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Balancing Teaching and Personal Life. Bradley University NAfME Chapter Presentation January 31, 2014 By Leigh Wiedelman. Introduction. Grew up in Chicago suburbs Graduated with Bachelor of Music Education degree from Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Indiana) in May of 2010

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Balancing teaching and personal life

Balancing Teaching and Personal Life

Bradley University NAfME Chapter Presentation

January 31, 2014

By Leigh Wiedelman


  • Grew up in Chicago suburbs

  • Graduated with Bachelor of Music Education degree from Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Indiana) in May of 2010

  • Moved to Peoria for my first teaching job

  • Position was cut in Peoria after first year teaching, so now I teach K-3 General Music in Pekin

Why this topic
Why this topic?

  • Teacher burnout rate is very high within the first five years of teaching, especially for music educators

  • Music is different than other professions:

    • Our aim as music teachers and musicians is to make a living doing something that we love

    • Since we are so passionate about our subject area, it can consume us and make it difficult to “leave work at work”

Why this topic1
Why this topic?

  • Personally, I want to inspire my students for as long as possible

  • With a growing amount of musical commitments around the area, I saw a need to achieve balance and avoid burnout

  • Relevant to everyone, especially music educators and musicians

Possible roles
Possible Roles

  • The music educator and musician is…

    • Educator: inspires all students to be the best musicians and well-rounded citizens possible

    • Mentor: teaches private lessons? Advises students on musical career paths? Support for all students

    • Student: always growing as an educator, seeking professional development

    • Musician: many perform outside of school in any capacity

Possible roles1
Possible Roles

  • The music educator and musician is/can be…

    • Spouse/Significant Other/Family Member: should spend quality time with loved ones

    • Friend: should have time to cultivate friendships within and outside musical sphere

    • Parent: needs to be a good parental role model for own children


  • A K-3 general music teacher at two schools wants a singing outlet to continue developing her voice, and also to meet people since this is a brand new area

  • Joins community chorus and attends local church with strong musical tradition

  • Meets friends and networks through aforementioned community chorus and church


  • Is offered paid musical position as handbell choir director at another local church, good extra money and artistic challenge

  • Gets more involved in church #1 by directing the Youth Choir and some of the Adult Choir

  • So, K-3 music teacher now holds a full time position at two primary schools, directs a youth choir, handbell choir, and part of an adult choir

  • Still sings in local community chorus

  • Works on masters degree during summers


How to balance everything?!

Warning signs
Warning Signs

  • Exhausted at end of every day after an extended period of time (“adjustment period”)—not getting refreshed by work

  • Apathy towards one or many spheres of life

  • Easily getting distracted during one activity due to the need to plan for another activity

  • Strained relationships

  • Getting sick and not easily recovering

Preventative strategies
Preventative Strategies

  • Make a list of priorities:

    • What should come first: professional or personal life? Is it possible to strike a balance?

    • How much time to devote to each sphere of life?

    • How much is doable for you? (Probably best discovered by trial and error)

  • Learn when to say no!

Preventative strategies1
Preventative Strategies

  • Create a strong professional network

    • At work, surround yourself with professionals who will lift you up instead of encourage complaining about students, administrative duties, etc.

    • Avoid the Teachers Lounge if necessary; find other areas with a more positive environment

    • Come up with solutions in addition to complaints/venting sessions, when possible

Preventative strategies2
Preventative Strategies

  • Create a strong personal network!

    • To whom can you go when you are feeling overwhelmed?

    • Meet others through personal interests other than work and cultivate those relationships

    • Keep up with family and friends who live out of your area

Preventative strategies3
Preventative Strategies

  • Pursue other interests

    • Join a local choir/band/orchestra/etc. in which to perform rather than teach

    • Join a local book club, service organization, take a photography class, etc.—something with a set schedule that could be non-musical

    • Get into a TV show by yourself or with a group of friends

Preventative strategies4
Preventative Strategies

  • Schedule when you will be working, when you won’t be working, and stick to it

    • At school/work, be at school/work

    • How much work will you take home?

    • When will you stop checking your school/work e-mail for the evening?

    • What will your weekend time look like?

    • Let others know your schedule to help hold you accountable

Preventative strategies5
Preventative Strategies

  • Make a certain amount of personal time a priority

    • One hour per evening?

    • Four hours per week?

  • Keep a journal

  • Color-coded planner (i.e…red for school/work, green for church #1, purple for church #2, burgundy for community chorus, purple for personal, etc.)

Preventative strategies6
Preventative Strategies

  • Be flexible!

    • Your schedule may need to change if there is something happening at work or personally that needs more of your attention

    • Plan ahead for it

    • Final exams, big project that will need to be graded, concerts, life events, etc.

    • Be present and in the moment whenever possible


  • Scheib, J. (2003). Role stress in the professional life of the school music teacher: A collective case study. Journal of Research in Music Education, 51(2), 124-136.