Volunteering is Vital

Stories from a Wheelchair Jockey

“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in the world all of your own.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

— Winston Churchill

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”

— Erma Bombeck

Besides spending more time with family and friends, the most precious benefit of the freedom afforded to you “living the dream” in retirement is… (drum roll, please)… becoming eleemosynary! (Look it up!) It’s crucial to make it a priority to give back to your community!

I wrote an article in our local community magazine UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY. (Yes, I guess I’m bragging a bit – find it here on page 20 and you’ll see pictures of my Pirate costume for escorting at the hospital and holding my doggies!) I cite many reasons for becoming a volunteer. (Disclaimer: Some of the statistics below are a few years old, but you get the idea… The trend is ever-growing!)

The Surge of Volunteerism

Did you know?

My home state Pennsylvania does its fair share, too. These figures are from AmeriCorp:

  • 3,506,834 PA volunteers contribute 341.0 million hours of service
  • 34.2% of PA residents volunteer, ranking them 21st among states
  • Volunteer service worth an estimated $8.2 billion
  • 98.8% of PA residents regularly talk or spend time with friends and family
  • 58.9% of PA residents do favors for neighbors
  • 22.1% of PA residents do something positive for the neighborhood
  • 33.4% participate in local groups or organizations
  • 59.8% of PA residents donate $25 or more to charity

Volunteering and Wellness

Volunteering has been documented to be good for your physical and mental wellness. Do you need any convincing? According to Track-It-Forward at https://www.trackitforward.com/content/use-these-volunteer-stats-boost-your-volunteer-program:

  1. Volunteering connects you with your community, which can lower the morality rate by 2.7%.
  2. Volunteering helps physical health – including decreasing the likelihood of high blood pressure development by 40%.
  3. Volunteering can help decrease high-stress levels, anxiety, or depression.
  4. Volunteering increases self-confidence and self-esteem by 6%.
  5. 96% of volunteers claim they feel a sense of purpose, therefore happier and healthier!

I recently found this website with more detailed rationale offered by Volgistics – Volunteer Logistics at https://www.volgistics.com/blog/volunteering-good-for-health:

Mental and Emotional Benefits of Volunteering

  1. Connects you with other people
  2. Allows you to contribute to a cause
  3. Gets you out of the house
  4. Connects you to the community
  5. Reduces depression and stress
  6. Improves self confidence
  7. Boosts happiness
  8. Encourages learning

Physical and Health Benefits of Volunteering

  1. Encourages physical activity
  2. Lowers your blood pressure
  3. Promotes heart health
  4. Extends your life

If you have any doubts about WHY you should volunteer, revisit my August 2021 blog “Those Were the Good ‘Ol Days – The E in RETIREMENT is for Energy, Engagement, Excitement, and Endurance” here. For retirees everywhere, this is worth repeating.

“It has been suggested that one problem of retirement is that one no longer matters; others no longer depend on us… The reward of retirement, involving a surcease from labor, can be the punishment of not mattering. Existence loses its point and savor when one no longer makes a difference.” 

– Rosenberg and McCullough

We learn from Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose by Nancy Schlossberg that for retirees, it is important to feel “needed” and that pursuits that foster “mattering” are crucial to a positive self-esteem, good mental health, and stable life balance.

What to Do with Your Free Time?

This, too, has been covered in past blog-posts, conference sessions, webinars, and articles in PMEA News. A quick recap:

  • Walk dogs at animal shelter
  • Assist food banks and meals-on-wheels agencies
  • Enlist as special advocate for abused or neglected children
  • Work as a hospice volunteer
  • Maintain parks, trails, nature habitats, or recreation centers
  • Host an international student
  • Assist at local hospital, senior center, or nursing home
  • Serve in charity fund-raising projects
  • Become a youth director, mentor, or scout leader
  • Share your hobby or experiences in a specialty and teach night classes or summer school
  • Give guided tours or lectures as a docent at a local museum
  • Apply office management and clerical skills to benefit libraries and other nonprofit associations
  • Run a school club or coach a sport

A quick scan of the website https://www.volunteermatch.org/ would fetch many specific volunteer job openings (these for the Pittsburgh, PA area where I live):

  • Provide hospitality at Pittsburgh sporting events
  • Serve coffee and snacks at winter warming stations
  • Write articles or submit photographs to local publications and e-media
  • Visit hospice patients and provide other free-care services
  • Crochet, knit, or sew blankets for needy families
  • Connect with local veterans
  • Manage nonprofit events and organizations
  • Ring the Salvation Army kettle bells all year long
  • Mentor an underserved child (everything from athletics to computer skills)
  • Make weekly reassurance calls or personal welfare checks of senior citizens
  • Become a delivery driver of “care packages” of food, baby items, pet necessities, household items, and more

Retired music educators have an advantage, a valued skill which also represents their “calling” and “life’s work” – fostering creative self-expression. There’s so much “we” can do to “bring on more music” in our community, and if you wish, several of these may provide supplemental income:

  • Performing gigs locally
  • Directing community or church ensembles
  • Accompanying community or church ensembles
  • Coaching/assisting local music programs
  • Teaching college music education methods or supervising student teachers
  • Composing/arranging music
  • Adjudicating or guest conducting music festivals
  • Serving in the music industry

The best part of retirement is you can say “NO” anytime you want. You can cut out any perceived drudgery, routine “chores,” and excessive paperwork that “the institution” may demand, but still assist in collaborating and sharing your experience, expertise, vision in working with “the kids.” You can continue to develop your own personal artistry (now with more time to practice) and leave your “musical stamp” on other programs and projects whenever and wherever you please.

Adventures in Volunteer Escorting

Every hospital, outpatient facility, and senior nursing/assisted living center I know needs volunteers… a lot of able-body helpers. Have you considered lending a hand in pushing patients to/from their procedures, discharges, etc. in your community? I have, and it is truly a joyful experience.

For two days a week, I spend the better part of my day at St. Clair Health in Mt. Lebanon/Scott Township in the South Hills area of Western PA. (If you live in the area, visit their website here.) Although on occasion, I get to visit the Family Birth Center (my favorite) and hospital rooms to help check out patients, most of my shift is assigned to the Dunlap Family Outpatient Center, a new state-of-the-art facility (opened in May 2021 – still has that “new car” smell) for “in and out” procedures. It would not be an exaggeration that I escort as many as 50 individuals per day undergoing outpatient surgeries, endoscopies, colonoscopies, or other diagnostic testing, along with an equal number of family members to/from the treatment rooms. On a given Thursday or Friday, I can check my Apple Watch and iPhone digital health monitors and find I take as many 17,000 steps!

The best part? Do I have to tell you that since I retired to the same basic geographic area in which I spent my entire career, how many of my school colleagues, former students, and their parents I have discharged? One thing you realize helping out in your hometown (the place you taught all those years)… you will run into many of your former “charges” now grown up with kids of their own. It is a real joy to see them again (albeit due to the need for a colonoscopy or surgical procedure), and catch up with all those shared memories, their life’s happenings and successes, and future dreams.

So many stories…

Several weeks ago, I brought down to the main floor a delightful lady from our pre-post anesthesia unit to connect with her ride home, and I saw her driver was in a Uber-lit-up car. I remarked to the patient, “Wow, the only Uber driver I ever knew was one of my former choral students named Lisa…” and sure enough, that’s who came to pick up her mother-in-law. Even though we always wear masks in the hospital, I guess my Upper St. Clair HS marching band “broadcaster’s voice” is recognizable, and countless people in the lobby (usually accompanying family members) stop me, “Hey, is that you Mr. Fox?” Of course, HIPPA dictates we never repeat their identities or any confidential information…

Being a music teacher, I cannot help myself. My mission is to be “the distracter” – divert their attention from the inevitable? – and to help calm, reassure, and perhaps even entertain the patients for a few moments transitioning through those awkward (and sometimes fearful) medical procedures. They need a bright, cheerful, and funny if not somewhat crazy escort. I provide the jokes and the songs!

One day, I was literally singing Maria from West Side Story while pushing Maria-the-patient to her endoscopy, and another person walking with us for her own test said, “Well, it’s nice you are singing to us. But, my name is Sharon, and they don’t have a song for my name. No, Sharona is NOT my name,” she added with emphasis! After I took both ladies to their respective rooms, I had to do some research, but came back after Sharon was prepped and received her IV waiting for the doctor. “You forgot about The Song for Sharon composed and sung by Joni Mitchell,” I said (perhaps not my favorite example from the artist’s albums).

The hallway from the waiting room to the procedure suites is long and offers time for my style of “interaction and distraction.” Another funny episode, I was escorting two men to their appointments in the outpatient surgery unit. To the first, I said, “Did you know they wrote an entire musical featuring your name? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He replied he had never heard of it. I sang a few bars of several theme songs, and told him to look up Donny Osmond’s Close Evr’y Door and other tunes from the show. We were almost at the nurse’s station when the second gentleman turned to me and said, “Don’t you dare!” I looked down at my call slip and saw his name was George, and searched my mind. What song could was he concerned about? “Oh, oh, not that cartoon theme George of the Jungle? ending with the lyrics “…watch out for that tree?” He told me he was tormented mercilessly by his brothers, sisters, son, daughter, and now the grandchildren re-enacting painful renditions of “his song!” In this quiet, pristine, antiseptically-clean environment, we all took a moment and enjoyed a good horse laugh together (even the head nurse)!

The male volunteers usually dress up in an all-red jacket (one giant candy stripe), but on occasion, I have been known to bring a costume… for Halloween or Christmas, to try to bring a little joy and good humor to the patients.

I feel blessed to have the good health and mobility to serve as a volunteer escort, and the opportunity to meet with on a daily basis so many wonderful people. Many of my retired colleagues (even those from where I last taught) have joined the force. To say the least, we appreciate the comradeship, gratitude, and feelings of being eleemosynary for what we can share with others!

Anyone from my neck of the woods? Visit this website and sign-up! WE NEED YOU!

As if you need any additional urging, for the young and young-at-heart alike, Joi Henry of the 2013-2014 Youth Leadership Council (21st Century Leaders) probably said it best commenting on why community service is essential:

Community service involvement is important because volunteering teaches people of all ages and backgrounds compassion and understanding. One thing I like about community service is that there are opportunities to improve and leave your mark on your global and local community. Volunteering and putting on service events can be used as a way to advocate for causes that you are personally passionate about. Community service… can also be the avenue to explore areas that you express interest. Volunteering is something that has no time limit; you can volunteer as much or as little as you’d like or have time for and still feel some type of fulfillment from it.

https://www.21stcenturyleaders.org/why-is-community-service-important/

So what are YOU waiting for?

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

In Case You’re Worried… the Status of “The Fox”

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog site, you may have noticed that, for some reason, I haven’t posted anything for almost two whole months. Cat got my tongue? Nothing to add? Busy with other things?

We have been doing what comes naturally! The most important “stuff!” Although hectic at times and in a frenzied pace, all is well! My wife and I are healthy, happy, actively engaged in the projects that matter to us, and mastering those all-essential ingredients in a healthy lifestyle (retired or not): “finding purpose, structure, and community” (reference to the book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie Zelinski).

Well, I can tell you I am still vested in volunteering my expertise, experiences, and services on a number of fronts. Normally extremely verbal, I just have not had a couple hours to spare to write anything down or contribute to the voluminous material to what has become a massive archive of articles (editorials and how-to’s), links, and other resources.

What have I been doing lately?

First off, we are just finishing up our marching band season. As the official admin and announcer for the “Pride of Upper St. Clair” Marching Band (I spend my time inside, not directing practices on the fields), I attend all rehearsals as attendance bookkeeper, forms manager, librarian, quasi-nurse, and when necessary, act as a sounding board or shoulder to lean on for “the band director.” This was our first year going “competitive,” participating in regional festivals of Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association (PIMBA), and by all accounts, “we” achieved excellence. The band is unrecognizable from past years – the students are much more committed and focused – but we still have a ways to go!

Of course, all during this, our football team made it to the playoffs. On Friday, we will support our team in the “first round” WPIAL Class 5A match at Gateway HS. The extended season brings with it challenges of its own (keeping the band members on-task and embracing new goals), but the rewards outweigh the extra rehearsals. And, all through this, we are making plans (and building excitement) for the launch of the first-ever USCHS winter guard and drumline programs!

Funny thing! I’m now a part of the band’s “brand.” For 38+ years, I have been “the voice” announcing the pregame and halftime shows for Upper St. Clair High School. I’ve also emceed a couple dozen of the USCHS Marching Band Festivals, plus senior recognitions, USC Halls-of-Fame exhibitions in the stadium, and outside music invitationals. It is truly a joy to “cheerlead” our musicians… and my wife would tell you, I have a very loud broadcaster’s voice! And now, ladies and gentlemen…

In two weeks, I will conduct the fall concert of our community ensemble South Hills Junior Orchestra, now in its 40th year. Although COVID did its best to wipe out our enrollments and recruitment efforts, our online academy kept things going, and we now support a small but dedicated chamber group. (Surprisingly, I have a good balance of instrumentation including sometimes rarely-found musicians on French Horn, bassoon, bass clarinet, electric bass, and piano, but one of my trumpet players is having to read clarinet parts.) Our theme is in support of Ukraine. We just “stumbled upon” several appropriate folk songs from the region, including the tribal tunes of Russian Fantasy (Robert Bennett Brown), the ever-popular Ukrainian Bell Carol, Dance of the Slave Maidens from “Prince Igor” (by Borodin, part of the “Russian Five”), and Slovakian Folk Songs (bordering Ukraine).

After this concert, we will prepare a holiday program for a nearby assisted-living facility with most of the SHJO members each taking a turn to conduct the sing-along of carols and seasonal favorites.

If interested, we warehoused a lot of our old SHJO Online Academy media and lessons here. (Use the password symphony.)

Staying involved in my professional associations, I am happy to report I was accepted to present at two conferences, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Eastern Division event in Rochester, NY on April 13-16, 2023 and the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Annual In-Service at the Kalahari Resort/Poconos on April 20-22, 2023. I have been asked to do my interview clinic session at both conferences and a workshop for PMEA on music educator burnout remediation, self-care, health and wellness.

In the meanwhile, not to let any grass grow under my feet (or more leaves to fall on my head), locally I have been giving teacher ethics presentations at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (a wonderful class of 44 freshman music education majors – the future looks good!) and Washington & Jefferson College undergraduate and graduate education majors.

I open my session offering to give a hundred dollar bill to the first student who can correctly name the exact title of their educator’s code of conduct (PA Code of Professional Practice and Conduct – CPPC) and identify the agency which enforces it (PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission – PSPC). No one ever guesses it. (I could also likely get away with this challenge at any school faculty meeting in the Commonwealth! Educators seldom receive formal ethics training in our state – that’s why I am sharing these recent updates from the PA Department of Education!) Now that I have publicized “the big question,” I guess I’d better put away that C-note for good!

A sampling of my slides and handouts are available for perusal from the top section of the “Training/Jobs” menu bar link here, or you can find past blogs on the subject of educator decision-making presented in reverse chronological order here.

In a similar vein (and with equal passion), I have teamed-up with retired social studies teacher and attorney-at-law Thomas Bailey to sponsor continuing education classes for both educators and administrators. I am inspired by Tom’s knowledge of the PA regulation framework and school law. We just finished an excellent 25-hour approved non-PDE Act 45 course for school system leaders. You should visit his informative website here, and especially check out his court case blog here. If you are a school superintendent or administrator, our next series of online classes will begin on November 29; register for the course here.

Additional future projects include assisting on the PMEA Strategic Planning committee for “member engagement,” planning for the PMEA CRESCENDO virtual student conference scheduled for January 31, 2023 (more info here), and serving on the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention (I am state chair) – “the life cycle of an educator.” A wealth of free information for music educators (which I try to revise frequently) is available on sections of the PMEA website: the Council TTRR focus area (click here) and Retired Members (click here).

Outside the scope of teaching profession, I have been active as Communications Director, Fine and Performing Arts Chair, and Trustee of the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair (CFUSC). I publicize a weekly eUPDATE (samples on the website here) to announce our township events for donors and supporters, serve as “the duck maestro” – the mascot for the annual duck races on USC Community Day, and look forward to organizing “a really big party” in celebration of the CFUSC’s 30th anniversary on April 21, 2023 at the St. Clair Country Club… although I will be in the Poconos on the same date doing a PMEA workshop! The Fox calendar is bursting with a few overlapping dates!

Besides all of the above, I am still volunteering at the hospital several days a week, pushing wheelchairs to/from procedure rooms at St. Clair Health. One thing you realize helping out in your hometown (the place you taught all those years)… you will run into many of your former students now grown up with kids of their own. It is a real joy to see them again (albeit due to the need for a colonoscopy or surgical procedure), and catch up with all those memories, their life’s successes, and future dreams.

The only personal goal that remains unfinished is consideration on how I can better distribute (dare I say “promote”) the numerous blogs that remain timely and relevant at this website. It’s just a little too overwhelming (and dense) for some passersby. A few of the links in the earlier postings may have expired and need to be updated. However, a lot of my insight, hard earned perspective (with sweat and tears), and past experiences have been poured into these writings, and I could only hope many of them could become useful tools for college music education majors, the rookie educator, those feeling challenged by today’s post-COVID times, or anyone recently transferring into the profession. Here’s another list of menus… go ahead, sight-see and enjoy the journey!

As you can see, I am not really retired… perhaps a better term would be “refired” or “redirected” or “reinvented.” If you are already “living the dream” in your post-full-time employment years or anticipate this happening in the near future, that’s how it’s done. That’s what I wish for you, too! Do you want to live-it-up to Moses’ age – supposedly 120 years old? Then, you better plan to be physically and mentally active and engaged! After all, a mind is a terrible thing to waste!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Hacks for Music Teachers – Part 2

More Tips, Tricks, & Techniques to Help You Organize

As you can see, it has been awhile since I shared a blog-post. It looks like I went on vacation and skipped the entire month of July!

Well, truth be told, familiar to many of my band director friends, we are hitting the streets with a plethora of summer clinics, rehearsals, and camps to prepare for and usher in the season of parades, halftime shows, pre-games, festivals, competitions, etc., and although I am officially “retired,” I chose to re-up as “admin” to the “Pride of Upper St. Clair” – the marching band of the school from which I left in 2013. Serving as announcer for now more than 37 years, I decided to “put the pedal to the metal” and join the “band leadership team” to discover the joy of watching our ensemble “hatch” their new shows from scratch, re-awaken and build on their technique, inspire and grow their membership, and focus on “practice-practice-practice” and “making music!” I just finished a grueling week of those 12-14 hour band camp days spent in close partnership with 100+ of my favorite high school musicians.

Fantastic? Yes. Exhausting? Absolutely! It reminds me of 30-years-worth of nonstop days and nights of leading the annual spring musical as director/producer, including missing meals, dragging myself home to re-acquaint myself with my wife (who went through this, too), and dropping into bed. I have always said, quoting Ernie Zeliniski in his book How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free, it is important to find PURPOSE, structure, and community in retirement… but this hectic pace of frenzied activity at times tests my endurance. And, it feels a little like I never left teaching….

Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to share some “advice from the experts” in terms of organizational tools and quick fixes or “hacks.” (See Part 1 on this topic.) This is only a gourmet “taste” of their ideas to simplify your life, work, and teaching. You should do yourself a favor and take more time to research the websites below for a complete explanation of their recommendations. We appreciate their generosity and willingness to be “free and open” to permit us to repeat their ideas in this forum.

Easy Time Savers for Instrumental Teachers

Photo and article excerpt by Wendy Higdon

To get started with a “bang,” let’s visit Wendy Higdon’s “On and Off the Podium” website here, or the NAfME “Music in a Minuet” blog site which reprinted her Clever Music Teacher Hacks That Will Make Your Year Amazing – Getting Ahead of the Time Crunch.

  • “Use rubber pencil grips as inexpensive thumb rest cushions on clarinets by cutting them in thirds. (see photo)
  • Pink erasers work well as emergency rock stops for your cello and bass players
  • Purchase golf pencils on the cheap to keep in the classroom so that forgetting a pencil never becomes an excuse. Kids won’t love using these short, little pencils, so they are less likely to walk away at the end of class.
  • Three ring binders with sheet protectors help students keep organized and also cut down on lost music. If you want to be super-organized, add a pencil pouch and tab dividers in the binder.
  • Strips of velcro on the carpeting work well as guides to where chairs should go and allow your students to quickly and easily straighten up the rows. (see photo)
  • Print a sign with important information that your students frequently need (music store phone number, website addresses, etc.) and have them take a picture with their phone so they won’t have to ask you in the future. Do the same for important dates, locker combinations or anything else that is easily forgotten.
  • Locker mirrors can be purchased cheaply during school supply sales. Buy a class set and use them to check embouchure and more!
  • Did a clarinet or sax player forget their ligature? Or worse. . . it got stepped on and now it is as flat as a pancake! Use a rubber band to hold the reed on the mouthpiece until the student can get a new one.
  • Does your baton get buried under all your conductor scores? Use a binder clip on the side of your music stand, and it will always be handy! (see photo)
  • Do your beginning flute players have trouble remembering which keys the fingers of their left hand go on? Use “Avery Dot” stickers to mark the keys. You can do the same with clarinet pinky keys. Color code the keys on the right and left hand to assist students in learning their alternate fingerings. (see photo)”

There are a lot more “why didn’t I think of that” time management hints throughout the article. Also, be sure to check out her interesting Microsoft Word and Excel templates to use for your seating and locker assignments.

Band Directors Collaborate!

Photo and article excerpt by Mike Doll

The middle school band directors in South Carolina got together and created a brainstorming session to share teaching tips and strategies with each other in order to improve their music programs. According to Mike Doll, editor of one of the blog posts Band Directors Talk Shop, “After the success of the first meeting, we decided to continue this on a regular basis, and we now do this 2-3 times a year for the past 10 years. These ‘best practices’ gatherings have been very informative, and we always walk away with several new ideas to try in our classrooms.”

Here are several ingenious ideas from their “toolkit” of Tricks of the Trade – Five Organizational Tips.

1. Music sorter stick
“One of our directors shared a neat way to sort music back into score order without multiple piles of different parts scattered around them on the floor. If you go online and search for Plastic Sort All, you will find the tool they use for this trick.”

“The director then used a label maker and created labels for each instrument in score order and attached them to the sorter in place of the letters and numbers on the end. “

2. Lines/tape on the floor for easy chair placement
“One director, with a tile floor, mentioned they would check with their maintenance folks and find out when the wax would be stripped from the floor. At that point, they would tie a string to their director stand and measure the distance to the first row. They would then attach a sharpie to the other end of the string and use it like a compass to draw arcs on the floor. Once the floor was waxed, the lines never came up. Gaffers tape also works on carpeted floors. At the end of each class, the director would have everyone look down to make sure the front chair legs were on the arc. Clean neat rows in seconds at the end of each period.”

5. SMART Band Student.

“Quick and clean set of expectations for your band students. A SMART band student is one who is:

  • Silent
  • Marks Mistakes
  • Attentive
  • Respectful
  • Team Player”

The article’s “Tip #4” on Band Binders is reminiscent of what I had applied to my grades 5-8 string program. My wife utilizes something similar for her online music lessons. Rookie or new teachers, especially, check it out!

In addition, you should peruse their website for an inspiring collection of articles on a host of other topics:

Band Room Hacks

Photo from Google’s Search of “Band Room Hacks on Pinterest” by Julia Arenas

How timely and appropriate! I stumbled on this Pinterest site, Band Room Hacks, a collection by Julia Arenas, and since I did not get advance permission to reprint her library of images, I will invite you to go explore them for yourself. At a quick glance, I see she has assembled from music colleagues a lot of excellent storage solutions as well as music teaching tools that may inspire you to modify/add your own new time-saving shortcuts.

Time and Task Management on Steroids

We round off our organizational hacks for music teachers with the brilliance of Ashley Danyew, and excerpts from her blog post 9 Time-Saving Tools and Tactics for Busy Music Teachers and Directors.

Although productivity experts like Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the originators of the aforementioned (in Part 1) Priority Management System (a favorite of mine) may be most helpful, we can all learn from Ashley as she sums things up with these tips on supercharging ourselves in planning for a good start to the school year. (You’ll have to visit her post to get the full gist of what to do!)

  1. Put all your to-do’s in one place.
  2. Track your time.
  3. Batch related tasks.
  4. Limit social media.
  5. Divide your work-day into time blocks.
  6. Set aside time to send and respond to emails.
  7. Close documents and browser tabs you are not currently using.
  8. Go into meetings with an agenda or outline.
  9. Make templates.

I particularly love this introduction to her article:

“One thing I hear over and over from church musicians and music educators (well, everyone, really) is that there never seems to be enough time to get it all done.”

Time to teach
Time to rehearse
Time to write
Time to practice
Time to be with family
Time to be a good friend
Time to read
Time to exercise
Time to learn

“We’re always looking for new ways to be more productive, get more done in the little time we seem to have, and save time in places where, like money, we might be overspending. Am I right?”

“That’s one of my favorite ways to think about time – as money. It’s a commodity. We all have the same number of hours in the day – it’s how we spend them that makes the difference.”

Where (and how) do you want to spend your time? What’s important to you?

“Once you can answer this question, you’ll be motivated to make it happen – to take control of how you’re spending your time and look for ways to save it, where you can.”

9 Time-Saving Tools & Tactics for Busy Music Teachers and Directors
by Ashley Danyew

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Have a great school year!

PKF

It’s Time for… the PMEA Summer Conference!

The summertime academic break is essential for the health and wellness of every music educator. Hopefully you are enjoying a little TIME OFF and an emotional and intellectual break and release from thinking about your professional responsibilities and anything about school!

Europeans swear that it takes no fewer than three weeks of what we would call an extended vacation. They say we need that much time to totally unwind, de-stress, rest, and, if necessary, lick our wounds and even “heal ourselves!” Summer should allow us to focus on family, friends, and leisure activities FIRST – to re-adjust our “work/life balance.” After an appropriate interval, then we can get ready to re-charge and re-energize, to recommit emphasis on new music program goals and professional development.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Pennsylvania and be a member of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), I have a wonderful “crosswalk” solution to accomplishing this REBOOT – a combined “refresh and re-invest” makeover – to first get out of dodge for a change in scenery and then take care of your own social-emotional learning to come back to school raring to go! It’s simple! Sign-up to participate in the 2022 PMEA Summer Conference to be held in-person at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Reading, PA on July 18-19, 2022.

Here’s the link to registration and detailed schedule: https://www.pmea.net/pmea-summer-conference/.

Once again, PMEA is “crushing COVID” and returning to some level of normalcy to offer a face-to-face summer conference of many “awesome” professional development venues – everything from hands-on music reading, member “sharing” sessions, clinics on advocacy, band, choral, classroom music, community ensembles, conducting, curriculum writing, gender identity, health/wellness, mentor training, Modern Band, music technology, recruitment, strings, and so much more!

Check out this summary of wonderful workshops:

Update as of 6/28/22

Approximately Nine (9) hours of Act 48 credit will be available.

This year’s event will include keynote speakers Suzanne Hall and Rollo Dilworth from Temple University as well as NAfME President and PA’s very-own super-star Scott Sheehan.

Feeling a little charitable, altruistic, or eleemosynary? (Great word – look it up!) On Tuesday, July 19, there will be a “Give-Back to the Community” event: PMEA’s Second Annual Day of Service at Goggle Works.

Now, what about that EXTRA FUN part? Well, you can turn your conference into a family vacation by just arriving a little early and/or leaving a little later.

First, how about attending a Minor League baseball game? PMEA acquired tickets to the Reading Fightin’ Phils vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats contest on Sunday, July 17 at 5:15 p.m. at the FirstEnergy Stadium.

Next, there are a lot of terrific family-fun things-to-do in Reading, PA and the surroundings… (Special thanks to https://uncoveringpa.com/things-to-do-in-reading-pa for this “awesome” travel resource!)

Berks County, a combination of rich farm country, industry, beautiful parks, lots of entertainment, and top-notch educational institutions, is home to one of Pennsylvania’s largest cities, Reading, as well as many small communities that offer a lot of history and natural beauty. For PMEA members going to the Summer Conference, it is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of family-friendly attractions, recreation pursuits, touring of the landscape scenery, and other day trips. If you were to visit the area before and/or after the conference, here are at least 18 places-to-go before returning home:

Source: 21 of the Best Things to Do in Reading, PA
  1. Reading Pagoda, Mount Penn https://uncoveringpa.com/reading-pagoda
  2. Nolde Forest, 600-acres and miles of hiking trails https://uncoveringpa.com/nolde-forest
  3. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, bird-watching https://www.hawkmountain.org/
  4. Daniel Boone Homestead, birthplace of the frontiersman https://uncoveringpa.com/daniel-boone-homestead
  5. Goggle Works, former factory, art galleries (site of the PMEA Service Project) https://goggleworks.org/
  6. Covered Bridges, at least five of them close to Reading https://uncoveringpa.com/covered-bridges-berks-county-pa
  7. Reading Railroad Museum, railroad memorabilia https://uncoveringpa.com/reading-railroad-heritage-museum
  8. Neversink Mountain, miles of hiking trails (including City Overlook and Witches Hat) https://berksnature.org/trails/
  9. Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, WWII history, artifacts, and tours https://uncoveringpa.com/mid-atlantic-air-museum-reading
  10. Chatty Monks Brewing, restaurant/craft brewery https://uncoveringpa.com/chatty-monks-brewing-west-reading
  11. Blue Marsh Lake, swimming, fishing, boating https://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Blue-Marsh-Lake/ 
  12. Berks County Heritage Center, museums and trails http://www.co.berks.pa.us/dept/parks/pages/heritagecenter.aspx
  13. Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, antique autos https://uncoveringpa.com/boyertown-museum-of-historic-vehicles
  14. Crystal Cave, first “show cave” located near Kutztown https://uncoveringpa.com/exploring-crystal-cave
  15. Reading Public Museum, exhibits, paintings, geology, planetarium https://uncoveringpa.com/reading-public-museum 
  16. Hopewell Furnace Historic Site, iron furnace https://uncoveringpa.com/visiting-hopewell-furnace-national-historic-site
  17. Golden Age Air Museum, WWI planes http://www.goldenageair.org/ 
  18. Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University https://www.kutztown.edu/about-ku/administrative-offices/pennsylvania-german-cultural-heritage-center.html

Finally, if you need any additional urging, here’s our new PMEA State President Scott Cullen with his invitation for you to join us at the Summer Conference: https://fb.watch/dYrKOvAHkG/.

But, don’t wait! Register today for the PMEA Summer Conference at this link.

The deadline for hotel registration is fast approaching! The discounted block of rooms at the Reading Doubletree will close out at the end of the day on Friday, July 1.

See you in Reading, PA!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Hacks to Help Music Teachers Organize

Tips, Tricks, & Techniques for Time & Task Management

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

“Hack” – hæk – noun – various definitions

  • “a usually creatively improvised solution to a computer hardware or programming problem or limitation” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “one who works hard at boring tasks” OR “a mediocre and disdained writer” (vocabulary.com)
  • “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently” (Google)
  • “someone who does work that is not important or original” (Britannica Dictionary)
  • “an illegal attempt to gain access to a computer network” (Wiktionary)
  • “a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something” (Merriam-Webster)

Is “hack” really a bad word? Consider this modern-day etymology in the article “A 125-Year-Old Letter Dives Into the True Meaning Of the Word Hack by Robert McMillan posted on SLATE:

If you walk through the heart of Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, you’ll find a rather imposing two-story mural painted by artist Brian Barnecio. It looks like a massive totem pole filled with abstract shapes that resemble lips and eyeballs and boxes of ping-pong balls, and in the middle of it all, there’s a single word: hack.

In the late ’80s and on into the ’90s and early 2000s, hack was a dirty word. It evoked danger and criminal activity. It was all about breaking into computer systems, telephone networks, and other vulnerable technology. People who knew their computer history disagreed, but the negative connotation took hold in the mainstream. But over the past decade, hacker has been rehabilitated. Today, it seems, everyone wants to be a hacker. Facebook has gone a long way towards renovating the word, building its massive successful company around the idea that hacking is a good thing, a way of transforming technologies into something better.

Referring to only positive interpretations of “hack,” we turn to the World Wide Web and our colleagues in collaboration to explore unique ways to streamline and make more efficient our personal organization, day-to-day routines, and management of our office and music teaching “best practices” in time/task management. Peruse through these insights “borrowed” from professionals in the field. Some may resonate within you and solve problems you may have; others may inspire you to create other “hacks” towards success.

If you haven’t done so already, please consult my past blog posts on similar topics at this site:

First, I will revisit and expand on one of my favorite “systems” called Priority Management.

The Four D’s

Ever heard of Priority Management (PM)? Trolling the Internet, there are a lot discussions and resources that extol the virtues of “the four D’s” – DO IT, DELETE IT, DELAY IT, or DELEGATE IT:

It may at first seem like a novel way to clean off your desk and desktop. But, in my opinion, it goes to the root of our problem in time management – PRIORITIZE and give rid of the (another “D”) DISTRACTIONS!

PM’s “WorkingSm@rt method” promises to help you “gain control over your day, find balance, prioritize your work, and reach your goals,” giving you time to focus on the tasks that are important to you. The bottom line – every digital or printed post-it-note, piece of mail, receipt, publication, email or other communication – must be “put in its place” on the spot – either completed instantly, deferred to another time, given to someone else to do, or THROWN OUT!

You could reverse the order of the D’s to make the workflow go even faster… “start with the end in mind” as Stephen Covey would say, and DELETE unnecessary “stuff” first. This “habit” is particularly suitable for email: clear out the spam and TRASH duplicate messages and things that do not need your response.

Consider these PM Hacks:

  1. In advance, set-up file folders labeled by months, weeks, or days, and one each of these: in-basket, out-basket, and (very important) PRO-TIME tray.
  2. Designate a “PM Period” every day when you go through your in-basket of unsorted (e)mail and delete unnecessary stuff/tasks, date/delay for another time, delegate to others (out-basket), or…
    DO THEM NOW!
  3. As part of your “delay file,” place journals, catalogs, or other professional readings in a professional read tray (PRO-TIME), but regularly schedule daily/weekly time to do “silent and sustained reading.”
  4. Allow NO unsorted pieces of paper to ever infiltrate the surface of your desk.

How does PRO-TIME look for a music educator? We should intentionally focus on fostering our own creative self-expression, artistry, and professional development:

  1. Read an article in a professional journal or digital newsletter.
  2. Write your own article or blog post for a professional e-publication.
  3. “Keep up your chops” on your instrument or voice. Practice every day!
  4. Keep up with your “musicianship training” like ear training, sight-reading, and score reading. Pull out a copy of Elementary Training for Musicians by Hindemith and practice exercises that make you sing in syllables, tap a different rhythm independently with your left hand, conduct the beat pattern with your right hand, and beat your foot to the pulse. OR revisit your college solfeggio assignments, and of course, sight-singing or playing-at-sight anything new-to-your-eyes is most beneficial.
  5. Take time to compose or arrange your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
  6. Perform or improvise on the piano or guitar, rotating weekly to different musical styles and forms.
  7. Is it time to learn a new instrument? When was the last time you crossed the break on the clarinet, drilled in paradiddles on the snare drum, OR shifted to third position on the violin? Can you play as well as your beginning students?
  8. If you’re not a piano wizard or an accomplished accompanist, try your hand at sight reading several different voice parts simultaneously from choral octavos. OR can you transpose and play “at-sight” a musical phrase from a full score? (Those French Horn parts always challenged this violist!)

Besides committing to regular scheduled PRO-TIME, you have to systemize your D-PLANNING by going over your DELAY files during your daily designated “PM Period.” (Yes., this will take discipline!) In addition, once a month (or whatever frequency you choose), you must to review and move things from longer-term goals to short-term or immediate action. Being conscientious and meticulous in the use of your very-limited planning time and scheduling what author of Fewer Things, Better Angela Watson targets for your “non-flexibles” is paramount for “taming the time tiger!” Her “aligning priorities” approach to time management echoes the philosophy of PM and First Things First by Stephen Covey:

  1. Identify your non-flexibles
  2. List your top priorities that you want to uncover more time for
  3. Specify what life would look like if you prioritized these things
  4. Add top priorities to the unallocated time in your schedule
  5. Identify/schedule the in-betweens

From How to Retire Happy, WIld and Free by Ernie Zelinski

Setting Priorities – How’s Your Work/Life Balance?

If you have been following this site, you know this blogger has retired from full-time public school music teaching. However, “preaching to the choir,” we all know how busy our schedules have become and how unbalanced things can get – no matter who you are – college music education majors, fully active music educators, even retirees. In fact, we should all be taking the advice of author Ernie Zelinski in his book How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free to set priorities and find equilibrium in our daily, weekly, monthly work/life to-do lists and tasks. How do your pie slices look (above)? Do you spend more time thinking of your school/job than your more pressing personal commitments. Do you commit adequate time for your own self-care?

Angela Watson helps us engineer “a plan” that will foster balance. Or, if you have a few moments, visit the website(s) of the late great Stephen Covey, author of the book and series Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in many ways one of the most renown experts on time management. I would start with this clever YouTube video excerpt of him hosting a workshop on the merits of “finding the big rocks” in your life: https://youtu.be/zV3gMTOEWt8. He summed it up with the quote: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

The next step might be to consume Covey’s First Things First book and corresponding website here.

Summer Reading

Before you get started with planning your 2022-23 school year, we recommend taking a “time out,” pulling up a comfortable lawn chair or Lazy-Boy, and diving into these personal tutors – “gems.”

Also, if you want to taste more of the vision and work of Stephen Covey, check out his many books.

Coming Soon…

Part 2 – More Hacks to Help Music Teachers Organize

In our next blog-post, we will next share more insights – music educator to music educator – hopefully helpful hints thanks to these very inspiring sources:

  • Band Directors Talk Shop
  • Clever Music Teachers Hacks by Wendy Higdon
  • 9 Time-Saving Tools… for Busy Music Teachers by Ashley Danyew
  • Band Room Hacks on Pinterest by Julia Arenas

NOTE: This blog-site has a “comment” button at the top. If you would like to “come to the party” and offer up a little wisdom of your own, send in your own “hack” for a future posting.

HELP… Yes, there are ways to help clear up the clutter and GET ORGANIZED!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Music and Literacy Skills

How to Use One to Improve the Other

Editor’s Note: For this month’s blog, we bring back guest writer Ed Carter, a retired financial planner. (See his website here.) His piece, perfect for new music parents, summarizes many of the “intangibles” that music education provides to foster child development, especially the enhancement of language skills. In 2019, I wrote the blog “The Importance of Music Education” (click here) based on an interview I did for a local community news program on the essentiality of teaching music that covered many of these concepts. Special thanks go to Ed Carter for sharing his research and perspective. 

Parents and educators are always looking for ways to improve their children’s learning –
especially when it comes to reading. Sometimes, though, unconventional approaches can work wonders. Experts believe the best way to boost a student’s reading is actually to expand their knowledge and vocabulary by teaching them history, science, literature and the arts.

Understanding the Connection

Children who learn to play an instrument or who join a choir have a longer attention span and better listening skills. Music stimulates the brain in so many ways. In fact, playing music may help the human brain more than any other activity. Some researchers even suggest that musical training can alter the nervous system in a way that improves learning in a way that offsets the academic gap between affluent students and students from lower income backgrounds.

Music improves language skills in particular because there is a neurological connection between maintaining rhythm and reading. Scientific American notes that when children learn how to keep a beat, they are better able to concentrate on a passage and decipher the meanings behind the words. A child’s reading ability relies on making a connection between the symbols they see on the page and the sounds of letters.

The Best Age for Music Lessons?

There is no such thing as a kid being too young for music. Many parents even expose their child to melody and rhythm before they are even born in an attempt to stimulate brain activity. Drumming is a great place to start. It is more important they gain experience with music and learn to develop a meaningful relationship with it at a young age. Children as young as 3 can develop skills like identifying a beat, melody and instruments in music.

By the age of 5, your child may be ready for formal lessons with beginner instruments such as drums, the piano, violin, recorder, guitar or ukulele. If your 5-year-old is not ready to start formal lessons with an instrument, they can still develop their musical skills online. Invest in a kid-friendly laptop and some durable headphones that allow them to interact with online music programs and apps that develop skills that can translate to playing an instrument in time.

To exhibit your genuine interest in your kid’s growing skills, consider creating a music room for them to be able to learn and hone their craft. This dedicated space is a perfect place for distraction-free lessons. It’s a good idea to soundproof the room, too, so others in the home aren’t disturbed. Having a bonus room that can act as a multipurpose room can increase your home’s appraisal value should you decide to sell anytime soon, as such upgrades are what many buyers look for.

Music Mistakes to Avoid

While some children pick up an instrument like a fish to water, all children develop differently. If you push your child into music lessons too early, they can become overwhelmed. Not progressing in their skill can hurt their self-esteem and discourage their progress. Let your child ease into their musical lessons gradually with time.

You can’t just throw money at a music tutor and expect that to be enough. If you want your child to grow in their skills, sit with them as they practice each day. Consistent practice is more effective than long lessons and your presence provides discipline and encouragement.

There is going to be a moment where your child expresses a desire to quit their instrument. Instead of letting them give everything up too soon, always talk with your child about why they feel like quitting and adjust their lesson goals to make playing music fun again rather than a chore. Encouraging your child to stick with it rather than quit teaches your child how important perseverance is in life.

Children all over the country struggle with reading. Adding music lessons to your child’s schooling can help improve their language skills and reading comprehension. There’s no exact age for starting music lessons, but incorporating music into other activities is a great way to start introducing them to rhythm and melody. As they grow up, involve yourself in your child’s learning and measure progress by the goals they reach and the amount of fun they have.

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits:

Storytelling, etc. – Part 2

More on Developing Employment Marketing Skills

If you have not read it, as a warm-up, check out our first blog-post: “When It Comes to Getting a Job, ‘S’ is for Successful Storytelling.”

Since posting a plethora of resources on the job search, interview preparation and questions, branding, and networking, we came upon a few more perspectives, tips, and hands-on exercises you can use to “practice – practice – practice” landing gainful employment as a school music teacher – especially on building your capacity to “tell your own story,” who you have become, what unique qualities you bring to the mix, and how/why you have chosen music education as your “calling!”

Probably the most extensive set of links ever compiled on the subject can be downloaded from here:

But, be warned! It may take you days to read and absorb all of these past blog-posts and articles! They represent the ideal prerequisite – knowledge is power! Before going any further, take the afternoon off, find an easy chair, and focus your attention on creating a successful “action plan” for handling your upcoming employment screenings.

The Exercises

In a recent session for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Annual Conference in Kalahari/Poconos, we explored the following reflective/interactive activities. These work best in pairs or small groups, but you can adapt/individualize them for self-study:

  1. Close your eyes. Who had the greatest influence on you becoming a music educator? (Do you see his/her face?) What did your “model” musician or music educator have or exhibit… name at least three attractive personality or professional traits he/she had and that you would desire to develop in yourself? WRITE THEM DOWN – LIST #1. In a group setting, share at least one of these with your neighbor. (Swap!)
  2. Now it’s time to turn the attention on YOU. On a separate piece of paper, WRITE DOWN (LIST #2) YOUR three most redeeming qualities, unique professional/personal traits that any employer would be proud to know about you. Again, in a group setting, share at least one of these with your neighbor.
  3. For now, put these lists aside. There are no RIGHT or WRONG answers, but in past interview workshops, these terms often get repeated (for both Lists #1 and #2): Charisma, Creativity, Dedication, Dynamo, Excitement, Expertise, Humor, Intuition, Kindness, Leadership, Musicianship, Problem-Solver, Sensitivity, Tirelessness, Versatility, Virtuosity, and Visionary. On another piece of paper, add 1-3 more of these you may not have originally thought were among your positive attributes – WRITE THEM DOWN ON LIST #3.
  4. According to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, effective teachers (the ones for whom HR/employers are searching) score high on these skill sets/characteristics: Accepting, Adult Involvement, Attending, Consistency of Message, Conviviality, Cooperation, Student Engagement, Knowledge of Subject, Monitoring Learning, Optimism, Pacing, Promoting Self-Sufficiency, Spontaneity, Structuring. Do a self-assessment and apply these to yourself. WRITE DOWN 3-4 OF THESE ON LIST #4. Pick new ones you have not mentioned in #1 through #3.
  5. Now comes the FUN part. It’s time to generate stories about past experiences you have had that would model these terms. For this exercise, we recommend writing down at least one unique anecdote from each list which would “show not say” your ability, new learning, or achievement. The “plot” of your story should be concise, focused on the one trait, and when told out loud, not take longer than a minute. Instead of “bragging” you are a problem-solver or adaptable, tell that story of how you had to instantly initiate a “plan b” lesson when it was obvious that the students needed more work on a concept you thought they had already mastered. Remember how you handled your first discipline problem or a child in crisis? If you feel you have the qualities of a leader or a team player, share specific examples of your interactions with children in high school, college, field observations/student teaching, church or community groups, volunteer jobs, etc. If you have trouble coming up with these, try to remember the funny or surprising moments, or even the challenging miscues or big boo-boo’s – all okay to share as long as you resolved the situation positively, created a solution that resolved the problem, or learned a new insight or skill to handle future episodes. No one expects perfection from a new teacher, just enthusiasm, professionalism, willingness to self-assess, and commitment to the cause.
  6. Now you should have a library of stories ready to practice on your roommate, friends and fellow collegiates. You cannot bring the scripts with you, so these have to be at your fingertips: memorized, well-rehearsed, short and sweet (and if you can make them humorous, go for it!).
  7. Every week from now through the job search process, add new stories to your collection. Scan your (e-)portfolio for more ideas. These are the criteria used by my former school district (from where I retired) to evaluative prospective candidates. Ideally, you should have anecdotes that cover each area:

My Favorite Rubric

At some point, you are going to have to “face the music” and practice swapping these stories with family members, friends, and/or fellow job seeking students. We’re all in this together! At your next college chapter of NAfME, music education methods class, or student teachers’ wrap-up meeting, try to schedule some “down time” to appoint each other to serve as interviewers/ees. At first, it may not be easy. Using randomly selected questions from the Ultimate Interview Primer above (pull numbers out of a hat), tell a story or two to exemplify your past history, competencies, and professional traits. Your “buddy” (who will be on the hot seat next) could evaluate your performance using the following rubric. Apply the Oreo cookie format (something good first/top cookie, something needing improvement/cream in the center, and end with something positive/bottom cookie) to avoid crushing anyone’s ego. Consider recording your mock interviews for future assessment. Here is a copy of the form with sample questions.

More Odds and Ends on Storytelling

These outside sources focus on the essential skill of storytelling, the whole point of the above exercises. After reading these, you may be able to assemble more meaningful anecdotes that truly model your positive qualities and experiences by telling “short stories” – and “actions do speak louder than words!”

We found this excellent website “How to Effectively Use Storytelling in Interviews” by Bill Baker on “strategic storytelling” that is worth your perusal. It sums up everything above nicely.

On the Media from NYC Public Radio offered an interesting radio show, coincidentally aired during my 5.5 hour drive back from the 2022 PMEA Annual Conference in Kalahari/Poconos. They dove into the geometric shapes of stories… and what they have to do with reporting on the pandemic AND perhaps (my perspective) considerations for telling better narratives (including ups and downs) at job interviews: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/kurt-vonnegut-and-shape-pandemic2

Even the popular website indeed advises us on interview stories: “10 Storytelling Interview Questions With Sample Answers.” This STAR approach is discussed with specific examples of questions and anecdotes:

  • Situation: Describe a situation you experienced in the workplace relevant to the question.
  • Task: Mention a task you had to complete in this situation.
  • Action: Summarize the actions you took to complete the task.
  • Result: Discuss the outcome of your actions.

Finally, here are a handful of YouTube videos… just the tip of the iceberg. Remember that iceberg metaphor? The part that you see above the ocean is the performance, the show, the interview, the product… while the mandatory practice, rehearsals, preparations, and planning take up much more space and are almost never seen. ARE YOU READY TO TELL YOUR STORIES?

Enjoy! Now the ball is in YOUR court!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

RECAP – Retirement Resources

A Treasure Chest of Tips for Living the Dream!

Are you retiring soon? Thinking about “taking the plunge” and “Crossing the Rubicon” into your “second beginnings” or “next chapter” of senior life?

No matter how busy you are now, you need to “take five” from your work or personal to-do’s and review the following recommendations from past blog posts at this site. Consider this a personal toolbox for the retired and soon-to-retire professional… and assigned HOMEWORK!

A good starting point would be to pick-up “The Myths of Retirement” and “Three Exit Lanes to Self-Help Retirement Guides,” or if you prefer to tackle everything at once, check out the omnibus “monster” resource guide posted here.

Now the top-ten list – a well-balanced collection of online essays. The more you read, the better you will be able to embrace a healthy transition through this major life passage!

1. Plan ahead for retirement: “It’s Not Only About the Money”

Read the entire article here.

It is agreed that a period of adjustment will occur during the first years of “interning” as a retiree, especially critical during the “pre-retirement” stage (believe-it-or-not, as many as six to ten years prior to “taking the big leap” to FREEDOM!). The solution to a smooth transition is to be prepared: communicate your intentions with your family members, and reflect on the vast considerations of the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” of retirement. This prep to your “golden years” is the perfect time for a little self-assessment and self-reinvention in finding new purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in your life.

2. Identify and take steps to alleviate the stress of leaving your job:
“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

Read the entire article here.

The phases of retirement are discussed in greater depth here, as well as different departure scenarios and the usual post-employment “cycles of emotions.” This piece is particularly good if you have ever felt pushed into early retirement or experienced being unappreciated, disrespected, uninspired, unsupported, or “burned out” in your career.

3. Are you really ready? “Signs it is time to retire… OR “Signs is NOT okay.”

Read the entire article here.

This “countdown to retirement” article poses the essential question “Are you psychologically (or emotionally) prepared to retire?” and offers a “road map” of seven easy steps towards closure for prospective music teacher retirees.

For more insight, you should also peruse “When Should You Retire.”

4. Determine your retirement destination:
“Do you know where you’re going to…?”

Read the entire article here.

This early blog post proposed several factors to consider for the choice of where you want to live in retirement… both geography and floor plans. Another good source to read on this topic is the book that was published two years later by the retirement guru and former PMEA session presenter Dave Hughes: The Quest for Retirement Utopia – How to Find the Retirement Spot That’s Right for You.

5. Maintain your professional associations:
“Ask not what PMEA can do for you, but what you can do for PMEA!”

Read several articles:

A retired educator is a valuable resource. If you care about the profession, there are many ways you can continue to contribute your experience and wisdom, albeit less stressful and time-consuming moments, but still assist your colleagues who continue to “fight the good fight” in the field.

6. Acquire a more carefree attitude: “It’s Not Your Sandbox”

Read the entire article here.

It may be at times a challenge to surrender your urge to continue as “an agent of change” or, as E.A. Wynne has written in “The Moral Dimension of Teaching” (Teaching: Theory into Practice, 1995), habits of “moral professionalism.” Learn how chill out and NOT to stress out over someone else’s supposedly poorly run “sandbox” and limit the need to provide unsolicited advice or major problem-solving for other organizations. 

7. Make music: “Dust off your chops” and 8. “Sing your heart out…”

Read the both articles here and here.

What led you to select a career in (and the “calling” of) music education? Retirement is the perfect place and time to expand on your love and skills in creative self-expression. When a music educator retires, among the many joys and fruits of his/her career in the arts is a sudden life-style change – the glorious transformation of being set free from those things you no longer want nor need to do (routine day-to-day drudgery, paperwork, meetings, etc.), embarking on new journeys to explore and embrace revised personal goals – hopefully including a renewed refocus on making your own music!

9. Explore mind-stimulating engagements: “Have you fed your brain today?”

Read the entire article here.

The mind is a terrible thing to waste, even during retirement. Discover something new every day! Maximize your “brain health” with a host of these ideas to consider for your bucket list.

10. Take time to “give back” and volunteer:
“What does it mean to be eleemosynary?”

Read both of these articles here and here.

In the scheduling our free time in retirement, it is important to feel “needed” and find activities that foster “mattering” to promote a positive self-esteem, good mental health, and stable life balance. Are you making choices to contribute to the musical and personal success and welfare of others? For the realization of the mission of this blogger’s retirement pastime: “I refuse to sit idle, binge-watch movies on Netflix, or view hours of boring TV.” To quote the song’s lyrics, this “senior citizen” will never lament…

Life is so unnerving
For a servant who’s not serving
He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon
Ah, those good old days when we were useful
Suddenly those good old days are gone
Ten days we’ve been rusting
Needing so much more than dusting
Needing exercise, a chance to use our skills
Most days we just lay around the castle
Flabby, fat, and lazy
You walked in and oops-a-daisy!

– “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast

Stay Connected with PA Music Education

PMEA Annual Conference April 6-9, 2022 at the Kalahari Resort (Poconos)

PMEA retired members, please take note of these special events especially geared to YOU:

  • Free Retired Member Breakfast Meeting (including take-away gifts) on April 8 at 8 a.m.
  • Retirement 101 session on April 8 at 11:30 a.m. – Retired music teachers are encouraged to participate on the guest panel to “tell your own story” to help any interested soon-to-retire colleagues.
  • Three keynote speakers will join this year’s event: Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Lesley Moffat, and David Wish.
  • The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will be featured on Thursday evening (April 7).
  • See last month’s blog for more details on the conference, tentative session schedule and exhibitors, AND the PMEA website.

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Graphics from Pixabay.com:

PMEA’s Unique “Together” Conference

The return of in-person gatherings of PA music educators and students!

Here’s a “sneak preview” of the upcoming annual professional development convention for members of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) and Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association (PCMEA).

https://www.pmea.net/pmea-annual-in-service-conference/

After being “hunkered down” for two years of online workshops, virtual conferences, digital music industry exhibits, and Zoom rehearsals of PMEA All-State ensembles, we can now “crush COVID-19” with “face-to-face” meetings of the PMEA TOGETHER CONFERENCE on April 6-9, 2022 at the Kalahari Resort in the Poconos.

Not just a “play on words,” this LIVE event brings TOGETHER the awesome and inspiring vision and efforts of the PMEA Professional Development Council, state officers, and staff, along with a twist from tradition – offering a place to getaway from it all!

Ask your spouse or “significant other,” children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, other fun-loving family members, or close friends if they are available to join you for a three-day escape to the Poconos – “the world’s largest indoor waterpark” at Kalahari Resort! Experience great music, career development sessions, catching-up with colleagues, reconnection with your loved-ones, and entertainment for all ages – all wrapped up in one location.

https://www.kalahariresorts.com/pennsylvania/

Bring the family? Each spacious hotel room comes equipped with two double beds, a pullout sofa, microwave, and refrigerator, and the discounted $149/night conference rate allows you to register up to four people with access to all the resort’s amenities for no extra charge!

What resort amenities? Enjoy rides and slides (lots to “splash in” or just relax on the lazy river), a “big game” room, mini golf, mini bowling, 7-D motion theater, gourmet restaurants, spa, salon, fitness center, and amazing shopping and sightseeing excursions in PA’s northeastern region. While YOU are attending PMEA keynote sessions, clinics, concerts, and exhibits, the rest of your party could be “living it up” on as many as 29 waterpark thrills (from “mild” to “wild,” check out all of them on their website):

  • Anaconda
  • Barreling Baboon
  • Bugs Burrow
  • Cheetah Race
  • Coral Cove
  • Elephant’s Trunk
  • Flowrider
  • Indoor Outdoor Spas
  • Kenya Korkscrew
  • Lazy RIver
  • Lost Lagoon
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Rippling Rhino
  • Sahara Sidewinders
  • Screaming Hyena
  • Shark Attack
  • Splashdown Safari
  • Tiko’s Watering Hole
  • Victoria Falls
  • VR Waterslide
  • Wave Pool
  • Wild Wildebeest
  • Zig Zag Zebra

Source: Pocono Mountains Visitor Bureau

A joyful car trip to local scenes and attractions? The word “Pocono” means “the stream between two mountains.” This region encompasses 2,400 square miles of lakes, rivers, and woodlands just waiting to be discovered. Just how adventurous are you?

  • Explore numerous opportunities to hike, bike, bird watch, ski, fish, and photograph the wildlife, waterfalls, and other breathtaking landscapes.
  • Peruse the various exhibits of local artists at the White Mills Art Factory, 736 Texas Palmyra Highway (Route 6) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Wednesdays).
  • Try your luck at the Mount Airy Casino Resort Spa.
  • Or be a “wandering tourist” and visit nearby Stroudsburg, Milford, Jim Thorpe Honesdale, Lake Wallenpaupack, Hawley, Skytop, Bushkill, Lake Harmony, or Tannersville.
  • Check out this Poconos Mountains interactive map: https://www.poconomountains.com/interactivemap/.

Keynote speakers David Wish and Lesley Moffat

Now down to the business of professional development! In your free time from the above refreshing and re-invigorating moments of “down time,” you won’t want to miss the PMEA general sessions featuring keynoters David Wish of Little Kids Rock and Lesley Moffat, author of Love the Job, Lose the Stress. After opening the music industry and collegiate exhibits, numerous workshops, interactive demonstrations, and panel discussions will be hosted on a variety of “state-of-the-art” and timely topics:

  • Adjudication
  • Assessment
  • Career Development
  • Choral
  • Collegiate
  • Curriculum Development
  • Diversity/Equity/Inclusion
  • Exceptional Learners
  • Health and Wellness
  • Instrumental
  • Leadership/Mentoring
  • Modern Band
  • Music Technology

Draft of proposed 2022 PMEA Conference sessions

Sandwiched in between these clinics and meetings of PCMEA, PA Society for Music Teacher Education, PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention, PMEA Retired Members, Pennsylvania-Delaware String Teachers Association, and others will be opportunities to observe rehearsals and performances of the PMEA All-State Band, Chorus, Jazz, Orchestra, and Vocal Jazz, and attend concerts of guest performing ensembles – among “Pennsylvania’s finest.” Congratulations to:

Looking for that new classroom accessory, concert selection, educational travel group, fundraiser, instrument, technology tool, or uniform, or seeking to talk to representatives from music schools? Take time to visit the exhibits. PMEA thanks the continuing support of its PMEA Corporate Sponsors.

Early-bird registration of 2022 PMEA Conference Exhibitors

Yours truly (blogger) is proud to announce he is presenting three sessions at the conference:

  • CODES, CASE STUDIES, and CONUNDRUMS – The Challenges of Ethical Decision-Making in Education
  • THE INTERVIEW CLINIC – Practicing and Playacting to Improve Your Performance at Employment Screenings
  • RETIREMENT 101 – The Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How of Preparing for Post-Employment

PMEA will need volunteers to assist as presiding chairs or to serve at the INFO BOOTH near registration. In addition, the PMEA Retired Member Coordinator is seeking retirees to help serve on a guest panel of “semi-experts” for the retirement session.

It’s still a little early for much additional detail. However, check out this MOVIE TRAILER preview of the 2022 Conference, featuring The Pennsylvania March composed by PMEA retired member Ron DeGrandis.

As of January 17, 2022 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Kalahari Resort room reservations are open! The link to conference registration will be coming soon. For more information, please visit the PMEA website. Keep your eye out for revisions in future PMEA News, UPDATES, and other e-publications.

PKF

© 2022 by Paul K. Fox

New Year’s Resolutions for Retirees

Do you believe in formulating annual goals or drafting a couple “New Year’s Resolutions?”

THE STATS DON’T LIE

Every year around this time, the web highlights many so-called experts touting the benefits of making personal improvement plans… and is just as quick to admonish us for breaking them. The statistics are not encouraging:

Success/Failure rates over the first 6 months

  • Of those who make a New Year’s resolution, after 1 week, 75% are still successful in keeping it.
  • After two weeks, the number drops to 71%.
  • After 1 month, the number drops again to 64%.
  • And after 6 months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it.
  • In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after 6 months.

Overall success/failure rates

  • According to a 2016 study, of the 41% of Americans who make New Years resolutions, by the end of the year only 9% feel they are successful in keeping them.
  • An earlier study in 2007 showed that 12% of people who set resolutions are successful even though 52% of the participants were confident of success at the beginning.

Reasons for failure

  • In one 2014 study, 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions said they had unrealistic goals.
  • 33% of participants who failed didn’t keep track of their progress.
  • 23% forgot about their resolutions.
  • About one in 10 people who failed said they made too many resolutions.

https://discoverhappyhabits.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Of course, it does not have to be this way! Last year, yours truly made a promise to “practice what music teachers preach” and “make meaningful music” at least a little every day on his instrument. How did it go? Success! I made it to the middle of July without missing a day (until I sprained my left hand). But the goal led me to playing better than I have for decades, more self-confidence, a lot of fun polishing off movements from my favorite sonatas and concertos, and even the purchase of a new viola. Now? It is time for me to find a tuba, dive into my past “brass flame,” and join a community band! 

As we succeed in everything else for our lives, the process of setting aside time to analyze our personal pathways, assessing our needs, and making new goals is healthy. For the eternal pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment in retirement, I found these secrets to a ”winning” set of New Year’s Resolutions in the “Top-10 List” by the UAB School of Medicine:

  1. Start with specific micro-goals. (Keep them small, simple, and easy to accomplish.)
  2. Set resolutions for the right reasons. (Choose what is important to you, not someone else’s expectations.)
  3. Document your progress. (Write it down.)
  4. Practice patience and forgiveness. (No one is perfect. Just keep at it despite the curve balls thrown at you.)
  5. Schedule time to achieve goals. (Dedicate the necessary resolve and resources to accomplish them.)
  6. Embrace the buddy system. (Share in collaborating on group goals. You don’t have to achieve them alone!)
  7. Consider your budget. (Finances may play a role. Stay within your means.)
  8. Slow down and meditate. (Breathe, refocus, and be mindful.)
  9. Reward yourself for achievements. (No matter how big or small, treat yourself for reaching your targets.)
  10. Ask others to keep you accountable. (Publicize your intentions. They might help you achieve your goals.)

https://www.uabmedicine.org/-/10-secrets-of-people-who-keep-their-new-year-s-resolutions

SAMPLE RESOLUTIONS

You probably do not need someone to suggest things-to-do in 2022 or ways to self-improve. Effective goals and action plans must come from within yourself. However, there are countless advisors “out there” offering ideas to motivate you:

  • Keep a Positive Mindset
  • Commit to at least 10 Minutes of Exercise Daily
  • Make Better Dietary Choices
  • Stay Young-at-Heart – Surround Yourself with Young People
  • Stimulate Your Mind
  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Reach Out to Old Friends and Make New Ones
  • Kick Your Bad Habits
  • Maintain Your Purpose in Life as You Age
  • Give Back – Explore New Volunteer Opportunities

— Example sites: https://www.luthermanor.org/new-years-resolutions-for-seniors/ and https://www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/tip-sheet-top-10-healthy-new-years-resolutions-older-adults 

Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA)

ENGAGEMENT, ADVOCACY, & ASSOCIATION IN MUSIC EDUCATION

Modeling PROFESSIONALISM, these terms promote the power of “collaboration” and connections among music education colleagues and stakeholders (music students, parents, and the general public). To foster a broader picture and devise “bigger than self” New Year’s Resolutions, we should embrace forming partnerships throughout our pre-service, in-service, and retirement years with enhanced goals of active engagement, advocacy, and support of our professional associations.

In many past blog posts here and articles in PMEA News, Retired Member Network eNEWS, and NAfME Music in a Minuet, we have addressed ways that retirees can share their awesome “musical gifts,” know-how, and perspective to promote creative self-expression. If you are looking to adopt a 2022 New Year’s Resolution to “make a difference” in the music education profession, revisit this free archive here: https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/PMEA-Retired-Member-Network-eNEWS-s090721.pdf and also peruse this link: https://paulfox.blog/2021/11/10/giving-back-to-the-association/.

On a personal note, besides getting back to my viola practice and resuming my love of playing the tuba, I resolve to continue a focus on “giving back” whenever possible to my local community, PMEA, and the music education profession. How will I do this in 2022? By bestowing the gifts of SERVICE:

  • Chair of the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention
  • Coordinator of PMEA Retired Members
  • Artistic Director of the South Hills Junior Orchestra
  • Trustee and Communications Director of the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair
  • Volunteer Escort for the St. Clair Health
  • Author, clinician, and workshop presenter on the topics of educator ethics, interviewing and job search, professional standards, retirement, and self-care

Additional blog posts on the topic of New Year’s Resolutions and helping others in retirement:

PKF

© 2021 Paul K. Fox

iStockphoto.com graphic: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year by Tasha Art

Pixabay.com graphics:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Fox Household!