Feeling Unqualified to Teach Music? Join the Crowd. Literally.
Do you ever feel like an imposter teaching music? Maybe you’ve got a student who you just can’t reach, or you’re creating your first Facebook ad and you can’t even find your account. To me, these moments feel like I'm trapped in the cockpit of a space shuttle, and it’s suddenly taking off. “Where’s the $%&# steering wheel?”
The thing is, we are all unqualified. Consider this: Being an independent music teacher is a mix of three roles: Musician, educator, and business person. You're probably a fabulous musician. But do you have any training in education and business? Some of us, if we're lucky, are batting 2 out of 3. But I’ve never met a music teacher who started this job skilled at all three areas...in other words, none of us start this job qualified to do it.
It’s OK to Be Unqualified
Don’t beat yourself up for not being simultaneously a star musician, star educator, and star business person. You are exactly where you need to be.
I wish I’d believed this when I started teaching. Even though I had everything going for me--having a great education, being born a white male in a wealthy country, etc. I spent a big chunk of my 20-year teaching career needlessly isolating myself because I felt inadequate.
When I was in graduate school studying to be a high school English teacher, my fellow fledgling teachers and I had this sense that we were imposters, unqualified to stand before 30 teenagers and claim to be teachers. At the time, I figured this was some teacher-specific affliction, a symptom of how fricking hard the job was.
But after burning out and switching to teaching guitar four years later, that same sense of being unqualified crept back, this time because of my musical skills. By then, with a graduate degree in education and three years of classroom education under my belt, I felt like a legit teacher. But music had been a hobby, so I wasn't exactly a virtuoso. I could teach Jimmy Buffett, but Jimmy Page's guitar solos were outside my wheelhouse.
As a result, I taught music in isolation for the first six years of my career, even though this was when I most needed a supportive community.
Reach Out Anyway
Being unqualified is an unavoidable phase in learning anything. Sometimes formal schooling can give you a running start in your career, but in this job, where you’re required to be a musician, educator, and business person, there's just too much to learn. 20 years in, I still have much to learn, and I still have to fight back shyness, especially when I compare my chops to other musicians. But at least I know to push my unhelpful reluctance aside.
So I propose that you give any sense of inadequacy you have aside, and get to work backfilling the inevitable holes in your education, probably in the areas of teaching and business skills. I’m hoping this site serves as a reliable backhoe.
But you probably need more than helpful blog posts--you need community. So I also suggest doing something I did last year that has had a massive impact on my professional development, and all it took was a little courage, and some simple tips I found online. I want you to join the crowd: Create a business group of fellow independent music teachers.
How to Form a Mastermind Group
A mastermind group is a small business group--usually 3-6 people--that meets regularly to exchange ideas, provide accountability, and offer encouragement. They’re popular with entrepreneurs.
I formed a mastermind group last year with three other Seattle-based independent music teachers who also teach online. We meet for an hour on Google Hangouts every Thursday after lunch.
Setting up a mastermind group is super easy, but it’s important to do it right so that members commit to it, and feel like their time is well-spent. I’ve created a simple, 3-minute guide that will teach you how to set up your group, and contains the actual email I used to invite members to my group. You can download it here.
Also, check out this livestream to hear more about the incredible things this group has done for my teaching and my online business.