Have you ever had a day where you wondered why you even started teaching music in the first place? Perhaps in past years you were joyful and excited about teaching but over the months and years it seems a dark cloud is blocking out the joy you used to feel?
Sometimes an event, or series of events can be so negatively impactful that it makes you feel like giving up and finding something else with which to occupy your days.
If you know you truly love teaching music but have days where you just feel like you want to quit, then this is for you.
1. Identify the Source of Pain
When you’ve reached a point where you feel like you’ve had enough and want to quit teaching, either altogether, at least just until tomorrow it can be helpful to identify what is making you feel that way. This can be tricky because usually there are multiple, emotionally significant events stacked on top of each other, and sometimes they aren’t even related to school.
The way to identify the source of pain is to ask yourself a few questions:
Identifying the sources of pain that affect our teaching can help assuage feelings of guilt or helplessness about your situation and create a starting point for feeling better.
2. Take Care of Yourself First
“If you don’t take care of yourself then you are no good to anyone else” –Unknown
Many of us have circumstances or situations that affect our teaching that we may feel we need to just “push through”. While there is certainly a time for that, it is important to remember that we must take care of ourselves first. This can mean taking care of our own health needs or taking that sick day even though we feel like we could probably teach while feeling slightly feverish.
When we put our own needs and health first, we will find that we have so much more to offer our students.
3. Start Small
A big reason for feeling like quitting is feeling constantly overwhelmed. There are endless possibilities and only a finite amount of time to complete anything so what can you do? Prioritizing the most important things and taking small steps toward a meaningful goal can make all the difference.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:
What is the most important thing I could be doing right now?
What is one small thing I can do to move myself in the right direction?
What outcome do I want to achieve and how do I want to feel while achieving it?
These questions help put things into perspective and create the momentum necessary to escape from overwhelm.
Remember: When we take small actions to better our situation we affirm that we are worth taking action for and boost our confidence that what we do matters.
4. Make Meaningful Connections
Sometimes all it takes if for a friend to say one thing that flips your whole perspective upside down.
Quick story: last year I took a swing dance lesson and the instructor told us to “commit to every step you take”
That word stood out to me: “Commit”. So I wrote it down on a note card and took it to school with me the next day.
I told the Art and P.E. teacher what I heard and showed them the card and surprisingly, the laughed thinking it was silly to carry around an index card that said “Commit”.
About a month later the Art Teacher came up to me saying “I keep thinking about that word you said that day ‘commit’”, and from that day forward it became an encouraging code-word reminding us not to give up and to commit to our students.
I didn’t know that me saying one word to my colleagues would have such a positive and uplifting effect, and I hadn’t a clue that that word would come back around from them to encourage me when I needed it the most.
The meaningful connections we make with other and what we share of ourselves makes a difference that helps not only others, but sometimes ourselves.
5. Remember Why You Started
One of the most helpful things we can do when we feel like giving up is to remember why we started. When we reconnect to what made us want to teach music in the first place, then we can begin to see outside of our current circumstances and remember why what we do matters.
We can think about our love for music growing up and why it touched our hearts and lifted our souls. We can think about how we feel when we hear our favorite song. We can connect with the joy of playing our instrument or lifting our voices.
Then we can take all of that emotion and energy and bring it to our students. We can teach them to love music, and show them the freedom the musical expression affords us.
We can remember the difference that we wanted to make when we first started teaching and then we can begin to make it again.
Leave a comment below and share how you deal with the tough times.