How to Prevent Teacher Burnout

Mike Lawson • Commentary • July 1, 2002

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Approximately 6,000 music teachers leave the profession each year. According to education statistics from the U.S. Office of Education, 40 percent list job dissatisfaction as the main reason for leaving.

Satisfaction, then, is the key to retaining teachers and helping to reduce stress to a level of toleration that helps to eliminate burnout. Burnout is one major culprit in teacher dissatisfaction. By doing a few things, as a teacher, to be effective and satisfied, burnout can be eliminated.

Burnout is stress that’s not relieved. It exists in all careers. Burnout results from a continuous effort to do the job with no rewards.

Parents Can Help

Networking with parents and the community can work wonders and provide you, as a teacher, support for what you do. Communicating the benefits of music to parents through meetings, town newspaper articles, a school Web site and other sources can be a real help in enlisting their support for music in the schools. This could be a major plus for you as the teacher – feeling that you are better appreciated for the work that you do. Teaching music to the kids then becomes your central focus and relieves the pressure of feeling alone on the job. Your administrator is probably not going to be that support person; chances are your administrator has his or her own problems to handle.

Mentor with Peers

Mentoring is essential to relieving isolation and increasing closeness with peers. During the course of your career, there can be several mentors helping you to grow and develop in your profession. Mentoring – giving and receiving – stimulates creativity and keeps ideas fresh.
As you grow in your career, you will sense when you need ideas or new ways of doing things. In all fields, professionalism is like that. To maintain enthusiasm and love what you are doing, exchanging ideas with peers and talking with those in the profession whom you respect can stimulate the thought process.

One example is working closely with the parents of kids in your program – they can be great supporters for you. If you aren’t sure how to go about that, talk to someone who can give you ideas. It can be a great asset for you and the kids. Parents are always willing to help; they just need direction.

You Are the Music Leader

As the music teacher in your system, you are the drawing force. Parents and kids will look to you for the source of music. In most cases, kids will need to be recruited and reinforced. By bringing them in as your partners and teaching the benefits and rewards of music, you now have a very important support group helping you get your needed rewards as a teacher.

Personal and professional growth will come through mentoring. Attending clinics that center around advocacy as well as ideas on teaching are essential to feeling successful and enjoying your career.

A certain amount of stress is inevitable in everything we do. Keeping stress at a level that’s appropriate, and adding rewards to your work will greatly reduce burnout.

Glenn Holtz recently retired from his post as chairman of the board of Gemeinhardt Company, Inc.

He served as president of the company for 17 years before becoming chairman in 2000. He is now an independent consultant. Holtz has been active in the music industry for more than 40 years as a teacher, storeowner, wholesale representative and executive. In addition, he has served on the board of directors of the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and as chairman of the VanderCook College of Music board of trustees and the Music Achievement Council.

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