As a pre-service teacher, I don’t know what burnout feels like from a teacher’s perspective. (As a student, I definitely do.) But what I’ve heard about it has made me classify it with other noxious and detrimental conditions like senioritis, bronchitis, influenza, and mono. So how do teachers vaccinate themselves against the burnout epidemic? I’ve had a set of experiences lately that have shed some light on the matter.
In my last post we talked about the UMEA (Utah Music Educators’ Association) Conference in St. George. The conference included workshops, opportunities to purchase scores and instruments, networking, and concerts. My association with other music teachers was deeply rejuvenating, I got some good ideas from the various workshops, and seeing the beauty of our craft masterfully showcased in concert was the perfect, inspiring finale. For me, the concerts were a very energizing and encouraging boost. If young musicians can “get it” like that, then I’m going to have the best time ever! It would seem almost unfair to get a paycheck for having that much fun with my young musical colleagues. After that experience, student teaching can’t come fast enough! I can’t wait to be in the schools helping students have quality musical experiences. There’s something truly uplifting about seeing art in action. The principle applies across the board, too. I’m sure a teacher of any subject thrills when the students show real mastery and enthusiasm for the subject. (Couldn’t think of a good example of what would make a math teacher giddy, but I’d love to hear your ideas—any math teachers out there?)
My second experience mirrored the first; this time I was on the student side performing for the teachers in need of a galvanizing experience. As a member of the BYU Women’s Chorus, I got to sing for the American Choral Directors’ Association Conference (ACDA—never enough acronyms). Our director told us that this would be a group of tired, high school choir directors who needed a musical shot in the arm to finish the school year strong. Our music was epic. It was a BIG program.
Our goal was to serve up a musical feast with each course thoroughly appetizing and satisfying. We’d been rehearsing the music and focusing on it for months. And we delivered. The feeling in the concert hall when we finished was priceless, especially after having sat in the teacher’s spot at the UMEA Conference a few weeks earlier. I can now appreciate how good it feels to receive an excellent performance.
So, my own conclusion of how to avoid burnout involves a healthy dose of concert attendance. Teaching is like running a marathon and you really need to fuel up at the snack stations along the way. What are you “snack stations” in your career? What fuels you to keep teaching? Where do you find your inspiration? As always, your thoughts are welcome here.