We love what we do. And we could do it forever if we wanted to.
Music is a passion that gives life to not only us teachers, but our students' lives. We understand the importance that music education brings to our students, and we'll work tirelessly to achieve that vision.
But we're humans. We're not perfect and we mess up.
With the current situation of COVID-19, most music teachers have had to move their instruction online. With frustrations with new technology, new teaching methods, or losing students and income, being a music teacher can be very stressful in a time like this.
Whether you're just starting your music teaching business or have been teaching for over 30 years, teaching private lessons or in a public school setting, work with young students or adult students, we've all experienced stress in our workplace. If untreated, that stress can lead to teacher burnout.
If you've experienced or are currently experiencing any form of burnout, read this article to learn exactly how to avoid teacher burnout.
With these methods, you'll learn to control your life and make the best decisions for the future of your teaching, business, and personal life. Follow the steps below to allow yourself to keep teaching with the same passion and motivation all the way until you retire.
This is for not only for the benefit of private music teachers and public music teachers, but all teachers in general.
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First off, you're probably asking "What exactly is teacher burnout?"
According to Psychology Today, teacher burnout is "a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment."
The important word here is “stress.” Stress is the root of all teacher burnout. And we must clarify that burnout is not a single event that you can measure, but a state of stress that can be prolonged over several years, and you wouldn’t even notice it.
This stress can bring physical, mental, and emotional strain to not only your life, but can be extremely dangerous to those around you also. Friends, family, colleagues, and students are all affected by someone experiencing burnout.
All music teachers face burnout at some degree or another, no matter how experienced they may be. Although any working person may experience burnout in their field, teachers are most susceptible because of the constant hours of face to face interaction. Teachers are constantly overworking themselves, faced with long teaching hours, lesson planning, frustration, and lack of personal time.
Here's a short video to learn more about what exactly teacher burnout is:
There are several case studies and teacher burnout statistics to fully understand the severity of this issue.
According to a survey of over 12,000 teachers, 65% of the teachers showed signs of burnout. 20% were at risk of burnout and only 15% experience no signs of burnout.
This is a significant amount considering 85% of teachers experience some indication of burnout. You could say that none of these teachers have been “burnt out,” but remember that burnout isn’t a specific occurrence, but a continuous process that can lead to a fall out.
Some other statistics include:
These statistics are not to be taken lightly, and more likely than not, you might fall under one of those numbers. Not only public school teachers are leaving, private music teachers are closing down their businesses. These numbers are important in finding the cause of teacher burnout.
Some readers may wonder, “Why is teaching so stressful? Don’t you love what you do?”
And that is true.
Teaching can bring many joys in our lives. Our passion and love for music are some of the reasons why we started in the first place. But there are also days when the stress is too much to handle.
We can break down the stresses of teaching into three categories: physical, mental, and emotional stressors.
Some examples include:
Managing disruptive students
When the music or noise is too much to handle
Dealing with things that are out of our control, such as technology issues
Lesson planning beforehand and adapting your teaching style during a lesson
Tracking finances and keeping up your income
Internal and external pressures to prepare students for a performance
Pressure to keep students engaged and enjoying music
While you may not have experienced all of these stressors in your teaching career, it’s possible that one of those apply to you.
In the time of writing this, we are in a state of uncertainty that does cause a lot of stress. Many of us have had to resort to online lessons in order for our businesses to stay afloat.
Online lessons can be stressful, especially for those not familiar with new technology. It can be difficult to think of new ways to teach music effectively through a screen. However, it is the future we are facing, and we must adapt our businesses in order to keep doing the thing we love, teaching music.
Now that we know that burnout stems from stress, we need to know when teacher burnout can happen. As I’ve said earlier, as a teacher it’s not if you get burnout, but when you get burnout.
Teacher burnout can be more prevalent towards the end of the year with evaluations or performances. This can also affect new and more experienced teachers.
How can this apply to you?
Well there are many factors into determining your stress level, such as the amount of time you teach during the week. Maybe teaching younger children can be more stressful than teaching adults. It all depends on how much you can handle.
On the surface, burnout affects the teachers directly. But we have to be thinking of how teacher burnout affects our students.
Stress may cause teachers to focus less on their students and lesson. This results in lower quality of teaching and learning experience. We want to give our best effort in every lesson we teach, and it's not fair to our students if they get anything less from us.
Students tend to copy the teacher's mood also. We need to lead by examples to our students. If teachers are displaying an example of being irritated and lesson patient, that will carry on to them as well.
Our passion is what drives the enthusiasm and excitement of music to others. If we can't show our passion in front of our students, what will make them feel passionate about the music either? And although you do have that passion and love for music, we must keep this driving force inside us alive in order to thrive as teachers for many years to come.
Since teacher burnout can happen anytime, you may be asking “what are the signs of teacher burnout? I’m not a doctor, but research has shown common symptoms of burnout between teachers who have experienced burnout.
Some common signs of burnout include:
Fatigue/loss of sleep
Difficulty in concentrating
Abnormal appetite and weight
Depression and anxiety
Lack of motivation and passion
All these signs can stem down from one cause. Stress.
Even if you’re stressed or not, you should be aware of how you’re feeling. Just like any diagnosis, we want to find a cure as soon as possible.
Mind Tools has created a “Burnout Self-test” to determine whether you are at risk for burnout.
Here's a video about the "Warning Signs Of Teacher Burnout And What To Do About It":
Since those are the signs of teacher burnout, what actually causes teacher burnout?
What can you find in your school or business environment that might trigger a series of stressful events? These don't have to be physical things, but much of them are external pressures put on our shoulders.
Some causes of teacher burnout include:
Being underappreciated for their work
Lack of control
Lack of support
Not making enough money
Lack of time to prepare for lessons
Poor communication and relationships with parents
Not enough personal time in their lives
I'm hoping that you haven't experienced these causes. But if you have, there's nothing to be afraid of. We'll dive right into how to fix these challenges you might have faced.
If you’ve never experienced or have experienced burnout in the past, here are plenty of tips on how to prevent teacher burnout. All of the solutions boil down to stress management. How well you handle will determine how long you can avoid burnout.
Find any tasks that you don’t need to do often and eliminate it from your daily life. For example, if you’re spending everyday lesson planning for the next day, it can be exhausting. Instead of lesson planning everyday, try lesson planning at the beginning of the week for everyday of the week. This way, you'll spend less time throughout the day changing tasks.
Solution: Look at your daily schedule and change any daily tasks into weekly tasks.
You must have a balance of your work life and personal life in order to avoid teacher burnout. Even though teaching may not feel like “work”, there's more to life than just teaching. The better you can maintain this balance, the more you can enjoy both parts of your life.
An example is only checking your email once a day. Emails may seem like a small task, but if you’re receiving up to 100 emails a day, it can eat up your time. Only check emails during your work hours and never check them at home.
Solution: Turn off notifications for any work related apps on your phone and computer. If you have an iPhone, set restrictions on your screen time and limit your apps to a certain time of the day.
It’s safe to say we all love playing, making, and teaching music. Some of us could do it 24/7 if we wanted to. But the last thing we want to do is turn our passion into an obligation.
If you love traveling, playing sports, or going shopping, make time to actually go out and do those things. It’s important to maintain your personal life by spending time with your hobbies outside of music and doing other activities you love.
Think about why you work in the first place. It may be making enough money to spend time with your spouse, your kids, or your friends. Don’t let the work get in the way of the reason you work.
Solution: Block out time out of your week to only focus on your hobbies. If you don’t have time, make time by eliminating tasks like I’ve said above.
Everyone is in the same boat. No matter how experienced you are or what level of music you teach, we all experience the same joys and hardships. I’m an advocate for meeting new people not only to expand my network, but to seek help and learn from others.
With a tightly knit network you can rely on, it will ease the pressure to figure out any challenges you may face. There are people out there ready to help you be successful, you just have to look for them.
Solution: Participate in conferences or professional development events. Join online Facebook groups to connect with like-minded teachers.
If you’re teaching the same way every year, it can get quite boring. As a result, your students could get bored and create a difficult environment to teach in.
As humans, we need a balance of stability and variation. Learning new ways to teach and varying up your teaching style can limit the stress of a boring lesson.
Solution: Change up your environment physically. Rearrange where you teach or how you teach in a way that might enhance the learning environment. Also seek to learn something new. There’s always something to learn, and we must be great students in order to be great teachers.
If you’re feeling burnout out currently, here are 2 solutions that you can apply right now to overcome teacher burnout.
With most of your time taken up inside and outside your lessons, it might be hard to find time to take care of yourself. Just like I’ve said earlier, it’s important to take time to do the things you love and spend time with your loved ones.
In order to truly practice self care, you must relieve your stresses physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Some self care examples include:
Getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night
Staying physically active
Eating healthy or limiting unhealthy foods
Relaxing outside of work
Getting rid of distractions
Taking enough breaks in between lessons or classes
Keeping good relationships
Here is a great TED Talk about the importance of self care for teachers:
There’s a common misconception that you have to be a certain type of person to meditate. People tend to think there has to be a certain way to meditate in order to fully achieve the benefits of it.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In reality, meditation is more about mindfulness.
According to the Oxford dictionary, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
In order words, it’s more about being aware of your current feelings than actually calming yourself down. If you’re more aware of your stress levels early on, there’s a greater chance you can find the solution faster.
If you’re interested in exploring this state of mindfulness, there are plenty of apps and websites to teach you how to be mindful of your feelings. Headspace is a great app that I use and recommend. Know that it’s a tool you can create a lifestyle around, not just when you’re feeling stressed.
Here's a great "Mini Meditation" from Headspace to get you started with practicing mindfulness:
Teacher burnout happens to all of us. We may experience it for just a day or maybe throughout several years.
With lesson planning, managing a studio, and teaching over 20 hours a week, there's no question why music teachers are so susceptible to burnout.
If you feel yourself developing any signs, act now and find solutions. Even though it may seem scary, it's nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. It's important to know that it does happen, and it doesn't mean you're a bad teacher or you don't have enough passion.
Just know that it can be fixed, and you have to take care of yourself first before you can teach students with the quality of education they deserve.
It's like an emergency on an airplane. You have to put on your mask before helping someone else.
Whether you're experiencing burnout right now or not, remember to practice all of the stress-management tips above. You have the power to create the best future for yourself right now!
If you're looking for a place to network with other supportive music teachers, learn more about growing your private music teaching studio in a time of uncertainty, and gain freedom in your life in order to avoid burnout, the Music Business Developer Membership is perfect for you.
I'm only for music teachers who are committed to achieving their goals and want to achieve them in the shortest amount of time. If this fits you, schedule a call with me and let's chat.
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