I’ve been handing out Halloween music in the last week or so for students to start preparing for our annual Halloween Festival.  I thought I would remind those who have beginners right now that I have written a few Halloween pieces that you can download for free and use for your primer students.  FREE HALLOWEEN MUSIC

If you are looking for Halloween themed music games that you can do with your students, Jeana Beasley over at SingANewSong created a Halloween game packet.  It’s on sale until this Friday.  I bought it and look forward to using the games with my students next month!

Student Burnout

Previously I blogged about Teacher Burnout, the signs, what we can do to get through it, etc…  This post I would like to talk about student burnout and what we can do as teachers to help our students when they experience burnout with their lessons.  This is important because when students burn out, teachers can burn out and it can become a vicious cycle.

I have a few students that are going through the burnout stage.  All 3 of them are Junior High ages 6th, 7th and 8th grade.  The family of the 6th grader actually gave me notice last month that September would be their last month, the student had started band and was experiencing the stress of practicing two instruments.  In addition, their family was also was going through some challenges at home that also could have led to this student burning out as her mom has told me that her attitude has been pretty poor with everything that she is doing. However, there was one little problem, I had to remind mom that the student was “stuck” with me until December because my new policy for this year states that a semester commitment is required.  I did this because I decided to add music to my tuition.  The mom had no problem with this and even said she was secretly happy because she really didn’t want to see her daughter quit.  I suggested to the mom, to make lessons more “bearable” for the student I would be happy to change the focus of lessons.  I knew the student was very creative and liked to compose and improvise her own pieces.  So I mentioned that if she was interested we could concentrate on just composing and improvising for the next few months.  Her at home assignments would be to work on these pieces that she was creating.  I figured by doing this, she is still learning theory, she is still playing, and so on.  We have been doing this for 3 weeks now and the mom has reported several times that she is having a hard time getting her daughter off the piano and she is loving this new focus!  I was very happy to hear this and who knows maybe by December she won’t want to quit after all.

My 7th grade student that is in her burnout stage is actually a transfer student.  This one was a hard one.  I guess she didn’t like her first lesson because it was too structured (this can be a post in itself) so again because she was “stuck” with me for a few months I had to come up with something that I felt I could live with but would allow her to ease into my teaching style.  I should mention that I do have a fun teaching style so her complaint actually came to me as a surprise.  So I told her mom that we can go a more recreational route for a few months to ease her into the studio and help her feel comfortable.  Her background with her last teacher was a mesh mash of a binder full of copied music.  It was really hard for me to figure out where exactly she was.  So I decided to put her in Piano Pronto.  Well, the structure of the leveled books freaked her out at that first lesson so I decided to transfer her to the “Greatest Hits” book which is basically a lot of the same pieces in the leveled books but doesn’t “look” as structured.  She seemed to like that change a lot better.  Her mom reported to me that she enjoyed her second lesson.  I have also added some “popular” supplemental pieces for her to work on.

My 8th grade student was feeling like she wanted to quit, she was feeling that she was getting too “old” for lessons.  I do quarterly group lessons and that was one of her concerns.  In the past I had mix ages/levels in my group lessons but was starting to sense that my older kids didn’t have the patience that was required for some of my younger students.  So because her mom mentioned this was one of her concerns I decided it was time to start having my Jr. High/High School students have their group lessons separately from my other students.  We had our first group lesson the week of Labor Day and I loved this new change and from what I can tell my older students did too!  I also changed this student to Piano Pronto as she was struggling a bit in the method she was in and wanted more pieces that she would recognize.  I felt like Piano Pronto fit the bill nicely.  In addition, I am giving her more “popular pieces” to learn and play.  This seems to be working well.

So 3 students saved at least for now.  I think it is important to recognize when our students are in their burnout stage and understand that it is okay to change things up a little to get over the hump.  And at the same time it’s important for parents to understand that the burnout stage is completely normal.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to quit, it might just mean that a change is in order.

I recently came across this blog post on The 6 Stages of Piano Students: Why and When Piano Students Quit Lessons.  She made a visual graph of each stage.  Do you find that your studio struggles at stage 5 as well?  I think this is fairly accurate which leads me to believe that we as teachers need to be more open and creative with our tweens/teens so we could help them get past that “I want to quit” stage and want to continue so they can get to stage 6 which is the best one!

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as to what you do in your studio when you notice a student in the burnout stage.

Burnout: The Journey from Exhaustion to Exhilaration

Ever have days that you have to remind yourself to BREATHE?

This morning I was able to attend an excellent presentation giving by Shellie Ruge, a member of our MTA chapter who is just a couple of months away from finishing her counseling internship.  I walked away from that meeting feeling that I am first- not alone, that there is hope and enlightened how to recognize the burnout stages and how to combat them.

What are some of the words you think about when you hear the word burnout?  Some for me are:  Exhausted, my brain is fried/hurts, frustrated, anxious, stressed, etc.

These are burnout words.  It is important to be aware of these as it is the first indication that something is changing.

In the our field, a people/service orientated field it is very easy to get burned out.  I’m sure I’m not the only one that gets attached to my students.  Why is that?  Because we want the best for them, we want them to learn and grow, we teach them for years which often results in not only getting to know the student well, but often the whole family.  Think about your studio for a minute.  Are you always giving?  Are you always trying to please the student that consistently doesn’t show up for lessons but wants a make up or maybe the family that doesn’t pay on time, but you are afraid to ask for the payment?  Shellie reminds us that these kind of things are taking out of our emotional bank accounts.  And when they are constantly being taken out and there is no deposits being made boundaries are being crossed and burnout can be right around the corner.

Environmental/organizational issues

Physically exhausted
Mentally exhausted
Contempt for self and client
Can lead to depression, anxiety, unethical behavior, poor health, family problems etc.

4 burnout stages and the way to intervene…

1– Compulsive to prove- over enthusiasm, the best, driven quality, subtle deprivations
Intervention- realism; set realistic expectations, focus on small success not failures, process instead of outcome, over responsibility for change etc
*I personally struggle a bit in this area as I find myself having a hard time of letting piano “go” when I am on vacation or on a break.  I have to force myself to leave piano at home both in mind and body.
2– Stagnation- no thrill, emphasis on personal needs, not a substitute for other things.
Intervention – movement forward; education, adjustments, hobbies, adjustments, create stimulating environments
*This is a great reason to be part of an MTA organization but I also have to remind myself that I need to find things I enjoy outside piano.
3– Frustration- emotional, physical, behavioral issues, job setting can contribute, powerless, question effectiveness
Intervention- satisfaction; making adjustments, discontent motivates change if there is movement
*I think as teachers, we probably feel this most when a family challenges our studio policy and if we give in thinking the problem will go away, we find out that what actually happens instead is it escalates into a bigger problem later.
4– Apathy- defense against frustration, doing minimum…
Intervention- involvement; diversify involvement, finding meaning, strong network friends/colleagues
*I think this is when we just throw our hands up and thoughts of just quitting all together start to happen.

Shellie highly recommended the book, “Burnout” by Christina Maslach.  Inside the book there is a burnout assessment where you can see where you are.

Here are a few that I found by quickly googling online that you can try out…

“Happiness is identifying and measuring what makes you happy; You only have control over you.”  I liked this quote by Shellie.  She reminds us that nobody can make you happy or unhappy.  Often we’ll here, “She MADE me mad”.  Well, she can’t MAKE you mad, only you can do that.  It’s up to you how you want to react.  Next time you are having a problem and need to respond to someone follow this formula:  Fact, feeling and need formula.  Give them the fact (ie: Suzy must attend lessons weekly), your feeling (ie:  I worry that Suzy will fall behind), and need (I need you to respect my policy and bring Suzy each week).

Automatic thoughts are positioned with a belief system “should”.  Be aware.

3 dimensions
1- Emotional exhaustion -Feeling overextended and drained
2- Depersonalization- I know how you feel but I don’t care
3- Reduced personal accomplishment- a decline in one’s feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work with people.

Self care is very important.  Keep in mind your Mind, Body, Spirit, Feelings, Kid

Mind- Reading, Crosswords, Writing,
Body- Exercise, Stretching, Eating
Spirit- Crying, Singing, Meditation,
Feelings, Crying, Sharing, Journaling
Kid- Painting, Games, Laugh

Be careful when venting, venting is problem focused.  You want solution focused.  I think this was interesting because for me venting helps me hear others points of thoughts and views and allows me to think things through a little bit before responding.  It’s also nice to get it out and then release.  But at the same time I can understand why venting would be considered problem focused.  So I think to vent just to vent is unhealthy; but to have an open mind ready to hear other views, focusing on a solution instead is okay.  That’s just my thought anyway.

Balance- enthusiasm, realistic expectations

Boundaries- say no/reciprocal transaction

24 hour rule- write that letter, email etc. if needed but wait 24 hours before sending it.  Often times when we wait we will be more solution focused rather than problem focused.  Sometimes we may decide that sending that letter/email isn’t even worth it, but it felt good just writing it.

Discontent + Movement= Change

Be aware of burnout symptoms and plan

Remember Self care and FUN

…”How to beat burnout in one word- balance”   Christina Maslach

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  I think it is very important for teachers to realize that burnout is something we all feel at one time or another at some level.  But it is important to recognize it and figure out ways to get through and combat it so it doesn’t take control of our lives.

Last day for Piano Pronto special…

Happy Labor Day!  Do you take Labor Day off?  I try to hold group lessons the week there are Monday holidays.  So tomorrow and Wednesday I will be holding what I call bonus group lessons.  These are held once a quarter.

I just wanted to give everyone a quick reminder that the Piano Pronto special (“Buy one Get one Free” “Free e-Book” of your choice) I posted about a couple weeks ago expires today.  Don’t miss out!