My buddy is a fireman and not just ANY fireman. He is a Battalion Chief for a major city fire department. In other words, when it comes to knowing about stuff that burns and what to do about it, he is as good of a source as there is. Well, him and Wikipedia. But Wikipedia won’t have a frosty beverage with me, so I went to him with my question.
So I asked, "What are the three most important things for a fireman to know to keep from getting burned?"
His response was eloquent in its simplicity and brevity.
"Stay low. Remember that you and your gear are not fireproof. And don't let fire get behind you.”
When he asked why I wanted to know, I explained that lately I have been talking to a lot of teachers who are getting burned out and I wanted to know how the professionals handled it. I was curious if there would be any correlation with how a fireman might keep from getting burned and how a music teacher might keep from getting burned out. And, I think there is. Let’s look at his advice.
Stay low: Some things are worth fighting for and some things are not worth the fight. I remember him once saying to me, “We will do what is extraordinary to save a person, what’s possible to save an animal, and what’s reasonable to save a thing.” I think the standard should be similar for music teachers. Be extraordinary for students, do what’s possible for the drummers (see what I did there?) and do what’s reasonable for your building and belongings.
Remember that you and your gear are not fireproof: Whether you are a first year teacher or a thirty year vet, you are susceptible to burn out. A seemingly perfect year can be followed by a four alarm crisis of a year. Getting burned out is an occupational hazard and you’re not Superman. In order to save yourself in this profession you have to wear the right gear (have thicker skin), work as a team (connect with your colleagues), and understand that NOTHING is more important than your physical and emotional health.
Don’t let the fire get behind you: By the time you see and feel the effects of burnout, you are already in some serious trouble. Look for warning signs before they erupt into something bigger. Angst, anger, and irritability are signs that the burnout fire is close, so be cautious and respond immediately: take a day off, eat lunch off campus, call a friend, put on your favorite song, go home early, start rehearsal with a joke, bring your dog to work, etc. When danger is close, it’s time to change course or run the risk of getting burned.
Keep in mind that by and large, your worst day on a podium is better than your best day in a cubicle, so be diligent in maintaining your personal and professional health. Don’t take my word for it, take my buddy's because he is an expert! Heck, if you asked me for my advice it would be something like this… RRRRRUUUUNNNNNN!
Yes, its true that twelve years ago I ran from MY burning building… But I have been trying to run back into YOURS ever since.
Maybe I should have been a fireman.
Have a GREAT week and good luck at your competitions this week.