Model yourself as a competent, comprehensive “Generalist,” not a single-subject “Expert” or “Specialist” (which may decrease your chances in finding a job).
To get a music teaching job, specialization in Pennsylvania is probably a four-letter word.
Need proof? Examine the wording on the PA Instructional Certificate, accrediting you in “Music, Grades K to 12,” not directing choirs, concert or marching bands, or orchestras, nor teaching jazz, theater, music theory, music appreciation, or general music.
In the state of Pennsylvania, there are no prerequisite specialties nor exclusive focus areas in the music curriculum such as Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze, World Drumming, Suzuki, etc. Perhaps an individual school district’s courses-of-study may emphasize a particular discipline (and as far as I know, only a few do), but the Pennsylvania Department of Education is “specialty blind.”
The exhaustive employment search process is all about finding a single job. The only thing that really matters is whether you are the “right fit” for a particular opening. Do you have the skills and training to teach the music classes for that posted position?
When a school district begins looking for a new music candidate in pa-educator.net or other web service, the human resource assistant may submit online search parameters such as “majored in voice” or “band” or “elementary” or other criteria. However, be wary of disqualifying yourself or possibly getting your name “thrown off the list!” Don’t be myopic in your descriptions of your music teaching competencies and personal philosophy. Give yourself the chance to prove yourself and at least be granted an interview.
It is paramount that you adopt a unified philosophy of music education (and be ready to relate real-time anecdotes that you are practicing these convictions), where all areas of performing arts instruction (from instrumental music to choral music to classroom general music and all other related arts electives) have equal emphasis and importance.
On your digital portfolio, employment webpage, resume, and interview handouts, document your field experience, summer camps, church or community ensembles, private teaching activities, and/or other employment in as many categories as possible… ideally, showing examples or artifacts from all of them – choral, strings, band, piano, and general music.
In your statement of philosophy, be sure to analyze and be ready to express why do you want to become a music teacher? Can you respond to the key questions renown music education clinician/technologist Jim Frankel (Director of MusicFirst) often demanded at his in-service workshops or conference sessions:
- What is your personal mission?
- What is the role of music in a child’s education?
- Are we creating performers, theorists, teachers… or lifelong music lovers?
Here are some additional tips to avoid being seen as unqualified or “pigeon-holed.”
- Embrace the concept and needs of “the whole child” (see http://www.wholechildeducation.org/).
- Do not allow yourself to be labeled to a specific subject area or grade level.
- Know the current educational buzz-words and acronyms… administrators love checking your understanding of the “alphabet soup” – terms like UBD and EQ, HOTS or DOK, RTI, IEP, and SLO. (This will be the subject of a future blog.)
- Still in school? Utilize your college resources now to “broaden your training” and master your insecurities.
- Identify your “worse area” and get to work on it. Ask help from your peers or secondary methods instructors!
- If you think you are a “miserable” pianist, take a few extra lessons. Or conquer your other “fears” such as learning to sing better, playing a new string instrument, crossing the break once again on the clarinet, practicing the basics of jazz improvisation, etc.
- Develop resources – personal contacts, ensembles, and associations – to help you land and keep a job outside your favorite “specialty.”
The job market fluctuates and suitable positions (especially in your “targeted” geographical areas) can be limited, so you may have to accept employment far from your college major, initial goals or interests. It happened to me! Although a viola major who never sung even once in a high school or college choral ensemble, I was asked to direct the 200+ member choirs (five groups) at the Upper St. Clair High School… for 16 years! What inspired us in that famous Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken?” For my career, “I took the path less traveled by.” But, we had great success, and it eventually led me to directing/producing plays and musicals as well. “And that has made all the difference!”
Remember, excellent teaching comes from excellent musicianship, NOT that irritating other quote: “Those who can, DO. Those who can’t, TEACH….”
Work towards marketing yourself as a “total music educator” while you have the chance – NOT just a proficient music specialist! After you land your first job, then you can be “picky,” and perhaps seek a transfer to your preferred area.
© 2015 Paul K. Fox