Pre-Service Music Educators Looking for Employment: Build a Web Platform to Promote Your “Brand”
According to Wikipedia, “an electronic portfolio (also known as an eportfolio, e-portfolio, digital portfolio, or online portfolio) is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. Such electronic evidence may include input text, electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. E-portfolios are both demonstrations of the user’s abilities and platforms for self-expression. If they are online, users can maintain them dynamically over time. One can regard an e-portfolio as a type of learning record that provides actual evidence of achievement…”
A couple years ago, I wrote a blog about the “perfect portfolio” for getting a job at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/planning-the-perfect-professional-portfolio/. As a review, these elements were endorsed for inclusion in an e-portfolio:
- Educational philosophy
- Résumé or Curriculum Vitae
- Letters of recommendation
- College transcripts
- Praxis® exam results
- Copy of teaching certificate(s)
- Artifacts of student work
- Classroom observation documents/evaluations
- Statement about class management theory (discipline) and the steps that you would take inside your classroom to create a safe and orderly environment
- Letters from parents commending the work you did with their children
- Samples of student assessments/rubrics
- Excerpts (short video or audio recordings) of you performing on your major instrument/voice, solo and chamber recitals, piano accompanying, playing in college ensembles, and especially teaching in as many settings as possible: small and large group instrumental (band and strings), choral ensembles, elementary classroom lessons, extracurricular activities like marching band and musical, private lessons, etc.
- Pictures (quote from http://www.theeduedge.com/top-five-must-haves-top-five-could-haves-your-teacher-interview-portfolio/): “We cannot emphasize the power of pictures enough when it comes to portfolios. During interviews, committee members are trying to get to know you and trying to envision you teaching. Don’t trust their imaginations to do so, give them pictures… photos or newspaper articles of you teaching students in the classroom, with students on field trips, learning excursions or outside class activities, with children while you are serving in adviser roles, with your students at musical or athletic events, coaching or working with children in a coaching capacity, as a leader and role model.”
As I said in my article, all of this is “perfect fodder for marketing yourself” at future employment interviews. Do you have “what it takes” to be a professional music teacher?” In your opinion, what makes you qualified (“a good fit”) for a position in our institution?”
I also recommend you revisiting my blog-post “Tips on Personal Branding” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/tips-on-personal-branding/ for steps on warehousing the elements of your “professional brand.”
If your college does not set you up with a free online site, consider a “do-it-yourself” website creator from one of these, and read the rest of this blog-post:
WordPress is a popular “open source” solution. This means you will need to independently set up a server, download a third party template, manage updates, set up a domain name, and configure everything on your own. This is what I did for this paulkfoxusc blog-site, and I paid zero for a domain name… but more on that later.
The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Website
One of my favorite online “instruction manuals” for building a website comes from Christopher Heng’s “How to Start / Create a Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide” at https://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/startwebsite.shtml. Their steps:
- Get Your Domain Name.
- Choose a Web Host and Sign Up for an Account.
- Designing your Web Pages.
- Testing Your Website.
- Collecting Credit Card Information, Making Money (not needed for us?).
- Getting Your Site Noticed.
This should be required reading… but take it slow, and click on all of the secondary links.
Some website builders and managers offer e-commerce and other special features. For a professional website to post your experience and accomplishments, you can avoid the extra cost of these nonessential additional web tools.
If you can afford it, purchasing a simple domain name like your first and last name (something easy to remember) would be a great idea. Prospective employers will not have to write down a bunch of numbers, know your birthday, learn your nickname, etc. to find your e-portfolio. If you have an unique middle name or surname, you might luck out and be able to snag (and register) the perfect domain name. This was not possible for me! Do you know how many Paul Fox’s (even Paul K. Fox) are “out there” already taken?
In the process of obtaining an available email label, if needed, try rearranging your name (e.g. listing the last name first?), placing dots between the first and last name, etc.
Strategies for Saving Money and Seeking Tech Help
If you are like me, lacking a little confidence about advanced online technology or mastering a complicated website building program, read the following article for a general review of the process and terminology. Take the afternoon off (order a pizza, too) and totally consume it and “A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a WordPress Website” at https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/02/beginners-guide-creating-wordpress-website/#article-wpcom-wporg.
I suppose it would be fair to say that college students are not “made out of money,” so going to a professional website designer is probably “out of the picture,” even though this is one of your most essential tools for successfully communicating your brand! Are you going to lay out some big bucks for an impressive looking resume and business card?
However, have you considered the alternative of asking for help from your roommate, class buddy, or other student acquaintance who is majoring in communications? (Would “free pizza” be enough incentive for someone to sit down with you and get you started?)
The most cost-effective approach may be to sign-up for their FREE plan and self-hosting within the WordPress.com environment. (I am still amazed that this entire blog-site of mine, now archiving more than 73 articles, has been 100% free!)
If you desire more features, a free domain name, and no advertising on your site, you can upgrade to a monthly plan for WordPress (or any of the above providers).
For me, WordPress was/is an easy application to use. You do not have to learn a programming language or fancy commands to format your menus and text. There are a lot of samples you can (almost literally) copy. The hard part is just… GETTING STARTED!
One of the first decisions you have to make is to establish a domain name. If you decide to be “cheap” (like me), just create a Google email account with a suitably professional name. If it is available, you set-up one like “first name” + “middle name” + “last name” + “music educator” or something else appropriate. Dots can be inserted as dividers in an email address. Shortly before I retired (and would lose my school email account), I found that firstname.lastname@example.org was available. (USC is where I taught and continue to live.)
It should be noted here that “partying tuba player” and “crazy singer” are probably not good “professional names.” If you need help, just ask your grandmother what she thinks is appropriate. Remember: teaching is one of the most conservative of professions!
To create your web site’s identity, WordPress will remove the dots and add their company’s moniker “.wordpress.com” at the end of your email name. That is how https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com was born!
Your next choice will be the theme, style, and features of your website… probably challenging because there are so many free templates available. Check these out:
As an example, for this site, I use the FREE “Nucleare” theme by CrestaProject. Their description is the following: “Nucleare is a classic blog theme with a crisp, elegant design and plenty of handy features. A built-in search box, links to your favorite social networks, four widget areas, and beautifully styled post formats make this an ideal theme for your personal blog.” Nucleare also supports the following features:
- Site logo
- Social Links Menu
- Post Formats
- Custom Menus
- Custom Header
- Custom Background
- Full-Width Page Template
A Model Music Teacher Website
Educators love it when one of their students leave their classroom and choose to become a significant contributing member to our “exalted” profession! I felt blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity of teaching David Dockan, a trumpet player in both our Upper St. Clair High School orchestra and marching band. He validated some of my advice for marketing himself to land a job, and has created a super website. Go to http://www.daviddockan.com/ and use the password “Music” to view his e-portfolio.
His menu sections:
- Home (Introduction)
- Teaching (General, Choral, Instrumental, assigned schools, Private Lessons)
- Musicianship (Performance, Conducting)
A trumpet teacher colleague of mine, Ryan Wolf, messaged me on Facebook after he read the initial posting of this blog. He said he had great success hosting his professional website on Yola.com, but he maintains his e-portfolio on his Google Drive to make it easy to share.
In conclusion, I offer a few more recommendations for your consideration:
- Proofread your online presence very carefully… misspellings, bad punctuation, grammar mistakes, or poorly formatted displays would be negative PR and a detriment to your marketing plan.
- Websites require frequent updates. Keep yours up-to-date at all times!
- Print the link to your professional website on your business card and resume.
- Consider placing a Q-Code on your business card that, if scanned on a smartphone, would redirect your contact or prospective employer to your website.
- Be careful to obtain permission in advance to video record students for your e-portfolio. During your field experiences or student teaching, ask your cooperating teacher (or his/her supervisor’s) permission. Some schools have “do not photo” rosters. (However, in my district, only a few elementary students were “on the list” and most defaulted to a “permissible” status unless the parent opted out. The principal’s secretary had a record of all exceptions.) It is also suggested that you focus your camera mostly on YOU and not the students, from the back of the classroom or rehearsal facility (possibly from afar), so that the student faces are not clearly discernible. To respect their privacy, in the recorded excerpts, do not use any segment announcing the names of your students.
- Showing your versatility, try to assemble a collection of still photos, audio examples, and videos that ideally represent all specialties in music education: choral, dance, general music, concert band and string instrumental, marching band, jazz, theater, etc., and demonstrate your proficiency in multiple settings at all grade levels.
- There are many blog-sites with tips on “curb appeal” – layout and design, style, overall impact, style, user-friendliness, etc. Since this involves a cross between artistry and efficiency, these advisors may not agree (one says use large images, another suggests smaller pictures mean faster loading speeds). A few samples:
If you were introducing a new “widget” to the market or promoting a sales campaign, you would spend a lot of time (and money) on advertising. A website and e-portfolio are a job hunter’s advertisement tool. Take advantage of any chance you have to present your personal brand, “sell yourself,” and connect with colleagues in the field of education. Archive your training, successes, and goals. Show off your professionalism, proficiency, and personality to prospective HR people and the decision-makers that hire future staff. Be sure to provide “live demos” of your traits of artistry, collaboration, commitment, discipline, even-temperament, initiative, leadership, mastery of music and education, organization, positive outlook, style, tact, and teamwork.
© 2018 Paul K. Fox