Making It Work: Am I Good Enough?
“I’m Not Good Enough”
The Lie We Tell Ourselves About Teaching Music
by Cameron Moten
Have you ever felt like you aren’t good enough to be a music teacher? Do you see other music teachers getting results that you could only dream of and think you will never be as good as they are? Do you ever feel like you are barely getting by and someday you’ll be found out as if you are some kind of fraud?
Believe it or not but if you feel this way you are not alone. In fact it’s very common, and many, many others feel this way to some extent, but are afraid to express it to any one.
This phenomenon is known as “The Imposter Syndrome”, a persistent fear of being found out as a fraud, and an inability to internalize accomplishments.
One reason teachers feel this way is because we know what good teaching looks like. We’ve seen videos in trainings and teachers at workshops. We’ve even seen master teachers at conferences giving examples of teaching strategies and may have thought, “how on earth did they come up with that? I wish I could think of something that good.”
When we see a variety of teachers that are masterful at certain elements of teaching, sometimes we think we should be that good at the same elements. We often forget that it takes years to develop mastery the elements of teaching, and we may also forget that it took the same master teachers we saw years to learn all of what they know too.
We actually feel like we don’t measure up because we have good taste in teaching and pedagogy. We often feel disappointed because we know effective teaching when we see it in others, but we may not be able to teach as effectively as some of our favorite music teacher heroes yet. It is important to keep that model of teaching in our minds but not be unrealistic with the time frame it will take to be able to teach on that level. As we develop, we will notice growth and progress in that direction and this will inspire us to keep improving.
It’s All Part Of The Process Of Growth
Believe it or not, feelings of not measuring up, questioning if you made the right choice when you decided to become a teacher, and feeling frustrated with where you are or like you want to quit are normal parts of the process of becoming a master teacher. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Although teaching isn’t easy, you can vastly improve your skills as a teacher, even to a level of mastery. The important thing to do as we go through the process of improvement is to stay in the “growth mindset”.
It’s funny how as music teachers, we try to help our students discover the “growth mindset”, but sometimes forget it ourselves. The growth mindset focuses on our ability to improve and grow instead of believing that some people are born to teach and others are not. It is important to stay in the growth mindset because doing so is actually one of the reasons why we improve at all. If we believe we can, we will, if we don’t believe we can, we won’t. It’s that simple.
The Comparison Trap
Sometimes we see what other teachers are doing, look at pictures of their classrooms on Facebook or Pinterest, or hear their ensembles and compare them to our own, or lack thereof.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” -Tony Robbins
It is so easy to put ourselves down when we look at ourselves through the scope of another teacher. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different specialties and talents. When we compare ourselves to another teacher we can sometimes lose perspective on our own identity as a music teacher.
The key is to take strategies that work for others instead of trying to be others, and then fitting those strategies into our own unique teaching style. When we find what works for us and for our students, and then build upon it by referencing others, not comparing ourselves to others, we will find much more effectiveness, as well as happiness in our teaching.
Remember Why You Started
One solution to the “not good enough” mental drama is to reconnect with our “why”. When we reconnect to our “why”, the reason we decided to teach, we feel rejuvenated and find the will to keep on growing and improving as teachers. Reconnecting to our “why” is simple (not complex) but it can be difficult (not easy).
Think about why you love music. Think about what it meant to you when you were in school, how your face lit up when you knew you had music class. Now think about your students who love music and they joy in their eyes when they come to your classroom door. Think about the excitement your students feel when they understand a new musical concept or nail a difficult musical passage.
This is why we teach music. We want to share the joy we experienced in learning music with the generations to come. We want to preserve our heritage and expand to new musical horizons, remembering the past and discovering the future.
If we are strongly connected to our “why” we will have what takes to go through the process of growing as a music teacher, even if it becomes difficult. Even if we are not where we want to be in our teaching ability, the effort that we put in to improving our teaching will serve us much better than what we may assume is natural talent.
If we never stop striving to improve as music teachers, we never have to worry about not being good enough because we are always doing something about it.
Leave a comment below and share what you are doing to improve yourself as an elementary music teacher.
For more goodness, we invite you to check out Cameron’s website Elementary Groove Tracks!
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You are a great music
You make several EXCELLENT points Cameron. THANKS!
Wow! Perfect timing for this great article. I needed to hear this so badly. So true! I feel like this all the time. Thanks for your encouragement.
This is wonderful! I struggle so much with this. I know I am a great teacher, but frequently dread teacher workshops for this reason. I will be saving this one for reference. Thanks!
Even after 30+ years of teaching, I know I have my strengths and weaknesses. There is always something I can do better. This is what helps to keep improving and building our skill set. We should all strive to be life long learners and not worry about being as good as someone else. Each teaching situation and student population is different. Do self-reflection, but use it as a tool to improve–not to put yourself down.
Marcia, thank you for your comments. I just started as a Music Teacher a couple of months ago. I feel like I’ve been thrown in a lake without a life jacket. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and inadequate trying to adjust to the students. Your comments were so encouraging.
So thankful for this article! I’ve been teaching music for 14 years and I’ve just been so burned out the last few years. I love music, but trying to teach concepts in 30 minutes one a week. I just want to say why bother with behaviors in the mix too! But you are right to go back to the roots!
I needed to hear this! I feel like I’m just getting the hang of things after 12 years in elementary teaching. I’m a perfectionist and want the best for my students. I shall work on remembering the WHY!! Thank you!
Thank you for your words of encouragement! I think everyone who has taught a short time to a longer time can benefit! There are so many wonderful ways to teach Music. Each of us should pull from what we each have to share. I have a Vocal Music Ed. Degree and love to sing but my first love was playing Clarinet in Band. For past 17 yrs I have created Instrumental units in Strings (Ukulele & Guitar), Worlds Drumming, and Woodwinds with Ocarina & Soprano Recorder. Enjoy putting together in Ensembles for performances and help students see joy of being a part! If the joy of making music is not shared what do you have?
Thanks, I needed to hear this today!
This is spot on and exactly what I needed to hear as a music therapist struggling to be everything to every population that I serve. Thank you for posting!
Thanks for posting, and thanks everyone for commenting, too. I’ve been teaching for 10 years, and feeling like I “should” be past feeling like I’m not good enough – like only novice teachers feel that way. But it’s reassuring to hear that others who’ve been teaching longer have periods of feeling like that, too. I just have to remember the good things, no matter how small they seem!
I love how you say to reconnect to your “why”. I am in my 7th full time year at the same school, and I have been feeling like I have been in a rut for almost 2 years, just going through the motions but not truly connected on a regular basis. I got reaquainted with my “why” this past weekend at my state conference, and I am now excited for the rest of this year like I haven’t felt in several years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Great article. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been teaching a while and feel like an imposter on a regular basis. It helps to know I’m not alone and to remember what’s important. It also helps when I focus on my strengths not my weaknesses. Thanks again for the article.
Thank you for this article. I am a first year elementary music teacher and it has been quite a ride, coming from an instrumental background and not having done any of my practicum in the elementary level! I often feel like a fraud, and that my kids aren’t benefitting from anything I’m doing. This article is wonderful in that it reminded me that these things take time, patience, humility, and above all else passion. I’ll keep doing my best every day to continually grow!
Thank you for your wonderful musicianship! You are a master teacher and I love how you are teaching children to be musical! You are exceptionally gifted at providing virtual resources. More than anything, thank you for sharing your work with so many children across the country!