In this episode of “The Happy Music Teacher Podcast,” we delve into a common issue faced by music educators: perfectionism. Music teachers, as well as their students, often grapple with the pressure to achieve perfection, which can lead to stress and hinder growth. Today we’ll discuss 3 valuable strategies to overcome this challenge, creating a more positive and supportive learning environment for both you and your students.

Strategies discussed:

1. GET OVER IT: Acknowledge that perfectionism is deeply ingrained in us as musicians, but understand that expecting flawless outcomes from ourselves and our students is unrealistic. Accepting imperfection as a natural part of the learning process allows us to move forward, learn from mistakes, and grow as educators.

2. Don’t let the perfectionism monster prevent you from asking for help: Recognize that being an elementary music teacher involves juggling numerous responsibilities. Don’t hesitate to seek support from colleagues when organizing programs or dealing with challenges, fostering a collaborative and empowering community.

3. Embrace Imperfection as a learning opportunity: Shift your mindset to view mistakes and imperfections as valuable opportunities for growth and improvement. Reflect on your teaching journey, and share experiences with fellow music teachers to foster a supportive network that encourages personal development.

Bonus strategy: Practice self-compassion: Understand that as a music teacher, you are also a human with limitations and vulnerabilities. Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding when things don’t go as planned. Instead of self-criticism, focus on learning from mistakes and using them to enhance your teaching approach.

By adopting these strategies and embracing imperfection as a natural part of the teaching process, music teachers can create a more nurturing and encouraging classroom environment, ultimately fostering a love for music and lifelong learning in their students. Join us in this episode as we conquer the perfectionism monster and cultivate growth and joy in our classrooms.


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Today's episode is brought to you by the Happy Music Teacher Academy, where you can go to get beyond the chaos, build confidence, and find harmony in your music classroom. For more information, go to storiesthatsing. net forward slash join the Happy Music Teacher Academy. See you there. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach Better Podcast Network.

Better today. Better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there. Explore more podcasts at Now let's get on to the episode.

It's the Happy music teacher who's frustrated and overwhelmed? I'm Jeanette Shorey, a happy music teacher who loves teaching every day. But it wasn't long ago I was in your shoes. Join me Wednesdays to help you find happy in your music classroom. Perfectionism is not a unique problem. But it is a consistent problem for musicians.

I mean, all of our training and all of our learning skills tell us that we have to be perfect. One wrong note, one flat note, one sharp note, one incorrect rhythm. And we've been told the whole song can fall apart. It is ingrained in us as musicians. We listen. Not for the beauty of the music, sadly, but we listen for the mistakes.

We listen to the mistakes while we're playing, while we're singing. I mean, come on, you know, you're guilty of it. Cause I know I'm guilty of it. It is just part of being a musician. So when you're teaching a room full of kiddos, the perfectionism monster is naturally going to invade and oftentimes Take over your classroom.

Oh, my students were talking instead of listening. That's my fault. They didn't follow my directions. That, of course, is my fault. Not your fault. The choir went too fast and they weren't in time with the music. My fault. The program didn't go exactly as planned. The kids played the wrong notes. My fault. No, it's not your fault.

Do I need to go on? It is super important as musicians and music teachers of little people who have not been on the earth very long, who do not have lots of experience, who are constantly making mistakes, just like you and I. It is very important to get through the perfectionism monster. Do not let that monster Take over your job, your life, your classroom, anything.

Dismiss the monster because it doesn't do you any good. Years ago, I was preparing for a concert and I was probably in my 18th year of teaching. Let's say my 18th year of teaching, and I already knew that the perfectionism monster was not going to invade my classroom, but I had an admin. who thought that everything should be perfect.

And so, we were in the high school and we were rehearsing and we did it over and over and over and over again until she thought it sounded good. Now, I am all about my programs need to be good, believe me, and we did need some extra rehearsal time. We absolutely needed some extra rehearsal time, but she went as far as to tell one of my students who was drumming not to play.

She literally came up to me and she was like, I found out who was making the mistakes and I told them not to play. And I was appalled and I am normally very professional with my admin. But I looked at her and I said, Are you kidding me? This is a student that I've been working with all year to get him to come out of his shell.

He is a struggling learner and he is an ELL student. So like, you know, his his first language is not English. And I said, I don't think you did the right thing there. I said, I think I can't remember exactly what I said, but I was not. Totally professional with her and luckily My son happened to be helping that week.

He, I, I'm blessed with, uh, two musicians as sons. And this son happened to be there that week. And he came up to me afterwards and he told me his opinion of that admin. And I won't share it here because it wasn't very nice. But the reason he said that was because she was overstepping me and not being kind.

Especially we were both so upset about the way she treated that student. So I said, he said to the student, listen, I'm going to give you this part and you play, you don't listen to anything she just said. So, you know, the perfectionism monster invades all of us. And this admin had been a band person and. I mean, it's what we do as musicians.

Everything needs to be perfect. And if it's not perfect, we are just plain awful, right? That's, that's just kind of how it is. So today I am going to give you three strategies to help you Dismiss the perfectionism monster from your life, from your classroom, from your job. Because that is how you're going to be.

That is one of the steps you're going to need to take to be a happy music teacher. To find joy and harmony and balance and peace in your classroom. Strategy number one. Get over it. I tell my students all the time. You're not a robot. Are there any robot children in this class and inevitably, you know, one or two will raise their hand and I'm like, Nope, you're human.

People you're teaching are humans. They are little humans who've spent a very short amount of time on Earth. And they're still learning. And we as adults are still learning. And while we want everything to go perfectly, it's just not going to. So you need to get over it. I'm not saying not to feel the feelings, but I am saying, take some time, feel the feelings, not in front of your students, obviously.

Of course you know that. But feel the feelings and then get over it. Do it any way that you can. So everybody has a different way to walk through their problems. Some people like to hash it out in their head. Some people like to write it down. If you are a writer, I highly recommend doing a journal. If you are a speaker, and this is a conversation that you don't want to have with a good friend, family member, partner, then I suggest get it out by recording it.

Start an audio journal. That is an idea I just thought of and actually that will work really well for me as well because I need to hear The ideas and, you know, all of those, whatever I'm going through, I need to hear it out loud and I am blessed to have some fantastic friends and I have three sisters and I have my partner who is amazing.

He is just wonderful and Um, so I've got lots of people to talk to, but if you don't have somebody to talk to and you really need to talk through it, I recommend an audio journal, write it down. If you need to go stomping off and, you know, take a jog or however you need to get through it, get through it.

And then. Don't revisit it. That is another thing we as people, especially if you're female, we tend to do this, right? We revisit it and revisit it and revisit it and it never goes away. So allow it to go away. Do whatever you need to do to get rid of it. Make sure you don't revisit it. And if you start to revisit it, Stop that thinking you do not want to dwell constantly in the perfectionism monster area because it won't do you any good.

First of all, it doesn't solve anything. And second of all, it's not going to make things better. In fact, it's going to make things worse. So that is strategy. Number one, get. Over it. Move on. Strategy number two. Don't let the perfectionism monster prevent you from asking for help. I mean, you're human. You have a hard job.

Everything about your job takes a lot of time and energy and concentration and focus. Teachers, I read this recently and I thought it was the coolest thing. Teachers They've measured brain activity when you're teaching a class, and we have as much brain activity going on while we're teaching as a surgeon does when they're doing surgery.

Now, the stress level, hopefully, is going to be different because a surgeon has someone's life in their hands, but You as a teacher, that's why we come home and we're so exhausted. I mean, even if you sat in your chair all day, which I know you don't because you're a fabulous music teacher, but even if you did, you would still be super exhausted because.

Our job takes lots of time and energy and concentration. Now don't tell your colleagues I said this, but it's especially true of music teachers. Because we don't have those opportunities that classroom teachers have. And I am not saying a classroom teacher's job is easy because they have a really hard job.

They deal with parents all the time. They deal with the students on a day to day basis. Their students have to learn things and they are measured by admin, by the county, by the state, based on what their students are learning. So they have a very hard job. Then, you know, put into it the grading and the paperwork and all of the stuff that, thank goodness, we don't have to handle.

But the day to day, the schedule that we have, because most of us teach bang, bang, bang, back to back classes with either no time in between or very little time in between. And we're up and we're moving and we're dancing and we're checking fingers on recorders and we're checking fingers on ukuleles and we don't sit down.

And so our job is not only brain intensive, but it is energy intensive. Plus, most of us have two full time jobs. Your first full time job is to run your classroom to the best of your ability. You have to teach all the things. I mean, you're going to teach The elements of music and good audience behavior and listening skills and music appreciation and instrument play.

And how many different instruments do you have in your classroom? Right. Music, reading skills, rhythm, reading skills, stage presence. I mean, the amount of things that we have to teach are, I would say we have many more subjects to teach than the classroom teachers. So that is the job in the school that literally.

I'm saying this as a generalization, but most people in your school do not care about this part of your job. You are the one person that actually knows that you have a curriculum to teach. And again, I might be exaggerating a little bit. I mean, your admin knows you have a curriculum to teach. And you're really...

One of the few that actually cares about that. So there's also that there's also the level of frustration and the level of disrespect that some of us get. But we're not going there today because we're talking positively. Then you've also got the job of program coordinator. So this involves being The producer, the director, the costume designer, the set designer, the prop consultant, the administrative manager.

I mean, I bet you can think of at least 10 more jobs that go into the job of being a program coordinator. This is the job that everyone in your school cares about. And this is the job that you need help with. And what I am going to suggest to you is I was speaking with a fairly new music teacher the other day who is looking for some mentoring because she is going into a school that is much larger and much more like they the expectations are very high at this school and it's a very high socioeconomic So she's going to have a wonderful experience, but she's a little bit nervous because she was teaching in a teeny tiny little town with in a teeny tiny little school.

So don't you love that? Teeny tiny. Um, so she, so she was asking me for help and She was asking me for some, she was just asking me questions and I was trying to mentor her and give her some thoughts and strategies and that sort of thing. And we were talking and I said, you need to ask for help. And she, which is where this idea came from for this podcast.

And she said, Oh, you know, that is the one thing. I don't like to do. I don't like to ask for help. I feel like it makes me look like I'm not doing my job well or that I don't know how to do my job. Again, you need to get over that because your job is hard and it is busy and it is all encompassing and I know you get home and You're like, I need like an hour on the couch to just sit and vegetate because I have no energy left.

I have no brain energy left. That's something we were talking about in my music teacher Academy yesterday. We were talking about when to, uh, cause we had this really fun, um, meeting of the minds. We're going to try and do that at least once a quarter and you know, just talked through music teacher things and how.

Um, it was going to be, you know, how we were going to start our years and that sort of thing. But we were talking about that when you get home, the last thing you want to do is any more teaching or, and especially any learning. So we were talking about where to put our Thursday trainings that would work best for everybody.

And I'm sorry, I totally did an aside, but you know, I do that, you know, me now. And if you've been listening for a while, you know, I do asides, but I think it's important. It's important to know what I'm doing and how I can help you. So I'm talking to this teacher and she was like, I just don't feel comfortable asking for help because I feel like it makes me look like I can't do my job or like I'm not capable.

And you need to get over that. Because, and, and maybe you're not feeling that way, but I know that especially if you're a younger teacher and a younger person, there is a very good possibility that you're feeling that way, and that is not the case. No one thinks less of you for asking for help, and you will find that Many, not all, but many of your parents are dying to help.

They're dying to get in there and do things so that they can show their children how involved they are in their lives and they, and they enjoy it. So here's what I'm suggesting. Instead of being the producer, the director, the costume designer, the set designer, all that stuff. Ask for some help. Ask for a committee of people to do the costumes.

Ask for a committee to do the set design. Ask for a committee to do the props. Ask your fifth graders, or whoever's the biggest kids in your school, ask them for some help. Like, make them the, uh, people that hand out the props. And basically your stage crew. Like, let them dress all in black and let them get all into it.

And ask for some help. The other way you can ask, ask for help is at my old school, we had a lady who was a choreographer. So anytime I couldn't think of choreography or it just didn't have the time or the bandwidth, I asked her for help. We had a lady who is an actor and I asked her for help. And there was a, there was a man there who was a.

Choir director, so I reached out and I asked for help and sometimes they couldn't do it But when they could they were happy and you know It's something they never get to do or don't get to do that often. So it was it was always good It is always okay to ask for help always Okay to ask for help strategy number three Embrace imperfection as a learning opportunity.

This is the best way to learn. We tell our students all the time that it's important to learn from your mistakes and that without making mistakes, you're not learning and growing as a person. So You need to really own that for yourself, too. It is not okay to beat yourself up over mistakes. It is always okay to make mistakes, and you need to forgive yourself for making those mistakes and use them as a learning opportunity.

When I was a new teacher, I, I've kind of always been like this and I know that it's not easy for everyone, but when I was a new teacher, especially when I was a new teacher, you know how sometimes you'll say something like you start to tell the boys and girls the directions and they start doing them like you'll say, okay, we're going to stand up.

We're going to make our dance, but we're going to make our circle. We're going to get into our dance bubbles. And before you're through with stand up, they're all standing up. Right? So that kind of thing used to happen to me all the time. It doesn't happen as much anymore because I've been teaching for 24 years going into year 25.

So when. I wouldn't, I wouldn't let it bother me. I would just be like, wait, wait, Miss Shori said it wrong. Hold on, boys and girls. I said it wrong. Sit back down. Let's try this again. And. And that's good for your students. They are okay with you making mistakes because they know that you're human. And it helps to humanize you.

It helps to make you a person. I mean, they, they really don't get that you're totally human, right? Because like, you'll run into those little ones in the grocery store and they'll look at you like, Why are you here? Right? Or I one time had a kindergarten little girl, this little baby, she was so cute. And she says to me, she's looking around my classroom and we're standing by the sink.

And she says, Ms. Shori. Where do you sleep in here? And I was like, oh baby, I do not sleep here, I have a house and a bedroom and a bed that I have at home. And she was like, oh, like she totally didn't get that I was a human just like her. So. It's good to humanize yourself in front of your students. It's okay to make mistakes.

In fact, it's great to make mistakes because then I will always say, do you see what I did there, boys and girls? I made that mistake and now I'm learning from it because now I'm learning how to talk to you in a different way. So that you understand me. So it's important to embrace that imperfection, make it into a learning opportunity.

Reflect. I know it's hard because you don't have a lot of time after your classes, but I keep a Google Sheet that I can call up on my phone really easily and, you know, you do you, whatever works best for you, but this is what works best for me, and then I speak text into it. I'll click on the little space.

I forget what you call that, the little space in the form. Somebody help me. Um, and I will, I'll speak text. Um, Miss Smith's class needs more help with this rhythm, or Miss Smith's class is having a struggle with doing movement, whatever it happens to be, or, um, I need to rephrase or teach things differently with Ms.

Smith's class, so I will put a little note into my Google Sheet and that is how I keep track and that is also how I can go back later and reflect on what happened and, you know, try and work through some strategies or talk to the classroom teacher or talk to a colleague or please reach out and talk to me because I am so happy.

That is, that is my. overarching principle in being the Happy Music Teacher Academy in running this podcast. I want to help you. I want to mentor you and anything I can do to help you, I am so happy to do. Reach out to me over email, Jeanette at stories that sing. net or reach out to me. I'm on all the social media platforms, including threads.

I did join there like right away. I was so excited to be one of the. First people on threads and I'm under the happy music teacher. So you can find me everywhere. Reach out to me, DM me, send me a post, join my Facebook group. I'll put a link in there, but make sure you Embrace that imperfection as a learning opportunity.

Now, I am going to give you a bonus because I love the bonuses. And the bonus is this, practice self compassion. Be kind to yourself when things don't go as planned. Teaching is such a complex, just, there's so much to it. And you need to recognize that Your mistakes and imperfections are part of the journey and they can be valuable learning experiences.

So let's go back and just review our three strategies. Strategy number one, get Over it. You are not a robot. You are going to make mistakes. Get over them. Strategy number two. Don't let that monster prevent you from asking for help. Ask for help. Nobody is going to think badly of you for asking for help.

Strategy number three. Embrace those imperfections and use them as a learning opportunity and your bonus practice self compassion. Be forgiving of yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Be secure in the knowledge that your job is hard and you are going to be imperfect. Everybody is. You are not a robot.

If you got some great tips and tidbits that are going to help you become a happy music teacher, I would be so thankful if you'd leave me a review. Thanks so much for your time. Well, that's all I have for you today. But before I go, let me remind you, keep learning, keep growing, and keep being fabulous you.

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