Today’s teachers face challenges like never before. Over-crowded classrooms, unrelenting budget cuts, and general underappreciation can eventually wear down the spirit and destroy the happiness you feel when you are helping others discover their musical ability. However, you can prevent stagnation, keep your professional fervor, and find more joy as a teacher by following these practical tips.
1. Keep It New
Repeating the same curriculum year after year can create boredom. You may not even realize it, but when you teach the same content over and over it can start to pale. Music teachers must continually demonstrate the same basic steps when showing each new class of students the proper holds, posture and other playing techniques.
- However, you can find more joy in teaching by monitoring various internet sites for new training materials and methods. Go over what you know must be included, and then make a list of possible additions. For example, there are many wonderful resources out there like Noteflight, which makes it fun to learn composition, or sites like Music Teacher Resources that offer a wealth of inspiration and ideas. By energizing your content, you will discover new avenues for conveying age-old techniques.
2. Institute Discussion Time Before and After Class
Both you and your students need a way to make sure that previous lessons are understood. Take time before each class or session to ask if any students have questions from the previous lesson. Exploring what your students are struggling with will not only give you better insights into the areas that need emphasis, it will also stimulate the natural love you have for sharing your wonderful skill.
- After class, take a few minutes to explain what will be expected at the next lesson. When students have clear parameters, rather than just rote assignments or timed practice for X minutes each day, they achieve more certain progress. And, a well-earned sense of accomplishment will encourage you both.
3. Be Real
A positive student response is an essential part of getting true joy out of the hard work that you do, and teachers who are honest about their own experiences—and who are even willing to be laughed at—develops a supportive atmosphere. If you occasionally share your experiences learning to play each instrument, it helps create a connection that students can relate to. They’ll understand that you weren’t perfect when you started your journey, so they shouldn’t expect an exemption from the struggles that all musicians face, either.
- Be real about the mistakes you’ve made. Sharing funny stories and other anecdotes about your path will develop a comradery that is essential to any orchestra or group of players.
4. Generate Attainable Goals
The best progress is often seen when students follow a series of small steps. Music training is all about mastering one step at a time, but it’s important to remember that a long term goal (like wanting to play professionally) can be discouraging if viewed in the short-term. Creating attainable short-term goals (3-6 weeks) for your students won’t burden or bore them, in fact, it will establish milestones that can be observed later to provide encouragement. Plus, when your students reach the goals you’ve set, you’ve achieved yours.
5. Create Visual Reminders
There were many reasons why you chose to devote your life to the teaching profession, remind yourself of them by creating visual cues and placing them in your classroom. Anything will work, as long as you understand the significance. Some examples include:
- An inspirational poster or picture that venerates someone or something that has changed the world can represent the fact that you are making a difference in the lives of your students. Music instruction positively influences students. It offers immediate academic improvement and builds the skills required to contend in today’s competitive workforce; but music training has also been linked to stronger sensory perception development and other long-term brain health.
- A living palm or other plant placed in the room can represent the professional development teaching provides. Teaching music makes you adapt and grow each year as you introduce new methods, and learn things about your personal limits and how to overcome them.
6. Ask Your Fellow Teachers
A lot of your colleagues face the exact same experiences you do and could have some insight on how to find more joy as a teacher. Everyone hits a rut in their jobs from time to time, so asking for their advice can help you find the key to more happiness. Even a teacher can be a student!
Being an educator is tough, but you can ensure that you don’t lose your passion by focusing on the reasons that you chose teaching in the first place and building an environment that fosters meaningful achievement. When your students succeed, you do too.