Are You Ready? Thoughts on Retirement for Music Teachers

Life and retirement are truly journeys… which means getting there is more meaningful than being there.

Now beginning my third year of retirement from the public schools, I can honestly make the statement… I LOVE IT! For me, I cry out HURRAY for the FREEDOM, and enthusiastically take on exploring raising puppies, home improvement, more personal music making, conducting, writing, photography, community service, and volunteer work. And, as you can imagine, my calendar is as full as it has ever been!

However, not all of our newly retired colleagues feel the same way… at least, not at first. It should be said that not everyone may be ready to retire. Often heard employment complaints aside, “be careful for what you wish!” In general, few are ambivalent about this transition… leaving the day-to-day highly pressured, detailed, “rat-race” most music teachers embrace to jumping into the wide-open horizons of new vision, focus, and directions. Recent retirees either love or hate this “passage.”

Examine your motives and your inner thoughts. Are you ready to retire?

Retirement should not be about “escaping from” something but “journeying to” something else. The type-A-ness in most of us, strong connections and identity to our work, music classes, ensembles, and programs, has to relinquish control over our 24-7 lives… allowing time to rest, reflect, re-energize, and make new goals. This means you rarely look back or live in the past; you look forward and plan new challenges!

Just as I made the decision to retire from teaching full-time strings/orchestras, serving as Performing Arts curriculum leader, and managing a hectic schedule of music and theater extracurricular activities, I wrote an article for PMEA News (the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association), citing the wisdom of many others on this topic. (See “Retirement! Now What? Tips for Retirees and Soon To Be Retirees” below from the Fall 2013 PMEA News.) You are invited to examine these areas of help and inspiration before you consider when and how to make this life-changing (but glorious) “metamorphosis!”

Also, for more resources, I encourage you to peruse the retired members’ section under “focus areas” of the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/

CLICK HERE for Retirement Article in PMEA News

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

The Meaning of “Pro”

Reprinted from the Spring 2015 PMEA News

Are you a professional? Do you have the skills, habits, and attitudes of a professional in the field of education?

Webster’s New World dictionary defines the term “profession” as “a vocation or occupation requiring advanced education and training.”

However, what makes someone a true professional? What are the qualities of an individual who devotes his or her life in a profession? How can you tell the difference between just going to work in a “job” and reaching for the highest professional standards?

In short, here are some of the qualities of professionalism that school administrators seek in new candidates for music (or any subject) teaching positions. Here’s an opportunity to do a personal professional inventory.

  • A professional succeeded in and continues to embrace “higher education” and personal development. He/she updates self with “constant education” and retooling of knowledge and skills.
  • Professionals tend to seek and encourage change, to find better ways of doing something. They propose new things “for the good of the order.”
  • Like lawyers and doctors, they “practice” the job, using different techniques and resources for different situations as needed. Professionals are good problem solvers and critical thinkers.
  • Professionals accept criticism, frequently assess their job performance, and always try to self-improve.
  • They agree to adopt an open or flexible assignment of hours to work or plan/prepare/think about their job throughout the week and weekends (seemingly, on occasion, a commitment to a “24/7” schedule). They bring home their work… what the students call homework!
  • Professionals are salaried, and do not think in terms of hourly compensation, nor even expect extra pay for every task of the job assignment. They do not “punch a clock” nor count hours at their job.
  • Professional workers are generally responsible for themselves and many others. When assigned to a “team,” they allow other team-members to reap benefits and take credit for the work/successes they have done.
  • Members of a professional community have obligations for communications, attending meetings, completing paperwork, and fulfilling deadlines, and value the application of accountability, teamwork, group goals, compromise and unity of purpose, vision, creativity, perseverance, honesty/integrity, fairness, patience/calm demure, and timeliness/promptness. Professionals define and regularly model these best practices.
  • Professionals readily accept and model a corporate standard of behavior and appearance.

Remember your most inspiring teacher? Who motivated you to go into the teaching profession? Did you notice the level of commitment he or she brought to the profession… to the classroom every day?

Becoming a professional music educator is a lofty goal with high standards. It seems like there is never enough time in a day to complete everything. Music teachers (especially at the secondary level) are usually the first to arrive and the last to leave the parking lot, and often sponsor or participate in activities of their profession after-school, evenings, and even on weekends back at school… everything from directing extra rehearsals to composing/arranging/preparing music, accompaniments, lessons, etc.

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a calling. One school superintendent said he expected prospective new recruits to show high energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and dedication during the interview… even a supposed willingness to “lay down in front of a school bus” or “do what ever it takes” to make the students (and educational program) successful.

A professional music teacher must also achieve a balance between his/her high level musical expertise and the essential focus on the needs of “students as people” first. Ultimately, it is our privilege and mission to teach children (not just the subject matter) through the enormously powerful vehicle of music.

So, are you ready to wear the badge of a professional?

PKF

Welcome to Fox’s Fireside

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Greetings from a happily retired public school music educator who has time to burn learning how to “WordPress.”

Here’s to sharing our thoughts about creativity, music and music education, and retirement. Ironically, my pulpit of “random observations” spans both ends of the career spectrum… ranging from marketing strategies and interview techniques for new/recently transferred professionals trying to find a school music teaching job to our “seniors” transitioning that formidable “life changing” passage of stepping down from full-time directing/teaching.

This blog will also serve as a vault of my personal essays and articles (many published in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association state journal PMEA News or workshop handouts at in-service conferences).

In my final days as a teacher/administrator, I was inspired to research and write a series of articles on “Creativity for Teachers” in PMEA News. For access, please see “Creativity in Education – Are We Ready for A New Paradigm Shift?” title link at the top of this site.

For a complete listing of all of my blogs, click on the “Inside…” tab above or go to https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/why/.

Warning! The views expressed here are the sole responsibility of that “crazy as a fox” former music teacher and Performing Arts Curriculum Leader of the Upper St. Clair School District. These are offered as food-for-thought, a “pause in reflection” (for foxes, isn’t it “paws?”). Hopefully, all of us can collaborate, explore some insight, and generate meaningful discussion as we possibly solve a few problems along the way.

I welcome your input… so check back here often for future blog posts as I learn the (for me) “new technology!”

PKF

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