“Tired! A Sign of the Times?”

Artigo 04.09.2014 17:20

This article was published in the Commonwealth of Kentucky's state music magazine by the Kentucky Music Educators Association. It is about a complaint heard many times by most teachers regarding the physical condition of many students, that is, always being tired.

“Tired! A Sign of the Times?”

How often have you asked a student, “How are you, today?” and their response was “Tired!”  As a former public school choral director, I would stand at the door of the choral room and chat with entering students.  Invariably, when asked, “How are you, today?” the answer would be the same: “Tired!”  I heard this repeatedly during my twenty-eight years of public school teaching.  Now, as a university professor, it is interesting that many students give the same response:  “Tired!”

This response may likely happen with adults due to their daily work (making a living) routine – which is understandable because their work schedule is usually every day and highly regimented.  So what is the cause of this “tiredness” for students?  Since I deal primarily with university music students, these comments will focus on them – but may be applicable to high school students.

Over Extended Schedules 

One cannot help but notice that music students tend to be over-involved in school activities – especially extra-curricular music activities.  Some students may take as many as seven ensembles; carry an 18 hour load or more; and often will work to help support them while in school.  To add to this predicament, many music students never adequately learned the discipline of studying or practicing and seem easily distracted by numerous social activities.  They often have in their possession several digital devices and the internet for their entertainment and communication with friends plus thousands of games and “Apps” available at the touch of a keypad.

Additionally, as members of various ensembles, a large portion of students’ time is obligated for rehearsals and participation in legitimate school sanctioned performances and activities.  A student involved in several ensembles is committed to perform frequently – on and off campus.  This observable fact of being tired is not surprising!  Students working, making an attempt at studying and practicing, various social/digital activities, rehearsals, and performances, is an obvious indication of over extension of time and activities…and what is being left out – Oh!  Classes!

The end result is fairly obvious…even without documented studies (which I am sure are out there)…music students may fall into a trap:  the trap of missing classes, doing less than adequate homework, minimal practice and preparation in their applied area, minimal course study and preparation, late night hours trying to get “caught up,” and the “zombie” stare while in class!  In spite of all these things, they seemingly find time for indulging in numerous social/digital activities and campus activities. The old expression “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” might be paraphrased “All play and no work puts Jack on probation.”

One must, however, be fair to those music students who are very successful in their course work, applied areas, ensembles, and other activities.  Perhaps they, too, are tired!  What is the difference between them and the many students who struggle to survive?  These outstanding students have probably learned the technique and discipline of organization and study.

Priority and Planning 

It comes down to priority and planning.  Those of us who have been through college, graduate school, and perhaps even a doctoral program, discovered that we must set priorities and create a plan to accomplish them.  There are numerous guidelines for individuals to incorporate into their routine to accomplish these goals; however, many students are not going to read those guidelines.  Some music students have not set any priorities and therefore have not created a plan to accomplish them.  Astonishingly there are some students who actually believe their applied lesson is sufficient practice for the week!  Others are talented enough to satisfactorily perform in the studio with little or no previous practice but do not make progress equal to their ability.  Many professors will assist students in creating a practice routine for the specific applied area.  Students should ask and then follow the routine – daily!

Students must learn to prioritize their daily activities.  The dictionary defines prioritize as:  to list or rate (as projects or goals) in order of priority (importance).  These principles have been the mainstay of business and industry for decades…or there would be no profit!

How does one accomplish creating priorities and processes for obtaining specific goals? Students must look critically at their course load and choose wisely.  Eighteen hours of credit is a big load for the average student.  Students may overlook the sequence of their courses, especially in the music curriculum.  Once they are out of the course sequence, they discover, too late, they need a course that is not offered the semester they want to take it. Many students must work to stay in school and should scrutinize their course load compared with the schedule and number of hours they must be on the job.  Tailor your outside job to your school curriculum, not vice versa!

Initial Steps in Planning 

Whatever is decided as the course load and making sure to follow the course sequence, students must (1) create a regiment of class attendance and study for each day of the week. Once the courses are set, the student should (2) immediately designate time(s) during the day or evening for homework.  Most classes require homework as a portion of their final grade.  Many students prefer studying in the evening…bear in mind, however, that many music performance events usually occur during evening hours and students are often required to attend a percentage of those programs for recital credit.  It is imperative to create study time and adhere to it.  Time must also be reserved for (3) breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Going without meals is not healthful and affects your stamina during the day. 

Students should (4) arrange their applied lesson schedule(s) and (5) indicate any ensemble rehearsals and concerts on that schedule.  Two or three ensembles should be the limit…learn to say “No!”  Students should (6) allow adequate time for applied practice.  Two hours of applied credit generally requires two hours of daily practice, including weekends, if possible.  A realistic minimal amount of practice for two hours of applied study should be one hour each day.  The idea of practicing several hours at one time or in one day is counterproductive.  It is the daily practice that produces the best results – very similar to working out as an athlete.

Students must plan their work load in deference to their class schedule and study hours.  If a student works on campus, efforts are usually made to design a work timetable to fit their class schedule, and rehearsal times.  Working off campus may be a different situation.  Students might benefit from a reduced course load to accommodate off campus jobs and yet maintain a fulltime student status. 

Grades vs Ability 

Another serious concern with some music students is the fact they make minimal grades of “C” or below when there are indications they are capable of much higher levels of academic and musical achievement.   How can students improve their grades in regular classes and music classes?  The first step is learning to take notes…adequate and specific notes!  Go to class prepared!  Read the assignment and take notes before arriving in class.  During study time for a particular course, assemble the textbook notes and reading assignment notes in a notebook or other format for a clearer understanding of what will be presented in the classroom.  Take notes in class from the lectures – indicating areas the professor emphasizes or what you deem important. 

After class, begin preparing immediately for the next time you have that class and do not walk into the classroom unprepared.  When studying for an exam put essential information on note cards (or iPod, etc) and carry them with you to study as you have time (lunch, waiting for class, etc.).  Although this process may seem repetitive and boring to some students – it is the reason they are not doing well.  Over the decades this method has been proven to work and grades will improve – but one must take the initiative to prioritize their days and study effectively through note-taking.

Another weakness of some music students is the inability to read with comprehension or write with clarity, and using correct grammar.  This note-taking process will aid skills in both areas.

It has been noticed that many students listen to music with headphones or ear-pods while they are studying.  Although not convinced this will aid the process of studying, it is uncertain it hinders the process.  If listening to music is how the student has always studied, it may have become the only way the student can study.  Many of us of the “older generation” were accustomed to a quiet background while studying (library silence).  But that was then…this is now!

You Are Here Because…? 

Finally, students must get enough sleep and rest.  It would not be advisable to tell your professor you missed a class because you were sick and it is discovered you were on Facebook until 4:00AM!  Or that you took a nap and slept through a rehearsal.  Or that you missed a rehearsal because you had too many other things to do.  This indicates to the professor you are not organized and you are not planning well.  

In summary, the essential or necessary elements of your school day should be the most important items on your agenda.  A co-ed was recently overheard remarking on an “F” received on her exam, “I don’t understand it – I never studied in high school and made “A’s.”  We have the most intelligent and musical students on our campuses than in any other time in history, but many students are not reaching their potential. Organization and studying is highly underrated by the average co-ed and if students would implement some or all of these principles, the response to “How are you, today?” might be, “I am fine, thank you.”


Dr. David Hedrick currently serves as Associate Professor of Voice and director of Concert Chorus  at Campbellsville University.



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