The Final Leap from Pre-Service to In-Service:
The Metamorphosis and Integration of Philosophy, Maturity, and Teacher Preparation
Are you ready to assume the role of a music teacher? Besides the completion of your coursework and field experiences, have you acquired the necessary attitude and personal skills? Do you “have what it takes” to become an ethical role-model, leader, and “fiduciary” responsible for the welfare and special needs of your students?
Before long, you will shed the label and function of a “college student” (although still remaining a life-long learner… and never stop the quest for new knowledge and self-improvement!). The focus will shift from YOU to YOUR STUDENTS. The prerequisites for a career in education are unique and do not resemble the same challenges as success in business, manufacturing, retail, service industry, or becoming an entrepreneur, blue-collar worker, or even a composer or professional musician. The sooner you realize these are world’s apart, the better, and now is the time to finish your major and life-changing transformation to… a professional music educator.
This series for college music education majors will explore perspectives and definitions involving the evolution and (dare we say?) “modulation” to a productive and successful career in music teaching.
What does a “professional educator” look like? Do you belong as a member of this group?
- Succeeded in and continues to embrace “higher education”
- Updates self with “constant education” and retooling
- Seeks change and finding better ways of doing something
- Like lawyers/doctors, “practices” the job; uses different techniques for different situations
- Accepts criticism (tries to self-improve)
- Proposes new and better things “for the good of the order”
- Can seemingly work unlimited hours (24 hours a day, 7 days per week?)
- Is salaried (does not think in terms of hourly compensation, nor expects pay for everything)
- Is responsible for self and many others
- Allows others to reap the benefits and receive credit for something he/she does
- Has obligations for communications, attending meetings, and fulfilling deadlines
- Values accountability, teamwork, compromise, group goals, vision, support, creativity, perseverance, honesty/integrity, fairness, and timeliness/promptness
- Accepts and models a very high standard of behavior, etiquette, appearance, language, and ethics.
In addition to mastery of their subject matter, skills in collaboration, communication, critical thinking (problem solving), and creativity (also known as “the four C’s”), according to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, effective teachers regularly demonstrate these traits:
- Adult involvement
- Consistency of message
- Engagement of students
- Knowledge of subject
- Monitoring learning
- Promoting self-sufficiency
However, effective teachers DO NOT score high on the negative attributes of abruptness, belittling, clock punching or counting hours, defiance, illogical views or statements, mood swings, oneness (treating the whole group as “one”), or self-recognition. Human resource personnel and administrators look for candidates who model (and can confirm their history of) the habits of the first group, with no evidence of the latter behaviors.
The bar is raised even further. In addition to holding oneself up to the highest standards of the education profession, teachers also exemplify “moral professionalism” in their daily work. As cited in the chapter “The Moral Dimension of Teaching” in Teaching: Theory Into Practice by E.A. Wynne, teachers must
- Come to work regularly and on time;
- Be well informed about their students and subject content-matter;
- Plan and conduct classes with care;
- Regularly review and update instructional practices;
- Cooperate with, or if necessary, confronting parents of underachieving students;
- Cooperate with colleagues and observe school policies so the whole institution works effectively;
- Tactfully but firmly criticize unsatisfactory school policies and propose constructive improvement.
Have you viewed your state’s teacher expectations, code of ethics, and code of conduct? It may surprise you that a number of seasoned professionals have never seen these documents. You may be ahead of the game if educator ethics were even mentioned briefly in a methods class, as indoctrination to student teaching, or orientation within the induction program of your first job.
The “code” defines the interactions between the individual educator, students, schools, and other professionals, what you can and cannot do or say, and the explicit values of the education profession.
No excuses! Better go look this stuff up. If you reside in Pennsylvania and plan to become employed there, go immediately to http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx. If your state does not have a code of ethics or state-specific conduct standards, download and consume this excellent reference: http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=MCEE_Doc. The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification proposes these principles:
- Responsibility to the Profession
- Responsibility for Professional Competence
- Responsibility to Students
- Responsibility to the School Community
- Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology
After reading all of this, what would be on proverbial “ethics test?” Well, can you answer questions like these?
- How do ethics inform a teacher’s personal and professional actions?
- What does it mean to be a “moral exemplar” or “role model” in the community?
- What are the professional expectations for working with diverse populations of students, parents, and colleagues?
- How should teachers handle social media and other electronic interactions with students?
- Do you see yourself as a potential “friend” or “confident” of the music students in your classes?
- Is it okay to accept personal gifts from students, their parents, or music vendors who do business with your school… or to give presents to students for no educational reasons?
For the last two questions, the response should be a resounding NO!
Here’s another query. What five groups of people are both “professionals” and “fiduciaries…” and have a legal responsibility to serve the best interests of their “clients?” The answer is… doctors/nurses, lawyers, counselors (both mental health and investment), the clergy, and… teachers.
Although teachers seem to be the only one of these who DO NOT have formal pre- or in-service ethics training, and our “charges” represent a “captive audience,” our duty is clear: to act as a fiduciary for our students’ best interest, and to create and maintain a safe environment for them at all times.
The keystone of “right or wrong” and what your mother always said was “behaving appropriately when no one is watching you” are all about professional ethical standards that guide decision-making. The work of Troy Hutchings (among other leaders in this field) helps to further clarify these sometimes-blurred definitions:
Personal Morality: “Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may/may not align with community mores.”
Regulations of Law: “Policies, statues, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes.”
Professional Ethics: “Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situation and systemic contexts in choosing the best course-of-action.”
Professional Dispositions: “Agreed-upon professional attitudes, values, and beliefs to be held by educational practitioners.”
For a comprehensive review on “Ethics for Music Educators,” please visit these links:
- Part I: Back to Basics
- Part II: The Nitty Gritty
- Part III: Case Studies
- Part IV: More Perspectives and Resolving a Few “Loose Ends”
All of these are available at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/ethics/.
At this point, if most of this makes you feel uneasy or uncertain, then perhaps it is time to switch majors and look into pursuing another line of work!
Have you written your personal philosophy of music education?
Regina Zona wrote in her article, “For Teachers: Writing a Music Teaching Philosophy Statement” that a music education philosophy statement is “a way to connect on a personal level to your students (current and potential) by stating who you are as a teacher (your beliefs and ideals), how you do what you do, and how that positively impacts the study of music.” If you have not completed your philosophy, here are her essential questions to guide your thoughts:
- What do you believe about teaching?
- What do you believe about learning? Why?
- How is that played out in your studio/class?
- How does student identity and background make a difference in how you teach?
- What do you still struggle with in terms of teaching and student learning?
She adds, “If you are having a hard time answering these questions, maybe because you haven’t been teaching very long, think on a teacher who made an impact on you (positive or negative), your education, your life. How did they communicate? Did they have passion for their work and if so, how did they express that passion? What were their methods of imparting the information?”
Read Zona’s entire blog-post at http://musiclessonsresource.com/writing-a-teaching-philosophy-statement.
Borrowed from the esteemed colleague and CEO of MusicFirst, Jim Frankel, is the introduction to many of his music education technology sessions, the foundation for teaching music in the schools:
- What is your personal mission? Why?
- What is the role of music in a child’s education?
- Are we creating performers, theorists, teachers… or lifelong music lovers?
If you are looking for sample philosophical statements, there are many “out there” on the Web. Here are several of my favorites:
Take time to peruse these and others. Most of these sites also offer excellent examples of personal branding and marketing of the prospective job hunters’ experiences, skills, and achievements… material for our next blog on this topic.
Future blogs in this series will continue with a focus on these concepts:
- Moving from “Book Learning” to “Practical Application”
- Cultivating a Mentor or Two
- Personal Branding
© 2018 Paul K. Fox
Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “tutor” by nrjfalcon1, “music” by brendageisse, “idea” by RobinHiggins, “woman” by RobinHiggins, “young” by RobinHiggins, “singer” by BEP, “ying-yang” by Printoid, “music” by davorkrajinovic, “isolated” by RobinHiggins, and “orchestra” by ernestoeslava.