical: Some music teachers describe this as a loss of enjoyment, enhanced pessimism, a sense of detachment or feelings of isolation.
- Depression: This is more than just having the blues for a day. You may feel anxious, depressed and angry over an extended span of time.
You don't necessarily have to show all of these symptoms to be suffering from burnout. Some music teachers will experience one or two of these signs while others may struggle with all of them and other signs.
Unfortunately, burnout isn't just bad news for you. It also has a negative effect on your students. When a music teacher is going through burnout, they are more likely to quit, and this can leave their young learners in the lurch.
Burnout tends to be more common in places with socioeconomic difficulties. This means that students who are already under-served may have an even tougher time of it.
Four Ways to Deal with Music Teacher Burnout
Coping with music teacher burnout is quite personal. What helps you cope may not work for another teacher experiencing similar symptoms. This is why it's important to be familiar with more than one coping mechanism.
1. Talk About It
You can speak with just about anyone who you know and trust, but it can be especially helpful if you talk with another teacher because chances are good that they have had feelings similar to yours. Of course, burnout can happen to anyone, so a good friend or a family member with whom you are close can be excellent alternatives.
The idea behind this strategy is simple. You just need to say aloud all of the things that you are feeling. This might lead you to rant, cry, scream or even laugh, but the key is to not hold anything back. The more you get out, the less likely you are to continue your inner process of stewing and ruminating.
It isn't even necessary for your confidante to be able to offer you advice or guidance. Merely the act of saying aloud all of the things that you are thinking and feeling is cathartic. Sharing your burdens breaks down the walls of isolation that you may have built up around yourself.
2. Build a Community
Sometimes, music teachers feel like they are very much alone. This is especially true when an instructor teaches in a private studio with little other contact with adults, peers and colleagues.
If your burnout is making you feel cynical and dissociated, then you may want to work toward building a personal and professional community. Basically, the important thing to do here is to have a support system in place so that whenever you need some emotional support or professional advice, you'll have someone to turn to.
Building a community is not always easy. That's why it may make sense to take part in a preexisting group. Here are some suggestions:
- Join a professional organization: Take part in a group like The National Association for Music Education or the Music Teachers National Association. Join events and conferences held around the country and connect with other music teachers individually either in person or virtually.
- Reconnect with loved ones: As your burnout progresses, it is common to isolate yourself from those you love the most. Spend some time getting back in touch with beloved family and friends.
- Take part in a hobby group: Whether it's a book club, a hiking cohort, a baking group or a sewing circle, getting together with some like-minded people can be a great way to refresh your outlook on your personal and professional lives.
- Volunteer: This could mean offering to teach music to underprivileged kids, spending some time at a food bank or helping out at the local animal shelter. Sometimes, helping others is the best way to take you out of yourself.
3. Retrace Your Steps to Find Out What Went Wrong
How did you end up burned out in the first place? It probably would be really difficult to trace your burnout to a single event. Instead, it's a conglomeration of things going wrong over an extended period of time that causes you to feel depressed, anxious and hopeless.
Take this one step at a time by identifying one thing that went wrong on a recent teaching day. As you begin to review that day, you may notice that there was really just one thing that didn't go well, yet you allowed that to snowball until you had convinced yourself that you were having an awful day.
Now, think about some other recent days that haven't gone as well as you wished. Did the same thing go wrong on each of these days? If so, then you may have identified one thing that is contributing to your burnout.
For instance, if you feel like you're always tired and running behind, then perhaps you can resolve to get to bed a little earlier so that you are better rested in the morning. Wake up feeling refreshed after a good night's sleep, and you will be much better equipped to deal with anything that happens throughout the day.
What if you find that the transition from one class to the next is always rough? Do the students in the second class have a hard time settling down and getting to work? This may signal that it's necessary to change your approach at the start of the second class. Build a new routine that works better for them, and your days are bound to go much more smoothly.
Get Inspiration from Prodigies
At Prodigies, we believe in giving music teachers as much support and assistance as they need. To prevent burnout, we recommend that teachers practice self-care, recognize when they need to take a break and keep things in perspective.
We further recommend using our colorful and engaging video lessons to help make lesson planning easier. Many music instructors already rely on these lessons and their supporting materials to switch things up in their classroom.
Try something new today with a little help from Prodigies.