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!