5 Things Music Educators Have to Be Thankful For

By Elisa Janson Jones

“Right now I’m just delighted to be alive and to have had a nice long bath.”

Richard Branson, Philanthropist and Entrepreneur


Richard Branson is one of my biggest idols. He has a lot of money and spends a lot on good causes. He keeps a notebook. He’s an innovator. And all along the way, he talks about being grateful.

It doesn’t take much research to see that many teachers are disillusioned with the career. We joke about everything from poorly behaved students to useless staff meetings. We post online about the massive struggles we are facing; reaching out for help and validation. 

But not all teachers feel this way. Many are building thriving school music programs and walk into the classroom joyfully every day. What is the difference between those struggling to feel confident in their classroom, and those that are confident every day?

I pose that the primary factor influencing the positivity of some teachers over the negativity of others is gratitude. When you walk through your day being grateful for every little thing—the carpet in your room that prevents chairs from sliding around, the mug a student gave you last Christmas, the office staff that delivers your mail—you find you can’t help but be joyful in every aspect of your day. Those of us who can be grateful for challenges are that much farther ahead. We find joy in the struggles, knowing that we will come out better, stronger, and more successful on the other side.

To help kickstart your venture into being more grateful, and thus happier overall, here are 5 things you can be thankful for every single day.

As Music Educators, may I propose we take a moment together and be thankful for these things:

1. Cloud-Based Storage. Seriously. I could not do what I do without my Dropbox and Google Drive accounts. From sharing files with other teachers to sending download links to parents, embedding videos on my website … having worldwide access is something that helps us streamline and simplify our lives.

2. Online Music Streaming. I am a Spotify devotee. I have playlists for every season of the year, for dancing, for program practice, and for games, we play in the classroom. I have playlists for every genre, for my units on music history and world music. I can instantly introduce the students to some of the most incredible performances in the professional world without ever leaving my classroom or inserting a disk. Amazing. You can also use YouTube, Soundcloud, Apple Music … however, you prefer to access instant musical gratification.

3. Tiny microphones and cameras. Computers, laptops, and phones are all equipped with everything you need to create a recording. I’ve recorded sing-alongs, ensemble assessment, and individual compositions my students have created. I’ve even made videos of them keeping a steady beat while playing their instruments to track their musical progress. I’ll even admit to secretively recording their behavior when they’ve lost control, so they can see exactly how ridiculous they’re being.

4. Time between classes. Whether it’s an hour prep or a 2-minute break, you can take a deep breath, and quickly support yourself in anticipation of the next class. My teaching schedule for years provided no time between lessons, with one class coming in as the other was going out. Even taking a 2-minute interval to breathe and reflect made a significant impact in my day. To remind myself to take a moment and appreciate the small joys in my life, I’ve used the Mindful app. I have it set to send me an inspirational thought right in the busiest part of the day.

5. The people in our lives. It’s easy to be grateful for friends, family, and loved ones. But what about that administrator that told you what song to sing, or denied your latest instrument repair request? Or the gym teacher that scheduled a track meet the day of your concert? Or that one student, you know who they are. Can you open your heart and be grateful for the fact that they are in your life, that they are someone’s whole world? Can you find the light of gratitude for the challenge they give you, which will make you more creative, and more successful? Go through an entire day, or even just an hour, and really see the people around you and think, “I admire you. I am grateful for you.” Just watch how this change of thought shifts your entire day.

If you can find a bit of space in your day, and in your heart, for gratitude, you’ll soon discover a greater level of joy and appreciation for all that you have and all that you do. As music educators, we have one of the most incredible jobs in the world: to educate, influence, and inspire others using music. Let us be grateful for the opportunities we have to do so every day.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! 

(This article first appeared on November 23, 2016, on the Professional Music Educator Blog. Republished with permission.)

About Elisa Janson Jones

An experienced K-8 classroom music educator, Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, manage, and grow thriving school music programs – and have long and happy careers. She puts both her bachelor of music and her master of business administration degrees to use helping music educators, nonprofits, and businesses around the world.

In addition to maintaining a private lesson studio and conducting her community band, Elisa is the host and producer of the Music Ed Mentor Podcast, founder of the International Music Education Summit, and author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

You can learn more about Elisa and follow her on social media by accessing her online portfolio.