Struggling to stay motivated is a problem for most people from time to time. Teachers have the dual challenge of motivating their students and maintaining their own motivation. Music teacher burnout can be particularly difficult for a variety of reasons. As school budgets continue to shrink, non-academic subjects have been cut or underfunded. The message these actions send is that music (or other arts programs) aren’t as important as math, science, and language. And while most students are studying music because they truly enjoy it, some do not take the classes seriously when the impression is that they aren’t as “important” as other classes.

Music educators need to keep in mind the vision of what is important about music education - it needs to be taught for its own sake. Music education offers students an inherently challenging activity and the opportunity to experience a continual supply of feedback, which in optimal conditions enhances their sense of competence. It gives students an avenue to express their talents, passions and creativity. It is also a rare educational opportunity for students to learn to enjoy an activity truly for its own sake.

If you’re a music educator suffering from burnout, here are some music teacher motivation ideas:

Focus on the big picture

-  Not every child will choose music as a career, but your class can provide fun and fulfillment in addition to learning.
-  Because you love music, teach your students to love music. Your enthusiasm and passion will be contagious. Whether they play a woodwind or brass instrument, are honing their skills on orchestral strings, or are interested in percussion or drum sets, fostering that love of music can last a lifetime!
-  Remember, you are teaching creativity and instilling the belief in students that they can succeed! Think of yourself as a developer of the human spirit.

Encourage your students to be intrinsically motivated and it will help your motivation at the same time

-  Acknowledge the students’ efforts and praise specific actions or accomplishments.
-  Build relationships with your students – find out what interests them.
-  Find ways for your students to participate in making classroom decisions. Some fun ideas could be: decide together how to begin or end a piece; add another instrument; add rhythm or song.

Change up your routine

-  Share music of another genre with your class.
-  Have them learn a piece of music that is completely different from the normal curriculum.
-  Hold an occasional sharing session during which students can talk about what kinds of music they like and why, no matter whether it is related to your curriculum or their skill set.
-  Try breaking the class into small groups to work on a specific concept and then share the results with the rest of the class.
-  Invite a local musician to come to your class.
-  If possible, take your students to a live performance. Many organizations support local schools and offer free tickets.

Remember: teaching music is about teaching students that some things are worth working for!