Retired school music teacher and administrator; current community youth orchestra director, volunteer, writer, dog owner, communications/PR assistant for my former school district (Upper St. Clair), and Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Retired Member Coordinator.
I found myself this past Monday morning with a few extra minutes checking my almost empty “to-do” list and, with the exception of planning to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers football game and the endless chore of raking leaves in my yard (I immediately rejected the latter), I discovered I had very few professional or personal priorities to focus on this week! Wow! Some additional “free time!” Shh… don’t tell anyone!
Down time? As I mentioned in a previous blog-post, since the summer, things had been a little hectic for “this retiree.” When I accepted the position of “admin” to the marching band of the school from where I retired, I discovered how fast we can fill up our schedules with meetings, rehearsals, and performances… to the point that it is hard to imagine how I could possibly have done all of this unless I retired from the regular job! My wife jokingly said, “Those were the days!” (perhaps a little unsympathetically?) as she watched me takeoff for band camp, parent salute nights, late night away football games, etc., while she remained cozy at home. “Been there. Done that! Not anymore!”
Only one professional association got me through more than five decades in music education and 35+ years of full-time directing, equipping me to handle the twists and turns of an ever-changing career (e.g., becoming a choral director even though I had never sang in a high school or college choir), and even attending music festivals as a viola and tuba student for four years in the Penn Hills school district. Who do I credit for giving me this “life force,” “teacher chops,” and music mastery? PMEA. We are so fortunate to have this priceless “collaboration of our colleagues,” numerous resources for the benefit of our own professional development, and services we provide to our music students. Cut me and I bleed PMEA blue!
How Are YOU Feeling?
This blog’s “call to action” is necessary because of the turmoil the pandemic has left the arts education community, new school health and safety mandates, re-prioritization of district resources (in some places away from the arts in spite of the need for more not less social emotional learning), reports of the drop in music participant enrollments, decrease in membership renewals, and teacher shortages.
The crush of COVID-19 and all of the program delays, suspensions, (and hopefully not) permanent losses have made this one of the most challenging times I can ever recall. The only way we can get through this is “together…” and frankly, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!” This is NO TIME to let your membership and involvement lapse! PMEA and other professional music education organizations (like NAfME, ACDA, ASTA) need your “dedication to the cause,” willingness to help “the team” and one other, and active participation.
Collegiate members, full active members, and retired members – all of us joining forces – can truly “make a difference!” No matter how busy or stressed you are and how much you feel you are “slugging it out in the trenches” alone, we all need to become partners and devote time for and dedication to the associations we are blessed to have right now that support music educators in the Commonwealth, the nation, and the profession.
The Essential Role of Associations
It does not matter which profession you have chosen! You NEED an ASSOCIATION!
The architects may have defined “this essential bond” best:
Membership in the relevant professional organization is one of the things that separates a profession from a conventional job. It is a key element that defines a professional. Membership in one’s professional organization is expected of all professionals. It is important to support the advancement of one’s profession, and becoming a member of the professional organization is a part of that advancement.
Involvement with a professional society will afford the participant an opportunity to network with other colleagues in industry and practice. Making connections with others who have similar interests reinforces why one has chosen this career. It enables new professionals to associate with senior members of the profession and learn from them. Joining a professional organization is critical in keeping abreast of the latest knowledge and practices locally, regionally, and globally. It helps the professional to stay abreast of current issues and opportunities and will also assist in personal advancement for the member who becomes involved.
Many professional organizations offer continuing education, seminars, and lectures along with other opportunities for learning. An active participant will have the opportunity to serve in professional development. Working with people outside of one’s own firm and volunteering will build leadership skills. Opportunities for working with the community for the betterment of society and the local economy will be available. There will be possibilities for making real contributions to the human condition through projects the professional organization may take on as a part of giving back to the community. There are events that will call for public speaking skills and professional visibility which will assist in moving one’s career to another level by connecting with other professions and local leaders in the area. The profession will benefit from members’ service and the members will be rewarded in return by such things as personal fulfillment, professional enrichment, and building a stronger resume as a result.
Further definition of the professional responsibilities and ethical practices will come in part from the professional organization. It is a central core for regulation, education, revitalization, networking and service. Joining a professional organization provides occasions and experiences to renew one’s enthusiasm for the practice of interior design. The interaction can be both inspirational and enlightening. Being a member of a professional organization is a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the member that will benefit them both.
My “top-ten” benefits for membership in a professional association like PMEA are:
Development and sharing of the standards and best practices of the profession
Student festivals and music performance assessments
Professional development and career advancement opportunities: workshops, conferences, and publications
Collaborative projects such as health and wellness seminars, ethics training, library of online resources, etc.
Models and resources for curriculum writing
Coaching and mentoring resources
Resources in job hunting and interviewing techniques
Advocacy of music education and “a voice” (more political “clout”) in defining future government public policy
So, What’s in it for Me?
Review a few of the synonyms of “association” mentioned above: “alliance,” “consortium,” “coalition,” “connection,” etc. I am sure you’ve heard the saying: “TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More.” Or, to quote the philosopher Aristotle: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The easiest way for me to show the value of joining PMEA and becoming more active, engaged, and successful in your teaching assignment (no matter what the primary specialty – general music, vocal, band, strings, jazz, music theory, technology, etc) is to take a snapshot of the benefits displayed on the www.pmea.net website. Why try to reinvent the wheel? You might be surprised the extent of the HELP that is available just around the corner! Go ahead… click away! Take a peek at what you may be missing!
On a personal note, PMEA has provided me the insight, inspiration, and opportunities for substantial career growth, “places to go and people to meet” to fill-in-the-gaps of the skill training I may have felt were missing, for example methods and media for teaching a high school choral program for more than 16 years and directing/producing 37+ musicals. In addition, PMEA and NAfME have been the sole institutions that I have turned to for more than 50 years for their sponsorship of choral and orchestral music festivals and other enrichment that have provided my students new and highly motivating musical challenges and countless state-of-the-art once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
So now, reflect on the title of this blog! It is essential to give back to our association – to help it achieve its mission: “to advance comprehensive and innovative music education for all students through quality teaching, rigorous learning, and meaningful music engagement.” We’re all in this together, and together we can make it better! Slide #6 at the bottom of the retired members’ webpage proposes what PMEA needs from all members (not just retirees):
The number one thing you can do for ANY association is to pay your annual dues, attend its meetings, be active and HELP OUT! In return, PMEA can assist you in finding and sustaining your passions! What are you waiting for? If you have not renewed for the 2021-2022 year, please visit this PMEA membership webpage.
Our Quest for the Training of Ethical Decision-Making
With thanks to Thomas W. Bailey, attorney-at-law, collaborator on ethics-in-education workshops
This blog is dedicated to pre- and in-service educators residing and working in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
News from the Pennsylvania Department of Education
In Pennsylvania (as well as the rest of the country), the statistics on school staff misconducts have been rising alarmingly. Sample data from Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE):
Involving more than 2545 PA school staff members since 2004 when they began reporting them, PDE maintains a database of all disciplinary infractions, the names of the offenders and their offenses here.
Immorality – Immorality is conduct which offends the morals of the Commonwealth and is a bad example to the youth whose ideals a professional educator or a charter school staff member has a duty to foster and elevate.
Incompetency – Incompetency is a continuing or persistent mental or intellectual inability or incapacity to perform the services expected of a professional educator or a charter school staff member.
Intemperance – Intemperance is a loss of self-control or self-restraint, which may result from excessive conduct.
Cruelty – Cruelty is the intentional, malicious and unnecessary infliction of physical or psychological pain upon living creatures, particularly human beings.
Negligence – Negligence is a continuing or persistent action or omission in violation of a duty. A duty may be established by law, by promulgated school rules, policies or procedures, by express direction from superiors or by duties of professional responsibility, including duties prescribed by Chapter 235 (relating to Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators).
“Typically, charges initiated against a teacher on any of the grounds listed above may result in a hearing before a Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC) hearing officer. If an educator elects not to contest the charges, however, a decision on the matter may be made without a hearing. When charges are brought against an educator on non-criminal grounds, the PSPC has discretion to determine if the conduct occurred, if the conduct constitutes one of the grounds for discipline, and what discipline should be imposed, if any. In contrast to cases arising on criminal grounds, the PSPC maintains full adjudicatory discretion in cases filed on the above-described grounds.”
As a music teacher for nearly a half-century (35 years full-time involvement in the public schools), not once did I experience someone other than myself and retired social studies teacher Thomas Bailey present a course, class, or even an hour-long workshop on ethics. Obviously, the growing statistics are a concern, but what do you expect when almost no PA-certified teacher you ask can name the title or content of his/her “code of conduct?” Updated frequently, a comprehensive section on this blog-site is devoted to a much-needed exploration of the definitions, research, sample case studies, and “conundrums” in professional and ethical decision-making. Here are some highlights of past articles for your perusal:
Finally, it seems that the Pennsylvania Board of Education and PDE have also awakened to this “cause.” In the last several years, there’s been significant movement in the rewriting of statues and regulations, and mandating ethics training in future pre-service, induction, and in-service programs. Below is a quick look at the history (albeit a very slow progress) sponsored by our state government.
History of PA Legislative & Executive Branch Rules Revisions
Public School Code of 1949 was written by the PA General Assembly regulating PA educators. Section 11-1122 identifies conduct which allows school entities to terminate educator contracts for “…immorality; incompetency; unsatisfactory teaching performance… intemperance; cruelty and persistent negligence in the performance of duties….”
January 2020: The Commission recommended to the PA State Board of Education “the inclusion of professional ethics in educator preparation programs, induction, and continuing professional education… Professional ethics are the accepted and collectively agreed upon standards of behavior, values, and principles that, in conjunction with applicable laws and regulations, are meant to inform and guide professional decision-making.”
September 2021: Final amendments to Chapter 49 were approved by the Council of Higher Education and by the State Board of Education and transmitted to the Senate Education Committee, House Education Committee, and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for the final steps in the regulatory review process.
What’s Needed for the Future? Let’s Renew the Mandate to Share Knowledge and Peer Engagement in Ethics Training
Based on Thomas Bailey’s and my experience in providing more than four years of local and state educator ethics and professional decision-making workshops, we recommend the following:
Presentations should be interactive, allowing time for group discussion, question/answer periods, and “empaneling the ethics jury” to review fact scenarios of identifying levels of ethical misconduct, violations of code and/or policies, and the possible negative consequences, risks, and harm to the students, school staff, and community-at-large.
Case studies should uncover all aspects of professional educator decision-making: pedagogy, enforcement, resource allocation, relationships, and diversity, and illuminate possible ethical conflicts, contradictions, or “conundrums.”
Content should include definitions of common vocabulary (e.g. “fiduciary”), and an in-depth examination of the PA Code of Professional Practices and Conduct, Public School Code of 1949 and the Educator Discipline Act, and PA Chapter 126.
In relation to the PDE Discipline Process, all educators in the Commonwealth should be made aware of PA “governance” and its three independent branches: legislative (statutes), executive (regulations), and judicial (case law), as well as their rights for due process.
Following the research of Troy Hutchings, the principles of educator “ethical equilibrium” and understanding the differences between a “code of conduct” (more explicit and well defined) vs. a code of ethics (more open-ended, based on the circumstances/context of the situation) should be discussed comparing representative examples.
Presenters should unpack and apply the standards in the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE). Since the PA Board of Education endorsed the NASDTEC MCEE in January 2017, little has been publicized (even on the PSPC website) about understanding and implementation of this national “teacher code of ethics.”
Thomas Bailey and I are available to present virtual or in-person workshops on professional and ethical decision-making of educators. Please email any interest or questions here.
Editor’s Note: This month’s blog will feature guest writer Ed Carter, a retired financial planner. (See his website here.) His piece intrigued me, and also made me reflect on the numerous music educators who do freelance work. Even for retired music educators, it is important to continue our active involvement in the field of “creative self-expression” – (what inspired us to go into music in the first place?) – regardless of whether it is for pay or pro bono and now part-time: private teaching, church directing or accompanying, performing in or conducting music ensembles or musical theater, adjudicating festivals, coaching, composing, or arranging for school groups, teaching in higher education, or serving in the music industry. How are you “making music” today?
Research shows that about 45 percent of Americans have a side gig, and they do this for many reasons. It’s obviously a great way to ease financial strain, but it’s also a chance to delve deeper into something that you enjoy, hone skills, and change up your network.
Artists, who often experience economic instability, are one party that might find themselves supplementing revenue from their artwork with a secondary job. On the flip side, you might be considering flexing your creative muscles by engaging in an artistic moonlighting opportunity.
If you need or are interested in earning extra cash while pursuing art, a side hustle may be the way to go. Here are four tips to help you get started.
1. Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis
There are many profitable avenues you can pursue on the side, from blogging and data entry to making balloon animals at parties and walking dogs. A number of gigs even allow you to express your creative side while making a profit and leaving time for you to practice the art that is your main passion, such as selling items on Etsy. You need to pick a job that meets three criteria:
You get what you need from it
You can do it, and
You have what you need to do it.
List the options that appeal to you the most. Research startup costs, competition and markets. Look at each potential gig and ask yourself a few questions:
Does this give you enough flexibility?
Is the initial time and money investment something you can afford?
Do you have the skills and ability to keep doing the work long enough for it to pay off?
Is there enough profit potential to justify the effort, not just physically but emotionally and mentally?
If you are still inclined to take a chance on a side hustle after reviewing the above-mentioned aspects, don’t immediately throw everything you have into it. Do a test run instead; offer services for a limited period or only produce a set amount of product to see if your plan is feasible and if you enjoy it enough to stick with it.
3. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Organization
Keep your side gig details separate from other parts of your life. Use a different email, different files, and possibly even a different bank account. As the source Company Bug points out, the latter helps with filing taxes and looking professional.
Check out automation for bookkeeping and invoicing purposes. Keep detailed records with online backups, and consider adding an app that makes it easy to stay on top of your finances and share data with your accountant.
4. Manage Your Energy Efficiently
Everyone has a finite amount of energy. Managing your time and energy carefully helps you be more effective and happier as you go about your daily tasks. As Todoist recommends, write down a to-do list each morning and schedule out blocks of time so that you can stay abreast of your obligations. Consider planning ahead by weeks and months as well. If you need a break, though, be sure to take it to avoid burnout and waning motivation.
Doing your art for art’s sake is one thing, and doing it as a business is another. When starting a side gig, it is important to make sure you understand what you are getting into and that you have the resources to do it. Being aware of the risks and costs, organizing and doling out energy cautiously can help you secure success.
The “E” in RETIREMENT is for Energy, Engagement, Excitement, and Endurance
This blog is all about how to stay young and vibrant – BECOMING A VOLUNTEER! Geared to those of us who have retired, this is very personal and unique to every individual, no matter what the age!
Do you remember the song, “Those Were the Days” performed by Mary Hopkins (1968), the Fifth Dimension (1969), and even Dolly Parton (2000)?
Those were the days my friend We thought they’d never end We’d sing and dance forever and a day We’d live the life we choose We’d fight and never lose For we were young and sure to have our way. La la la la Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
In June 2021, I went back to work. Well, not exactly full-time… but it felt that way!
Remember the times as music educators we spent 15-18 hours a day or more thinking, planning, creating, teaching, problem-solving, schlepping stuff, sweating, and working out beyond the regular school day and during summer months with major music projects like the marching band, spring musical, music adjudication trip, etc.?
Asked by my friend and current Upper St. Clair School District performing arts curriculum leader/HS band director Dr. John Seybert, I signed on to the newly-expanded extracurricular activity (ECA) position as administrative assistant and announcer of the marching band for the school from which I had retired. Filling in the gaps, taking attendance, handling mounds of paperwork, interacting with a whole new generation of music students, and learning a few new software applications along the way like FamilyID, Canvas, Remind, and the district’s Blackboard website, I threw my hat in the ring, not just to continue to serve as the voice of the “Pride of Upper St. Clair” at football games halftime shows (now in my 36th year), but to manage the full schedule of rehearsals, meetings, performances, and blessedly (?) exhausting 24/7 week-long band camp. I forgot how it felt to get up at 6 a.m. and return home around 9:30 p.m.
It has been exhilarating. It has been exhausting!
On another stage, when the local COVID stats fell two months ago, I was invited back to our local community hospital to serve as a volunteer – discharging patients from their rooms or escorting them from the outpatient surgery or endoscopy units. Yes, I was called upon to somehow restore the physical demands I (used-to) place on my personal stamina. Fully fatigued and expended after a shift of 4-7 hours of driving my wheelchair taxis (sometimes carrying over-sized people even though we’re only supposed to move those weighing 250 pounds or less), I find myself yearning for a retiree “power-nap,” only to regroup for the next day’s challenging schedule and another early-morning wake-up.
The best part of these 8-15 hours per week? Choosing one of the finest medical facilities in our metropolitan area – St. Clair Hospital (now “Health”) – I have the chance to meet former music students (grown up), their kids, parents and grandparents, friends, and other acquaintances at their greatest need. And, there’s almost no finer escort “call” than going to the family birth center and bringing to the car a new mommy and two-day-old baby… sharing that special moment with an alum or school staff member!
It has been exhilarating. It has been exhausting!
In past articles on a satisfying retirement, I often quote the book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, the search for self-reinvention and new avenues for fulfilling those essential needs of “purpose, structure, and community” that employment had previously provided us. Author Ernie Zelinski’s definition of “purpose” are these goals:
To make a difference in people’s lives
To make a contribution
To find creative expression
To take part in discovery
To help preserve the environment
To accomplish or achieve a challenging task
To improve health and well-being
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.
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
The opposite of “mattering” is feeling “marginalized.” I would rather feel worn-out than useless/ignored/discarded!
In his book Design Your Dream Retirement, Dave Hughes recaps with his four essential ingredients of life balance:
If you read my bio in the “about” tab above, I think all would agree: mission accomplished! I’ve made myself extremely busy. (Perhaps I “matter” a little too much?) “It’s a good thing I am retired… I would not have enough time to do all of these things if I still had a job!”
Reduce the risk of serious illnesses (heart disease, type II diabetes, and depression
Help you manage a “healthy weight”
Improve your balance and coordination
Decrease the risk of falls or other injuries
Talk with your doctor to find out if your health condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum recommended activity levels, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive.
Volunteering is all about being more eleemosynary (adjective defined as “generous, charitable, gratuitous, or philanthropic”). In my workshops on retirement transitioning, I frequently quote two gurus on the benefits of “giving back.”
With a frequently untapped wealth of competencies and experiences, older people have much to give. This fact, coupled with fewer requirements for their time, gives them unique opportunity to assume special kinds of helping roles.
Our increased longevity and generally better health has opened our eyes to new and increased opportunities to contribute to the betterment of society through civic, social, and economic engagement in activities we believe in.
But you already knew all of this, right? There are so many ways to “bring it on” and “make a difference” in your “golden years.” (Wow – three cliches in a row!)
There are so many directions you can go to offer your free time to volunteer:
Escort at local hospital or nursing home
Walk dogs at animal shelter
Serve in charitable fund-raising projects
Assist food banks and meals-on-wheels agencies
Enlist as special advocate for abused or neglected children
Work as hospice volunteer
Maintain parks, trails, nature habitats, or recreation centers
Host an international student
Become a youth director, mentor, or scout leader
Teach summer school, night classes or Performing Arts workshops
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 (share your hobby)
As trained music educators, we can share our precious skills in creative self-expression :
Accompany, coach, or guest conduct school/community groups, college ensembles, or music festivals.
Run for office or chair a committee or council of your state or local MEA association
Serve as presiding chair or member of the your state’s MEA planning committee or listening committees for the music in-service conferences
Participate as guest lecturer or panel discussion member at a conference, workshop, or college methods program
Judge adjudication festivals
Help plan or manage a local festival or workshop
Assist the local music teacher in private teaching, piano playing, marching band charting, sectional coaching, set-up of music technology, instrument repair, etc.
Write for your professional organizations’ publications (like PMEA or NAfME)
If you are a retired music teacher and member of PMEA, you could sign-up for the Retiree Resource Registry and serve as an informal consultant to others still “slugging it out” in the trenches. Go to the PMEA retired member focus area for more information.
Anyway, back to a little “bragging!” At least “yours truly” is holding his own and hopefully contributing what he can to the success and welfare of others! Are you? In my retirement pastime, I refuse to sit idle, binge-watch movies on Netflix, or view hours of boring TV. To quote another 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!
Reviews of Court Cases on PA Education Regulations & School Staff Misconducts
Special thanks to guest blogger Thomas W. Bailey, current attorney-at-law and retired social studies teacher, who provides Act 48 courses of continuing education in professional decision-making, analyzing educator ethics, the law, PA Code of Professional Practices and Conduct, and discussion and interpretation of sample fact scenarios based upon classroom dilemmas.
Previously, this blog site (category = ethics) has offered numerous articles on defining issues of morality, ethics, regulations, professional aspirations, codes of conduct and codes of ethics, teacher-student relationships and boundaries, confidentiality, mandatory reporting, and reviews by “mock juries” of educator misconduct case studies. For my PMEA music education colleagues, PCMEA members, and education majors and newcomers to the profession throughout the Commonwealth, one area that still needs to be addressed is a discussion on Pennsylvania case law. One essential question is applicable to ALL pre- and in-service educators across the country: Have you informed yourself about the structure of YOUR state’s three branches of government, laws governing school staff responsibilities, prohibitions, and discipline, specific codes of conduct and/or ethics, and the judicial review process and case law?
“Ignorantia juris non excusat.”(Ignorance of the law excuses not.)
Thomas Bailey has provided an outstanding resource for learning more about PA regulations, court decisions, and putting into practice the values of ethical decision making. Below is a glimpse of his court case blog. Please visit his website for more detailed information and to sign-up for online classes: https://twbaileylaw.com/.
PA Commonwealth Court Case – Music Teacher Charged with Immorality
A male high school instrumental instructor and band director, M.T., began a romantic relationship with a 10th grade female band student (Student) in 2001 while employed for a Pennsylvania school district (District). M.T. continued the relationship with the Student to include sexual acts during her junior and senior years. The Student testified several sexual acts occurred within the District’s band room and band room office ending in 2004 with her graduation. M.T. continued to contact the Student when she attended college. Her parents complained to the District of continual communication by M.T. while their daughter was in college. In July, 2004 the District gave a written reprimand to M.T. to cease contact with the Student. M.T. continued contacting the Student after the reprimand.
The Student subsequently broke off the relationship with M.T. in the Spring, 2005 and told her parents of their sexual relationship. The parents then contacted the District where M.T. was still employed.
In April, 2005, M.T. was suspended without pay by District based upon the parent complaint.
On November 7, 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) filed a Notice of Charges with the Professional Standards & Practices Commission (Commission) and served a copy to M.T. Charges from the Educator Discipline Act (EDA) included immorality, negligence, intemperance, cruelty, incompetence, sexual abuse or exploitation, and violations of the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators (Code of Practices). The violations of the Code of Practices included provisions prohibiting the acceptance of gifts by teachers and prohibiting sexual conduct between a teacher and student. PDE also claimed that M.T. posed an immediate threat to the health, safety, and welfare of students and sought immediate suspension of his certificates.
The Commission appointed a Hearing Officer (HO) who heard three days of testimony from the Student, M.T. and others. M.T. was represented by counsel.
The HO’s recommendation to the Commission include his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law which determined PDE had met its burden of proof on all but two charges. The Hearing Officer’s recommendation did not find M.T. to have given a prohibited gift to Student and that he was not an immediate threat to students. M.T. filed many exceptions with the Commission. M.T. claimed the technical rules of admissibility of evidence apply during Commission hearings, that his alleged, immoral conduct was not testified to by third party witnesses and that PDE did not offer sufficient evidence of professional incompetence, among other exceptions. PDE asserted M.T. remained an imminent threat to students.
Upon review, the Commission denied M.T.’s exceptions, found him to be responsible on all charges except the gift and immediately revoked his teaching certificates.
Issues Before the Commonwealth Court
Do the technical rules of courtroom evidence apply during an EDA hearing?
What educator conduct constitutes immorality in a relationship with a student?
What educator conduct constitutes lack of professional competence for an educator engaged in a sexual relationship with a student?
Commonwealth Court’S Opinion
Technical rules of evidence followed in courtroom litigation do not apply to a Commission Hearing Officer. The strict rules of evidence practiced in Pennsylvania Common Pleas Courts and US District Courts are not followed. All relevant evidence of reasonably probative value may be received.
Sexual intercourse with a student inside the band room office constituted educator immorality. “Immorality is conduct which offends the morals of the Commonwealth and is a bad example to the youth whose ideals a professional educator or charter school staff member has a duty to foster and elevate.” Third party testimony to the immoral acts was not necessary. Immorality with a student violated EDA Section 9c(1).
M.T.’s professional competence in teaching kids did not appear to suffer during the sexual relationship with the student. Incompetency is a continuing or persistent mental or intellectual inability or incapacity to perform the services expected of a professional educator or a charter school staff member. Absence evidence of failure to prepare for class or uphold assigned duties, the educator was not proven by the preponderance of evidence presented to be incompetent in his actions. PDE failed to carry its burden to prove this Charge.
Immorality of educator student sexual relationship defined in detail. Criteria for professional incompetence explained as well as PDE’s burden of proof before the Commission. PDE must prove elements by preponderance of the evidence: over 50% of the evidence produced exhibits culpability. 2-25-21
M.T. v. PA Department of Education 56 A3d 1 (Pa. Commonwealth Court 2010)
M.T. pro se
Attorney Nicole Werner for Pennsylvania Department of Education
Additional Court Case Summaries on the Thomas Bailey Blog Site
It behooves us to learn more about Pennsylvania case law. Read and share these additional analyses They will enlighten you and may foster additional discussion with colleagues. Feel free to post your own comments on Thomas Bailey’s website.
Slater v. PDE & Professional Standards Commission: If an educator is arrested for new criminal charges alleging conduct which appears to pose a threat to the welfare of students, will their certificate immediately be suspended pending outcome of the new charges?
The final court judgment (Horosko v. Mt. Pleasant Township SD above) is one of the oldest, dating back to 1939, and may be considered the foundation and precedent for current PA school employee regulations and discipline, especially in the confirmation of the following quote from the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission of the Pennsylvania Department of Education:
“Professional expectations do not always distinguish between teachers’ on or off-duty conduct. Accordingly, teachers must act in their private lives in a way that does not undermine their efficacy in the classroom, demean their employing school entity, or damage their position as a moral exemplars in the community.”
What you say or do, both inside and outside the classroom, can and will affect your teaching effectiveness, professional reputation, and school employment status! But, if it is ever needed, be sure to know and exercise your rights, obtain the advice of a competent attorney, and avail yourself of due process.
Teachers, you’re in the home stretch now! You are within weeks of a long vacation break and the chance to rest, refresh, recharge, rewind, and rejuvenate. After what COVID-19 dished out to us, you deserve some time off! Here comes much-anticipated trips, family visits, sleeping in, and going dormant for at least 2-3 weeks!
However, most music educators never totally shut down. We seek out new enrichment opportunities by attending conferences or music reading workshops, researching new methods, and “retooling” for our lessons ahead.
Modeling the annual Peanuts comic strip’s January theme of Lucy Van Pelt assigning Charlie Brown a long and unwanted list of New Year’s Resolutions, yours truly (a retired teacher with a lot less stress) is about to do the same and recommend YOU kick off your shoes, climb into a comfortable lounge chair, tune out all extraneous noise and media distractions, and crack open some “serious summer reading…”
Here are my three favorite books for the season to take with you when you go to the beach or sit by the pool!
In keeping with an alliteration of all those “r’s” to promote healing and health during this “recess,” take time to prepare for 2021-2022 and reflect on and restock your reservoir of resilience, robustness, and resourcefulness!
S is for “SEL”
Yes, the values and life skills of emotional/mental/social “balance” begin at home. But the expectation is that schools and teachers are always relied upon to be the “safety net” – pick up the pieces or fulfill the needs not provided at home. And it should not have taken a pandemic for us to discover how important social emotional learning (SEL) is to the health, wellness, and success of every child (and their family members) we serve in our classrooms, ensembles, lessons, and after-school programs.
“Music educators are in a prime position to help students become socially and emotionally competent while at the same time develop excellent musicianship. For every child to be successful in the music classroom, teachers need to be aware of the whole student. How do music educators create success when students every day struggle with social awareness, bullying, communication, problem solving, and other challenges? This pioneering book by Scott Edgar addresses how music educators can utilize Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to maximize learning in the choral, instrumental, and general music classroom at all levels, and at the same time support a student’s social and emotional growth.”
— back cover of Music Education and Social Emotional Learning – The Heart of Teaching Music
“Finally! Thank you, Scott Edgar, for your willingness to walk boldly into this often trodden, but rarely addressed aspect of music education you have rightfully labeled social emotional learning. For every music educator, from preschool through a PhD program, we know the opportunity to “develop the whole person” is right in front of us each and every day. Where else in the academic community is there such a perfect forum that cultivates both the cognitive and effective growth of those involved? Ultimately, the rehearsal room/music classroom becomes a society within society, and the skills needed to grow and succeed at the highest levels are simultaneously offered in content and context. And yet, there are very few resources to guide the mentor in a positive, productive fashion. Now there is and this book is a powerful blueprint leading us to a worthy outcome and more.”
— Foreword by Tim Lautzenheiser for Music Education and Social Emotional Learning – The Heart of Teaching Music
You have a wide variety of choices to explore this topic, and all of these are from Scott Edgar!
The NAfME Professional Learning Community: Music Education and SEL – An Advocacy Tool for Music Educators accessible as a video: https://vimeo.com/426070325
Music for All webinar series:
Episode 1 – Teaching Music Through Social Emotional Learning – Composing with Heart hosted by Scott N. Edgar with guest presenters Brian Balmages, Brandon Boyd, Richard Saucedo, Alex Shapiro (composers) and Bob Morrison https://youtu.be/6HIbK23TmaE
Episode 10 – Teaching Music Through Social Emotional Learning – Narwhals and Waterfalls hosted by Scott N. Edgar with guest presenters Paige Bell and Adrien Palmer: https://youtu.be/BlbxX1DP-5c
Chapter 2: Socialization in the Music Classroom by Jacqueline Kelly-McHale
Chapter 3: Bullying in the Music Classroom by Jared Rawlings
Chapter 4: Music Educators Are Not Counselors
Section Two – Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Music Education
Chapter 5: Self-Awareness and Self-Management in Music Education – Self-Discipline and the Music WIthin
Chapter 6: Social-Awareness and Relationship Skills in Music Education – Sharing and Communicating Through Music
Chapter 7: Responsible Decision-Making in Music Education – Problem Solving Through Music
Conclusion: The Heart of Music Education – Our Common Bond
SEL – the new “buzz word?” What is Social and Emotional Learning?
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” — Collaborative for Academic, Social, & Emotional Learning
Social emotional learning describes the development of skills in three domains: self, others, and responsible decision making.
Self-awareness skills such as ability to identify and recognize emotions
Self management skills such as perseverance in the ability to manage impulse control
Relationship skills such as cooperation, empathy, and respectful communication
Social awareness skills such as the ability to recognize diverse thoughts and opinions.
“Responsible decision-making” includes:
Behavioral skills such as situation analysis, anticipating consequences and generating alternative solutions.
Cooperative skills such as balancing personal in group expectations.
The three key pillars of SEL:
Probably the best conclusion I have ever read about the value of SEL in the arts comes from Scott Edgar in the last section of his book:
“The music classroom is a melting pot of students from different backgrounds, musics of different cultures, varied personalities, and diverse values. All of this diversity is united under the common bond of music… Music classrooms, possibly more profoundly than any other academic setting, can help students and teachers cooperate to recognize diversity, engage in respectful dialogue to resolve conflict, and empathetically respect human dignity, because this is how music has functioned for centuries. Music classrooms are social because making music is, has, and always will be a social activity. In a time when there are so many divisive forces, music and music education can be a powerful uniting weapon. The tenets of SEL interwoven into a musical education strengthens both entities. Emphasizing self- and social-awareness makes music education richer and more personal. Music education brings humanity and culture into a world of personal and interpersonal interactions.”
Seven Teachable Skills to Cultivate & Nurture THRIVERS
The latest book by Michele Borba, Ed.D., Thrivers – The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine, is a definite must-read from cover-to-cover.
“Michele Borba has been a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years – and she’s never been more worried about kids than she is right now. The high-achieving students she talks with every day are more accomplished, better educated, and more privileged than ever before. But the old markers of success (grades, test scores) aren’t what these kids need to thrive in these uncertain times – and they know it. They’re more stressed, unhappier, and struggling with anxiety, depression, and burnout at younger and younger ages – “We’re like pretty packages with nothing inside,” said one teen. Thrivers are different: they flourish in our fast-paced, digital-driven, ever-changing world. Why? Dr. Borba combed scientific studies on resilience, spoke to dozens of researchers/experts in the field, and interviewed more than 100 young people from all walks of life, and she found something surprising: the difference between those who struggle and those who succeed comes down not to grades or test scores, but the seven character traits that set Thrivers apart (and set them up for happiness and greater accomplishment later in life).”
Although it is generally marketed as a guide for parents (and grandparents), this is a perfect “program and process” for everyone who serves as youth caregivers and educational professionals. Borba prescribes these steps to use the book with the above evaluation tool:
Assess your child’s character strengths: self-confidence, empathy, integrity, self-control, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism.
Tally up the points, prioritize his needs, and address initially the one or two traits receiving the lowest score.
Read each chapter of “evidence-backed strategies and skills” which can be easily transferred and taught to your child from preschool through high school.
Motivate and help your child to adopt each character strength “as a lifelong habit to optimize his potential in thrive.”
Choose one ability a month, focus on it, and “practice it with your child a few minutes a day until he can use it without reminders.”
For teachers, this is a wonderful “soft curriculum” for nurturing these seven essential personal traits, each broken down into “character strength description,” “abilities to teach,” and “outcomes.” It will become apparent to you that these are directly related to SEL.
Besides the character strengths (#1 above), the reader is introduced to several revised definitions and new acronyms that may help to reshape our perspectives for teaching kids (these are a few samples): C.A.L.M. (chill-assert-look strong-mean it – p. 239), C.A.R.E. (console, assist, reassure, empathize – p. 90), comebacks (p. 240), creativity (p. 178), C.U.R.I.O.U.S (child-driven-unmanaged-risky-intrinsic-open-ended-unusual-solitude, p. 175), digital limits (p. 78), emotions (p. 76), goals (p. 209), gratitude (p. 86), growth mindset (p. 205), micromanaging (p. 171), mindfulness (p. 133), moral identity (p. 148), multitask (p. 110), “the four P’s of peers, passion, projects, and play” (p. 163), parenting styles (dysfunctional) – “enabler,” “impatient,” “coddler,” “competitor,” “rescuer” (p. 127), triggers (p. 121), self-esteem (p. 33), T.A.L.E.N.T. (tenacity-attention-learning-eagerness-need-tone – p. 39), and well-rounded (p. 36).
Activities throughout the book are categorized for age-suitability: Y = young children, toddlers, and preschoolers; s = school-age; t = tweens and older; a = all ages.
In the final pages of the book, Borba poses some excellent group discussion questions to facilitate a thorough review of her work. A few of these especially resonated with me:
Do you think raising children who can thrive today is easier, no different, or more difficult than when your parents raised you? Why?
What influences children’s character and thriving development most: peers, media, education, parents, pop culture, or something else?
Which of the seven character strengths are more difficult to teach to children today? Why?
What kind of person do you want your child (or your student) to become? How will you help your child become that person?
What are some of the sayings, proverbs, or experiences you recall from your childhood that helped you define your values?
[As a teacher] what would you like your greatest legacy to be for your [students]? What will you do to ensure that your [children] attain that legacy?
Her specific anecdotes, object lessons, and research for each character strength are priceless!
LOVE the Job, LOSE the Stress
In my “New Year’s blog” posted on December 29, 2020, I shared my advice on “how to make a difference in 2021” and told readers to find their own good role models and “positive gurus” to sustain their vision, motivation, and drive throughout the year.
Someone who has recently become inspirational to me is the wonderfully uplifting Lesley Moffat, probably an expert on the search for “mindfulness” in personal life and even during her band warm ups. In my opinion, her transformative stories provide the roadmap for happiness and wellbeing! She now has published two books (you need to read both) – I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me, and Love the Job, Lose the Stress, and if you are still teaching music full-time, you need to peruse her website: https://mpowerededucator.com/.
Now her latest book ties in all of the above enrichment and enlightenment – “successful social and emotional learning in the modern music classroom” – and adds an essential focus on teacher self-care and wellness. What was that saying attributed to Molesey Crawford in Unlocking the Queen Code?
Lesley Moffat has taught high school band for over 32 years in the Pacific Northwest, with her ensembles earning superior ratings and performing all over the US, Canada, and even in Carnegie Hall. She was planning to retire at the end of 2019-2020 when the pandemic hit. (As far as I know at this time, she has not retired yet – “for the sake of her kids” she stayed throughout this challenging time of COVID-19 and the slow reopening of schools!) She clarifies this in the introduction to her Love the Job, Lose the Stress book:
“I completed the first draft of this manuscript on March 3, 2020. Ten days later, schools across the world began shutting down as the coronavirus began sweeping the globe… The ultimate purpose of this book is to share the protocol I created that has become the basis of the social and emotional learning needs for my students (and truth be told, for me). Everything I talk about in this book was true before the pandemic, and it has proven to be as powerful in a virtual environment as it is in person… The great news is that you can give your students the gift of learning to self-regulate, calm down, and focus without distraction through intentional design and practice.”
She offers an intriguing set of easy-to-read chapters in her “hard to put down” 191-page work.
My Life’s Work Is So Much More Than Just A Job
I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me
The Badass Band Director’s Bible
Step One: The Moffat Music Teacher Mojo Meter
Step Two: Identifying the Three C’s – Care, Clarity, and Consistency
Step Three: Identifying Your Priorities
Step Four: SNaP Strategies for Music Teachers
Step Five: Tuning Our Bodies
Step Six: Creating Your Own First Four Minute Protocols
Highlights of suggestions from Love the Job, Lose the Stress
Like her last book, the Moffat Music Teacher Mojo Meter returns. If you are ever privileged to have her as a clinician for a local workshop, it is likely she may send out this survey to the participants in advance. These fifteen questions will provide her an individualized needs assessment of the stressors attendees are experiencing so she can differentiate the planning of her “help session” (page 48).
You’ll have a lot more questions to answer in Chapter 5 (page 50). Read and identify (and define for yourself) her three C’s for success: care, clarity, consistency.
In Chapter 6 (page 67), she wants you to identify your priorities. This is your chance to dream big! You’ll have to read her story (with wide swings of emotion) about her Jackson HS Honors Wind Ensemble performing at Carnegie Hall.
Also returning from her previous book, Chapter 7 (page 81) shares her Start Now and Progress – or SNaP to it – strategies for music teachers. Revisit her amazing tale about doing (of all things) push-ups: “By taking small incremental steps that build upon what I did each day before, I was able to take a skill that was very difficult for me on April 1 and do it 60 times just 30 days later.” She sums up three SNaP Strategies “for busy band directors” (page 90).
Gratitude for the attitude
Don’t miss her Chapter 10 (page 156) and “Lesley’s Top Ten Badass Band Director Tips!”
Finally, probably worth 1000-times the price of the book and all the time you will put into it is her Chapter 8 “Tuning Our Bodies” (page 103) and Chapter 9 “Creating Your Own First Four Minute Protocol” (page 129). This is where you will take what you read, reflect on her philosophies and system of classroom management and warm-ups, and adapt it to your situation. Adding to your teacher’s toolbox the techniques of mindfulness, breathing exercises, and listening skills – and practicing them with your students daily – will make all the difference in the SEL of your own lessons and overall program.
BRAVO and thank you Lesley for being so intuitive, upfront, and personal… and being so generous in sharing your secrets!
We applaud your efforts, and agree with Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser who said in the Foreword to Love the Job, Lose the Stress:
“This latest-greatest contribution offers a tried-and-true blueprint for vocational success while embracing the critical importance of fueling one’s mental, emotional and physical health. Spot on! Bull’s eye!”
“This is not a book you read and then put on the shelf; rather it is a file cabinet of priceless data certain to boister the health, happiness, and good fortune of every (music) teacher.”
“As music teachers, we teach students how to develop all kinds of skills, from mental to physical, in order for them to be well-rounded musicians. We show them how to properly form and embouchure, the correct fingerings to use, how to read music, what proper posture looks like, how to be artistic and expressive, and so much more. And we always tell them to “pay attention and “focus.” But do we ever teach them how to pay attention and focus? The secret to getting students engaged, focused, and curious so you can teach them all the cool stuff about music is teaching them how to actually build those skills until they become habits. Once you’ve taught them how to learn, then everything else becomes a million times easier for you and for them.”
— from the back cover of the Love the Job, Lose the Stress
Now you have it… a collection of at least three potential life-changing inspirations for summer study.
In addition to these “finds,” I need to mention a couple other educational publications for your consideration (see picture below). But, first-things-first as Stephen Covey would say! Check out Music Education and Social Emotional Learning – The Heart of Teaching Music by Scott Edgar, Thrivers – The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine by Michele Borba, and Love the Job, Lose the Stress by Lesley Moffat. PKF
In our neck of the woods (Allegheny County in Western PA), we are thawing out from what was a pretty mild winter, and welcome the sounds of birds chirping and sights of flowers blooming and grass turning green! Spring is the time for re-birth and growth… including professional development of all kinds for music educators – everyone from pre-service (future music educators) to in-service teachers and even retirees!
Let’s get recharged, re-energized, and re-inspired! Sign-up for one or more of these conferences.
COVID-19 has placed restrictions on all of our PMEA and NAfME venues, and so far, 2021 conferences will be held in a “virtual” platform. This is both good and bad news. The disadvantage remains that we cannot “get close and personal,” shake hands, network, collaborate, and “catch-up” with our friends and colleagues, meet new people, and sight-see places like the Poconos, Erie, Reading, or Pittsburgh! However, the advantage of these online events is that all sessions are being offered “on-demand” for at least several months after each closing event. In the virtual setting, you can take the time and view every workshop at your leisure!
If you have never attended a music education conference, take a moment and review one of these articles:
Yours truly is privileged to present several sessions on some of his “favorite topics” previously posted on this site:
Self-Care Cookbook – Reflections, Recipes, and Resources for Teachers (PMEA ANNUAL CONFERENCE)
Countdown to Retirement – Preparations for “Living-the-Dream” (PMEA ANNUAL CONFERENCE)
Hands-On Conducting (PMEA CRESCENDO FOR STUDENTS)
Hop on the E-Train – Essential Ethics for the new Educator (NAfME EASTERN DIVISION)
Update on 5/27/21:
PMEA Summer Conference 2021 – Rejuvenate!
The 2021 PMEA Summer Conference will be held virtually beginning Wednesday, July 21 and concluding on Friday, July 23. Most sessions will be presented live and will be recorded for attendees to access at a later time.
The PMEA Annual Conference kicks-off on April 14, 2021 for three days and four nights of professional development activities.
PMEA will utilize the same online platform for this event as it did for its 2020 Summer Conference. The virtual annual conference will also include a virtual exhibit hall. With the theme of Renew, the 2021 Conference invites music educators to use this time together to Renew the way you think about music education, to Renew plans for the 2021-22 school year, to Renew connections with fellow music educators, to Renew our hope for a return to making music together, and to Renew our collective passion for the power of music education. All registrants will have access to the majority of the conference content for 90 days. Online registration is available.
Thursday evening will feature synchronous open forum discussions and an Invited Researcher session with Elizabeth Parker, Temple University, as well as a keynote presentation by Byron Stripling, Principal Pops Conductor, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The evening will end with college/university receptions, held in the virtual space this year.
Synchronous research sessions will also be available on Friday in the late afternoon/early evening. The Saturday schedule includes a performance by the woodwind quintet WindSync and a presentation by Julie Duty, Founder & Executive Director of United Sound, an organization which offers the solution for music educators who desire to include students with disabilities in their music programs but struggle with the “how” and the “when.”
This year’s event will also include opportunities to network with fellow attendees, as well as an online Music Education Marketplace (exhibit hall) – allowing participants to connect directly with exhibitors within the platform. While the exhibit hall will be “open” the duration of the event, there will be specific hours, beginning Wednesday evening and concluding Saturday afternoon, when the exhibitors will be available for live interaction.
Students in grades 8-12 are invited to participate in the first-of-its-kind PMEA CRESCENDO, an online event to be held on April 17, 2021. Designed for student musicians who are interested in learning about opportunities to make music or find a career in music, the one-day conference will bring together some of the best speakers and teachers from a variety of music worlds.
Keynoters will feature Dave Wish, founder/CEO of Little Kids Rock, and ChaRonDon, rapper/hip-hop artist.
Sessions will include:
Careers in music (areas like music therapy, musical theatre, music education, military careers, music performance, music publishing, composition, retail and repair, and music production)
Breakout sessions (learning about drum corps, conducting, meet a composer, music technology, song writing, yoga for musicians, rap/hip hop, vocal jazz, leadership, and more!)
Masterclasses from experts on their instruments. Students will have the chance to spend some time learning more about their instrument or vocal performance area and get tips from the pros in unique online masterclass settings.
Finally, you won’t want to miss the following week’s frenzy of enriching and enlightening professional development, the 57th Biennial NAfME Eastern Division Virtual Conference!
In addition to the NAfME workshop sessions being only 30-minutes (colleagues sharing quick “tips, techniques, and solutions” and more opportunities to peruse additional sessions), there will be a designated Thursday evening “concert time” with 5 programs to play at 8:45 p.m. (Orchestra, Chorus, Band, Jazz, Modern Band) along with performances from the Division’s colleges and universities.
The master schedule is posted here. Registration can be completed here. Hope to “see” you there!
Unraveling “the Puzzle” of Landing a Music Teacher Job
Assembling the pieces: Interview Questions and Assessment Criteria
Soon it will be the season of new school district postings of employment openings and opportunities to be hired! Hurray! At long last, college music education majors have made it through all of the music and methods courses, recitals and concerts, competency exams, field observations, student teaching, and Praxis testing. Or, perhaps you are a veteran teacher looking to relocate and find a new job? You’ve come to the right place!
With rumors of retirements, sabbaticals, teacher shortages, and HR staff and administrators scrambling to find people to fill positions, NOW is the time to “bone up” on marketing yourself and practicing your interviewing skills – to get together with your friends and fellow “rookies” and schedule mock interview sessions to interrogate and evaluate each other. Record your mock interviews and sit back, watch, critique, and learn.
A large number of past blog-posts within this “jobs/training” section were provided to assist prospective new or transferring music educators in preparing for the often-stressful job search process. Scroll down for a summary of “the basics” to help you gain the tools, knowledge, competence, and confidence to succeed at your next interview!
Good luck! PKF
Let’s put the pieces together to ace those employment screenings!
How would YOU respond to these interview questions?
Teachers make as many as 1,500 decisions a day for their classes and students… that’s as many as four educational choices per minute for the average teacher given six hours of class time. Surprised? (Not if you are an educator!) Check out this corroborating research:
Of course it can be exhausting… and as fast as “things” happen, even mind-numbing at times!
What do educators rely on for guidance, a sort of internal “ethical compass” for making these decisions, many of which are snap judgments?
Teacher “chops” (professional experience)
Peer and administrative support
Personal moral code (derived from one’s life experiences and upbringing)
Aspirations, values, and beliefs generally agreed upon by educational practitioners
State’s code of conduct and other regulations, statutes, policies, and case law
Or all of the above?
At this juncture during my workshops on ethics, I usually quote Dr. Oliver Dreon, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Digital Learning Studio at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and one of the authors of the Educator Ethics and Conduct Tool Kit of the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission:
“From a decision-making standpoint, I tend to look at it from the perspective of Ethical Equilibrium (work by Troy Hutchings). Teachers weigh the moral (personal) dimensions with regulatory ones (the law) with the ethics of the profession… While focusing on consequences is important, I worry that teachers may interpret this to mean that as long as they don’t break the law, they can still be unprofessional and immoral.”
– Dr. Oliver Dreon
From college students participating in their first field observations to rookie teachers (and even veterans in the field), I recommend searching the term “ethics” on the website of your State Board of Education. In Pennsylvania, checkout the following:
Now enters probably the single most valuable document of our time, an all-encompassing philosophy for embracing the highest standards of what it means to be an ethical educator: the Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE), developed under the leadership of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). With the collaboration of numerous development partners including the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, and American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education – to name a few – MCEE is comprised of five core principles (like spokes in a wheel – all with equal emphasis), 18 sections, and 86 standards.
“The purpose of the Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE) is to serve as a shared ethical guide for future and current educators faced with the complexities of P-12 education. The code establishes principles for ethical best practice, mindfulness, self-reflection and decision-making, setting the groundwork for self-regulation and self-accountability. The establishment of this professional code of ethics by educators for educators honors the public trust and upholds the dignity of the profession.”
Although pre- and in-service training on both are essential, the differences between a “code of conduct” and a “code of ethics” are vast. Codes of conduct like the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Pennsylvania teachers are specific mandates and prohibitions that govern educator actions. A code of ethics is a set of principles that guide professional decision making, not necessarily issues of “right or wrong” (more shades of grey) nor defined in exact terms of law or policies. Codes of ethics are more open-ended, a selection of possible choices, usually depended on the context or circumstances of the situation.
“The interpretability of The Model Code of Ethics for Educators allows for robust professional discussions and targeted applications that are unique to every schooling community.”
The music teacher and administrator colleagues with whom I have been privileged to work for more than 40 years are highly dedicated and competent visionaries who focus on “making a difference” in the lives of their students, modeling “moral professionalism” and the highest ethical standards for their classes, schools, and communities, in support of maintaining the overall integrity of the profession.
However, let’s unpack some of “the wisdom” of MCEE as it addresses the rare “nay-sayers” and entrenched teacher attitudes, failing to understand “the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do…” (Potter Stewart) or “doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal” (Aldo Leopold).
Here are sample negative responses, MCEE “exemplars,” and proposed assimilations for thoughtful and interactive peer discussion. Bring these to your next staff meeting or workshop, and apply them to a few mock scenarios (like these from my past blog ).
Principle I: Responsibility to the Profession
The professional educator is aware that trust in the profession depends upon a level of professional conduct and responsibility that may be higher than required by law. This entails holding one and other educators to the same ethical standards.
“I didn’t know it was wrong…”
Section I, A, 1: Acknowledging that lack of awareness, knowledge, or understanding of the Code is not, in itself, a defense to a charge of unethical conduct;
My comment: The old adage, “ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
“What’s the problem? I didn’t break the law!
MCEE Section I, A, 5: Refraining from professional or personal activity that may lead to reducing one’s effectiveness within the school community;
My comment: Any on or off-duty conduct or inappropriate language that undermines a teacher’s efficacy in the classroom, damages his/her position as a “moral exemplar” in the community, or demeans the employing school entity may result in loss of job, suspension or revocation of license, and/or other disciplinary sanctions.
“I’m not a rat fink…”
MCEE Section I, B, 2: Maintaining fidelity to the Code by taking proactive steps when having reason to believe that another educator may be approaching or involved in an unethical compromising situation;
My comment: As a professional with “fiduciary” responsibilities, we must look out for the welfare of our students, proactively protecting them from harm by embracing all provisions of “mandatory reporting.”
“What’s in it for me?”
MCEE Section I, C, 3: Enhancing one’s professional effectiveness by staying current with ethical principles and decisions from relevant sources including professional organizations;
MCEE Section I, C, 4: Actively participating in educational and professional organizations and associations;
Principle II: Responsibility for Professional Competence
The professional educator is committed to the highest levels of professional and ethical practice, including demonstration of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for professional competence.
“What’s the big deal about standards?”
Section II, A, 1: Incorporating into one’s practice state and national standards, including those specific to one’s discipline;
“Not another ‘flavor-of-the-month’ in-service program!”
Section II, A, 5: Reflecting upon and assessing one’s professional skills, content knowledge, and competency on an ongoing basis;
Section II, A, 6: Committing to ongoing professional development
My comment: Always “raising the bar,” being a member of a “profession” (like medical personnel, counselors, attorneys, etc.) requires the loftiest benchmarks of self-regulation and assessment, ongoing training, retooling, and self-improvement plans, revision and enforcement of “best practices,” and application of 21st Century learning skills.
“I needed to give him credit?”
MCEE Section II, B, 1: Appropriately recognizing others’ work by citing data or materials from published, unpublished, or electronic sources when disseminating information;
My comment: Especially during this period of online/virtual/remote education brought on by COVID-19, we must reference the owners of intellectual property (including sheet music) that we use and abide by all copyright regulations. In general, it is always “best practice” to cite research or authorship “giving credit where credit is due!”
“I’m just a music teacher! Don’t ask me to do anything else!”
MCEE Section II, C, 2: Working to engage the school community to close achievement, opportunity, and attainment gaps;
My comment: We teach “the whole child,” not a specialty or specific content area! I believe our ultimate mission is to facilitate our students’ capacity and desire to learn, inspire self-direction and self-confidence, and foster future success in life.
Principle III: Responsibility to Students
The professional educator has a primary obligation to treat students with dignity and respect. The professional educator promotes the health, safety, and well being of students by establishing and maintaining appropriate verbal, physical, emotional, and social boundaries.
“It’s just a gift…”
MCEE Section III, A, 5: Considering the implication of accepting gifts from or giving gifts to students;
My comment: It is not appropriate to give a gift to a student lacking an educational purpose. In some cases, this may be defined as a “sexual misconduct.” It begs the larger question: “Do you ensure that all of your interactions with students serve an educational purpose and occur in a setting consistent with that purpose?” Also from the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission: “Teachers should refrain from accepting gifts or favors that might impair or appear to impair professional judgment.”
“You should never touch a student!”
MCEE Section III, A, 6: Engaging in physical contact with students only when there is a clearly defined purpose that benefits the student and continually keeps the safety and well-being of the student in mind;
My comment: We were told this warning in methods classes. However, as I mentioned in a previous blog here, this “rule” has little support in research or common “best practices.” It has been my experience that on occasion, most elementary instrumental teachers assist their students in acquiring the correct playing posture and hand positions by using some (limited) physical contact. Consoling an upset student with a pat on the shoulder is not out-of-line either. The factors that may contribute to the moment being judged “okay” vs. “inappropriate” boil down to:
Length of time
Frequency or patterns of repetition
Comfort level of the student
Age level of the student
Happening in public
Who started it?
“My students are my friends!”
MCEE Section III, A, 7: Avoiding multiple relationships with students which might impair objectivity and increase the risk of harm to student learning or well-being or decrease educator effectiveness;
My comment: You cannot be their “friend.” You are their teacher, an authority figure that is looking out for them and doing what is necessary (“fiduciary” responsibilities) for their health and welfare… perhaps at times things they do not want you to do. Crossing the teacher/student boundary with familiarity, informality, and being their “confidant” or “friend” are more than just unprofessional acts – they can foster a dual relationship where roles are less defined, an ambiguity that may lead to additional inappropriate actions and educator misconduct.
“He’s weird…” or “He’s not one of us!”
MCEE Section III, B, 2: Respecting the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual student including, but not limited to, actual and perceived gender, gender expression, gender identity, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and culture;
My comment: Check your prejudices and personal biases at the door. Being a teacher is all about sensitivity and caring of all individuals – students, parents, staff, etc. Embracing today’s focus on reprogramming community attitudes on “diversity,” an educator daily models the values of empathy, compassion, acceptance, and appreciation, not just settling with the “lower bar” of tolerance, allowance, and compliance!
“Wait ’til you hear what happened in class today!”
MCEE Section III, C, 1: Respecting the privacy of students and the need to hold in confidence certain forms of student communications, documents, or information obtained in the course of practice;
My comments: Gossiping about and “carrying tales” home or in the teachers’ room are serious breaches of the care and trust as well as your fiduciary responsibilities assigned to you on behalf of your students. As for “regulations,” your indiscretion may be a violation of your students’ confidentiality rights (“a federal crime” according to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Grassley Amendment, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). You are only permitted to share information about a student with another teacher, counselor, or administrator who is on a “needs-to-know” basis or is actively engaged in helping this student.
Principle IV: Responsibility to the School Community
The professional educator promotes positive relationships and effective interactions with members of the school community while maintaining professional boundaries.
“Don’t tell my parents!”
MCEE Section IV, A, 1: Communicating with parents/guardians in a timely and respectful manner that represents the students’ best interests;
My comment: I wish I had a nickel every time a student plead with me, “Don’t call my mom!” It is part of “moral professionalism,” your “code,” and good ethical standards to originate meaningful two-way dialogue, and if necessary, confront the parents of underachieving children. I also believe it goes on long way to nurture your relationships in the community if you notify parents when their kid has done something remarkable… “I caught him being good” or “The improvement has been extraordinary!”
“Did you hear what a staff member said about you… in front of the kids?”
MCEE Section IV, B, 1: Respecting colleagues as fellow professionals and maintaining civility when differences arise;
MCEE Section IV, B, 2: Resolving conflicts, whenever possible, privately and respectfully, and in accordance with district policy;
My comment: Before you bring up the matter with your supervisor or building administrator (which you have the right and even responsibility to do, especially if the students hear any improper speech first-hand or that the incidents rise to the level of bullying or aggressive behavior), first confirm the story. Talk to the unhappy team member one-on-one. Be calm and sensitive, but hold your ground: you must assert that his/her behavior/language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the future.
“Not another TEAM meeting?”
MCEE Section IV, B, 4: Collaborating with colleagues in a manner that supports academic achievement and related goals that promote the best interests of students;
My comment: We work together to insure that all educational goals are met. Open and interactive peer partnerships are helpful in the review, design, and application of new lessons, methods, media, and music.
“I was just teasing her…”
MCEE Section IV, B, 8: Working to ensure a workplace environment that is free from harassment.
My comment: Be extremely careful in the practice of any behavior or language of a kidding, sarcastic, cynical, or joking manner. It can be misinterpreted regardless of your intentions… and it can hurt someone’s feelings. And it is never appropriate or “professional” to “put down” another person.
“Don’t ask for permission… beg for forgiveness.”
MCEE Section IV, C, 3: Maintaining the highest professional standards of accuracy, honesty, and appropriate disclosure of information when representing the school or district within the community and in public communications;
My comment: Yes, I have heard this “view” a lot, advocates of whom will tell you to go ahead and stick your neck out to do something “for the good of the order,” and if needed later, “beg for forgiveness” if you decision is met with disapproval from administration. My advice? Less experienced teachers, run everything through your fellow colleagues (informally) and principal (formally). Don’t fall back on the lame “oops” and “beg for forgiveness.” I may have felt differently when I had three times as many years of experience under my belt than the supervisors who were assigned to “manage” me… but, even then, “venturing out without a paddle” usually did not serve the best interests of the students. There’s no reason to place “the teacher’s convenience” over the safety/welfare of the students. Besides, why not take advantage of the legal and political backup of your bosses if they are kept “in the loop?”
“He’s our preferred dealer and always takes care of us.”
MCEE Section IV, D, 4: Considering the implications of offering or accepting gifts and/or preferential treatment by vendors or an individual in a position of professional influence or power;
My comment: Formerly called “sweetheart deals” with music companies, you are on “shaky” ethical ground (and may also have “crossed the line” violating state laws/statutes) if you negotiate the rights of exclusive access to your school’s or booster’s purchasing. If you have any questions about your school’s policy on outside vendors, seek advice from your district’s business manager.
Principle V: Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology
The professional educator considers the impact of consuming, creating, distributing, and communicating information through all technologies. The ethical educator is vigilant to ensure appropriate boundaries of time, place, and role are maintained when using electronic communication.
“Isn’t use of social media forbidden?”
MCEE Section V, A, 1: Using social media responsibly, transparently, and primarily for purposes of teaching and learning per school and district policy. The professional educator considers the ramifications pf using social media and direct communications via technology on one’s interactions with students, colleagues, and the general public.
My comment: Professional educators’ use of a dedicated website or other social network application enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc. and “learn” together. However, using social media for sharing social interactions and personal relationships with your students, parents, and staff is unethical and dangerous. As they say, “a post (or snap) is forever.” Communicating digitally or electronically with students may lead to the blurring of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and create additional challenges to maintaining and protecting confidentiality.
The Final Word
In Pennsylvania (as well as the rest of the country), the statistics on school staff misconduct reports are rising alarmingly. Your own state’s “code of conduct” and the MCEE should help to clarify misunderstandings, but it has been my experience that the majority of educators do not receive regular collegiate, induction, or in-service training on educator ethics or moral professionalism. Luckily, we are fortunate to have access to many mock scenarios (see below) from state departments of education to review/discuss among ourselves common ethical conflicts and “conundrums” dealing with pedagogy, enforcement, resource allocation, relationships, and diversity. We all need to “refresh” our understanding of these issues from time to time and revisit “our codes” frequently to help “demagnetize” (and re-adjust) our decision-making compass.
Please peruse the ethics category of this blog-site for other articles and sample references below.
Every day in the news, we hear of another sad story of someone being tricked into giving up some of his/her hard-earned green-stuff… numerous successful fraudulent schemes to get you to part with your $$$ willingly or simply steal it right out from under you without you even knowing it! Even the FBI has devoted a webpage on elder-fraud which we should all review: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/elder-fraud. With losses as high as $3 billion annually, this is a problem we all must become better informed.
My blog-posts are provided to educate and inform retired music teachers and other professionals… and there’s never a reason to “reinvent the wheel” if I can share something “as is” that is totally “on the mark!” Before you do anything else, for you and your family’s personal financial security, education, and peace-of-mind, take a 15-minute break and read the entire Birch Gold Group Scam Protection Resource Guide on this website here: https://www.birchgold.com/scam-protection-resource-guide/.
Below is an outline of their recommendations with the hopes to better illuminate the problem, define types of fraud and methods to avoid them, and warn you about the “booby-traps” that are out there ready to pounce on the unwary. More resources are also offered for “homework.”
The Birch Gold Group guide is designed to “provide investors with the info necessary to identify fraudulent activity and common-sense solutions to avoid being scammed.”
Six warning signs of a scam:
Sounds too goods to be true
High-pressured sales tactics
Complex investment strategies
Limited account control
Insider info, faked credibility
Six tips to avoid fraud:
Ask the salesperson tough questions
Do your own research
Beware of unsolicited offers
Protect yourself online and on social media
End the conversation
Know what to look for
Nine prominent types of scams:
Advance fee scam
Foreign currency trading (Forex)
High-yield investment programs (HYIPs)
Also from Birch Gold are these additional investment “scams” for which you should be on the lookout:
(Permission was granted for reprinting portions from the Birch Gold website.)
More Advice on Blocking Financial Scams
“Year after year, a destructive flood of fraud sweeps the nation, leaving countless victims in its wake. Unfortunately, new and improved technology only gives fraudsters an edge, making it easier than ever for scam artists to nab financial data from unsuspecting consumers. In fact, swindlers and hackers pinched $16 billion from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, according to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2017 Identity Fraud Study. To make matters worse, the Identity Theft Resource Center reports there were 1,473 recorded data breaches in 2019.2 But even in these uncertain times, there are things consumers can do to protect themselves from greedy, increasingly crafty fraudsters.” — Investopedia
Amy Bell contributed a helpful article to the Investopedia blog “on topic” with the following title: “Ten Tips to Avoid Common Financial Scams,” This is another excellent resource you should peruse detailing her “top ten list.”