Advocating Music During Budget Cuts
by
Karen Stafford

Here I am, a teacher experiencing burnout, and you’re telling me that I need to get involved?! I thought that was WHY I was burned out — because I’m too involved!
When I began researching teacher burnout, and ran across the information that an element of burnout is often caused by isolation, it really surprised me. The way that I’ve dealt with burnout episodes over the last twenty years is to duck and run for cover. I’ve quit teaching twice and worked as a news photographer and once as a flight attendant. But I’ve always returned to teaching, realizing that my life was more meaningful in this line of work.

It does seem though, that teachers are exceptionally high-risk in regards to job burnout, AND music teachers which have one of the more stressful positions are even more prone to burnout. How do we survive?

Read on.

John Hylton, an associate professor of music at the University of Missouri, states this: “Teaching, especially music teaching, is a highly stressful profession. Stress can become a problem as music educators move into the middle stages of their careers because the frustrations inherent in music teaching, such as the variety of roles that music teachers are expected to fill, the pressures of public performance and public accountability, and the need to recruit and motivate students to accept responsibilites associated with membership in an ensemble, have a cumulative effect.”

He goes on to say that “stress is necessary for life. But when the stresses of music teaching produce the same response, repeatedly over a period of time, without an outlet, the result is physically and emotionally damaging. There are three predominant categories that burned out teachers fall and they are:

Early Retirement

Serious Illness which causes them to have to leave their positions

and Diminished enthusiasm and lack of vitality, yet they keep pounding away at the job.”
In another discussion on teacher burnout, someone said, “Sign on with your professional organization. Believe it or not, they need you and the involvement will help you feel less isolated. You will begin to feel the vitality and enthusiasm once more when you have a support group that has the same interests and job-related problems that you have.”

Mr. Hylton offers some solid advice and solutions.

One key to coping with stress is appropriate management of time. Time management is essential in a music teacher’s work.
Here are some Tips

1. Review your objectives.

2. Plan ahead.

3. Set priorities.

4. Exercise and proper diet, IMPORTANT!

5. Rest and Relax! Very Important!

6. Do something non-musical, or do something, just for YOUR enjoyment.

7. Get Moving! Take action.

Burnout–the reaction to prolonged high stress–commonly results either in withdrawing and caring less, or in working harder, often mechanically, to the point of exhaustion. To learn more, click on the link below.
Digest 75 – Burnout

My Question:
Could burnout be lessened for teachers if society didn’t put us under the “microscope” as much and make us feel as though we are solely responsible for child development in manners, social skills, knowledge and mastery of the basic core subjects, preventing teen pregnancies, drug abuse and in making sure all students pass and graduate? Of course, it is a teacher’s goal to see that his or her students have a firm grasp of the tools they need in order to master core subjects, but where does the responsibility of the parents and the community enter into the solutions and desired outcome? It IS a team effort!

This brings me to yet another issue. When one is feeling like a failure in being able to reach their students, despite the brilliant attempts, the countless extra hours expended, and still see little improvement in student performance, it gets a bit difficult to go to a colleague and say, here is what’s going on with me, I feel like a failure!

Schools are like little towns, rural areas for the most part. Everybody knows everything about everybody. AND when one tries to communicate their need of emotional support, depending on whether or not you can trust the sweet soul in which you divulge yourself, your meaning can sometimes get twisted as the sentences in a game of gossip, when the statement is passed from one person to the next. You may start out saying something like, “I sure would like to get some relief from this job,” which turns into, “She said she was going to take a street job?”

If you feel as though you are alone and isolated, and indeed, you may be, just because you thought fraternizing with a bunch of gossips would be the dangerous route to take, then you might be able to get some help through the internet where you can remain anonymous.
Here is a list to get you started:
Therapy Network

Dr Katz’ Auto Diagnosis – for fun

Relaxation Response

De-Stress your Whirlwind

Yoga Internet Resources

Relaxation Techniques

In closing:

We can reduce burnout by living one day at a time. The “elephant” doesn’t appear quite so overwhelming when we eat it one bite at a time. Even in the midst of chaos, focus on the solutions. Participate in hands-on activities. (And this doesn’t mean around someone’s neck).
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