Hacks for Music Teachers – Part 2

More Tips, Tricks, & Techniques to Help You Organize

As you can see, it has been awhile since I shared a blog-post. It looks like I went on vacation and skipped the entire month of July!

Well, truth be told, familiar to many of my band director friends, we are hitting the streets with a plethora of summer clinics, rehearsals, and camps to prepare for and usher in the season of parades, halftime shows, pre-games, festivals, competitions, etc., and although I am officially “retired,” I chose to re-up as “admin” to the “Pride of Upper St. Clair” – the marching band of the school from which I left in 2013. Serving as announcer for now more than 37 years, I decided to “put the pedal to the metal” and join the “band leadership team” to discover the joy of watching our ensemble “hatch” their new shows from scratch, re-awaken and build on their technique, inspire and grow their membership, and focus on “practice-practice-practice” and “making music!” I just finished a grueling week of those 12-14 hour band camp days spent in close partnership with 100+ of my favorite high school musicians.

Fantastic? Yes. Exhausting? Absolutely! It reminds me of 30-years-worth of nonstop days and nights of leading the annual spring musical as director/producer, including missing meals, dragging myself home to re-acquaint myself with my wife (who went through this, too), and dropping into bed. I have always said, quoting Ernie Zeliniski in his book How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free, it is important to find PURPOSE, structure, and community in retirement… but this hectic pace of frenzied activity at times tests my endurance. And, it feels a little like I never left teaching….

Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to share some “advice from the experts” in terms of organizational tools and quick fixes or “hacks.” (See Part 1 on this topic.) This is only a gourmet “taste” of their ideas to simplify your life, work, and teaching. You should do yourself a favor and take more time to research the websites below for a complete explanation of their recommendations. We appreciate their generosity and willingness to be “free and open” to permit us to repeat their ideas in this forum.

Easy Time Savers for Instrumental Teachers

Photo and article excerpt by Wendy Higdon

To get started with a “bang,” let’s visit Wendy Higdon’s “On and Off the Podium” website here, or the NAfME “Music in a Minuet” blog site which reprinted her Clever Music Teacher Hacks That Will Make Your Year Amazing – Getting Ahead of the Time Crunch.

  • “Use rubber pencil grips as inexpensive thumb rest cushions on clarinets by cutting them in thirds. (see photo)
  • Pink erasers work well as emergency rock stops for your cello and bass players
  • Purchase golf pencils on the cheap to keep in the classroom so that forgetting a pencil never becomes an excuse. Kids won’t love using these short, little pencils, so they are less likely to walk away at the end of class.
  • Three ring binders with sheet protectors help students keep organized and also cut down on lost music. If you want to be super-organized, add a pencil pouch and tab dividers in the binder.
  • Strips of velcro on the carpeting work well as guides to where chairs should go and allow your students to quickly and easily straighten up the rows. (see photo)
  • Print a sign with important information that your students frequently need (music store phone number, website addresses, etc.) and have them take a picture with their phone so they won’t have to ask you in the future. Do the same for important dates, locker combinations or anything else that is easily forgotten.
  • Locker mirrors can be purchased cheaply during school supply sales. Buy a class set and use them to check embouchure and more!
  • Did a clarinet or sax player forget their ligature? Or worse. . . it got stepped on and now it is as flat as a pancake! Use a rubber band to hold the reed on the mouthpiece until the student can get a new one.
  • Does your baton get buried under all your conductor scores? Use a binder clip on the side of your music stand, and it will always be handy! (see photo)
  • Do your beginning flute players have trouble remembering which keys the fingers of their left hand go on? Use “Avery Dot” stickers to mark the keys. You can do the same with clarinet pinky keys. Color code the keys on the right and left hand to assist students in learning their alternate fingerings. (see photo)”

There are a lot more “why didn’t I think of that” time management hints throughout the article. Also, be sure to check out her interesting Microsoft Word and Excel templates to use for your seating and locker assignments.

Band Directors Collaborate!

Photo and article excerpt by Mike Doll

The middle school band directors in South Carolina got together and created a brainstorming session to share teaching tips and strategies with each other in order to improve their music programs. According to Mike Doll, editor of one of the blog posts Band Directors Talk Shop, “After the success of the first meeting, we decided to continue this on a regular basis, and we now do this 2-3 times a year for the past 10 years. These ‘best practices’ gatherings have been very informative, and we always walk away with several new ideas to try in our classrooms.”

Here are several ingenious ideas from their “toolkit” of Tricks of the Trade – Five Organizational Tips.

1. Music sorter stick
“One of our directors shared a neat way to sort music back into score order without multiple piles of different parts scattered around them on the floor. If you go online and search for Plastic Sort All, you will find the tool they use for this trick.”

“The director then used a label maker and created labels for each instrument in score order and attached them to the sorter in place of the letters and numbers on the end. “

2. Lines/tape on the floor for easy chair placement
“One director, with a tile floor, mentioned they would check with their maintenance folks and find out when the wax would be stripped from the floor. At that point, they would tie a string to their director stand and measure the distance to the first row. They would then attach a sharpie to the other end of the string and use it like a compass to draw arcs on the floor. Once the floor was waxed, the lines never came up. Gaffers tape also works on carpeted floors. At the end of each class, the director would have everyone look down to make sure the front chair legs were on the arc. Clean neat rows in seconds at the end of each period.”

5. SMART Band Student.

“Quick and clean set of expectations for your band students. A SMART band student is one who is:

  • Silent
  • Marks Mistakes
  • Attentive
  • Respectful
  • Team Player”

The article’s “Tip #4” on Band Binders is reminiscent of what I had applied to my grades 5-8 string program. My wife utilizes something similar for her online music lessons. Rookie or new teachers, especially, check it out!

In addition, you should peruse their website for an inspiring collection of articles on a host of other topics:

Band Room Hacks

Photo from Google’s Search of “Band Room Hacks on Pinterest” by Julia Arenas

How timely and appropriate! I stumbled on this Pinterest site, Band Room Hacks, a collection by Julia Arenas, and since I did not get advance permission to reprint her library of images, I will invite you to go explore them for yourself. At a quick glance, I see she has assembled from music colleagues a lot of excellent storage solutions as well as music teaching tools that may inspire you to modify/add your own new time-saving shortcuts.

Time and Task Management on Steroids

We round off our organizational hacks for music teachers with the brilliance of Ashley Danyew, and excerpts from her blog post 9 Time-Saving Tools and Tactics for Busy Music Teachers and Directors.

Although productivity experts like Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the originators of the aforementioned (in Part 1) Priority Management System (a favorite of mine) may be most helpful, we can all learn from Ashley as she sums things up with these tips on supercharging ourselves in planning for a good start to the school year. (You’ll have to visit her post to get the full gist of what to do!)

  1. Put all your to-do’s in one place.
  2. Track your time.
  3. Batch related tasks.
  4. Limit social media.
  5. Divide your work-day into time blocks.
  6. Set aside time to send and respond to emails.
  7. Close documents and browser tabs you are not currently using.
  8. Go into meetings with an agenda or outline.
  9. Make templates.

I particularly love this introduction to her article:

“One thing I hear over and over from church musicians and music educators (well, everyone, really) is that there never seems to be enough time to get it all done.”

Time to teach
Time to rehearse
Time to write
Time to practice
Time to be with family
Time to be a good friend
Time to read
Time to exercise
Time to learn

“We’re always looking for new ways to be more productive, get more done in the little time we seem to have, and save time in places where, like money, we might be overspending. Am I right?”

“That’s one of my favorite ways to think about time – as money. It’s a commodity. We all have the same number of hours in the day – it’s how we spend them that makes the difference.”

Where (and how) do you want to spend your time? What’s important to you?

“Once you can answer this question, you’ll be motivated to make it happen – to take control of how you’re spending your time and look for ways to save it, where you can.”

9 Time-Saving Tools & Tactics for Busy Music Teachers and Directors
by Ashley Danyew

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Have a great school year!

PKF

It’s Time for… the PMEA Summer Conference!

The summertime academic break is essential for the health and wellness of every music educator. Hopefully you are enjoying a little TIME OFF and an emotional and intellectual break and release from thinking about your professional responsibilities and anything about school!

Europeans swear that it takes no fewer than three weeks of what we would call an extended vacation. They say we need that much time to totally unwind, de-stress, rest, and, if necessary, lick our wounds and even “heal ourselves!” Summer should allow us to focus on family, friends, and leisure activities FIRST – to re-adjust our “work/life balance.” After an appropriate interval, then we can get ready to re-charge and re-energize, to recommit emphasis on new music program goals and professional development.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Pennsylvania and be a member of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), I have a wonderful “crosswalk” solution to accomplishing this REBOOT – a combined “refresh and re-invest” makeover – to first get out of dodge for a change in scenery and then take care of your own social-emotional learning to come back to school raring to go! It’s simple! Sign-up to participate in the 2022 PMEA Summer Conference to be held in-person at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Reading, PA on July 18-19, 2022.

Here’s the link to registration and detailed schedule: https://www.pmea.net/pmea-summer-conference/.

Once again, PMEA is “crushing COVID” and returning to some level of normalcy to offer a face-to-face summer conference of many “awesome” professional development venues – everything from hands-on music reading, member “sharing” sessions, clinics on advocacy, band, choral, classroom music, community ensembles, conducting, curriculum writing, gender identity, health/wellness, mentor training, Modern Band, music technology, recruitment, strings, and so much more!

Check out this summary of wonderful workshops:

Update as of 6/28/22

Approximately Nine (9) hours of Act 48 credit will be available.

This year’s event will include keynote speakers Suzanne Hall and Rollo Dilworth from Temple University as well as NAfME President and PA’s very-own super-star Scott Sheehan.

Feeling a little charitable, altruistic, or eleemosynary? (Great word – look it up!) On Tuesday, July 19, there will be a “Give-Back to the Community” event: PMEA’s Second Annual Day of Service at Goggle Works.

Now, what about that EXTRA FUN part? Well, you can turn your conference into a family vacation by just arriving a little early and/or leaving a little later.

First, how about attending a Minor League baseball game? PMEA acquired tickets to the Reading Fightin’ Phils vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats contest on Sunday, July 17 at 5:15 p.m. at the FirstEnergy Stadium.

Next, there are a lot of terrific family-fun things-to-do in Reading, PA and the surroundings… (Special thanks to https://uncoveringpa.com/things-to-do-in-reading-pa for this “awesome” travel resource!)

Berks County, a combination of rich farm country, industry, beautiful parks, lots of entertainment, and top-notch educational institutions, is home to one of Pennsylvania’s largest cities, Reading, as well as many small communities that offer a lot of history and natural beauty. For PMEA members going to the Summer Conference, it is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of family-friendly attractions, recreation pursuits, touring of the landscape scenery, and other day trips. If you were to visit the area before and/or after the conference, here are at least 18 places-to-go before returning home:

Source: 21 of the Best Things to Do in Reading, PA
  1. Reading Pagoda, Mount Penn https://uncoveringpa.com/reading-pagoda
  2. Nolde Forest, 600-acres and miles of hiking trails https://uncoveringpa.com/nolde-forest
  3. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, bird-watching https://www.hawkmountain.org/
  4. Daniel Boone Homestead, birthplace of the frontiersman https://uncoveringpa.com/daniel-boone-homestead
  5. Goggle Works, former factory, art galleries (site of the PMEA Service Project) https://goggleworks.org/
  6. Covered Bridges, at least five of them close to Reading https://uncoveringpa.com/covered-bridges-berks-county-pa
  7. Reading Railroad Museum, railroad memorabilia https://uncoveringpa.com/reading-railroad-heritage-museum
  8. Neversink Mountain, miles of hiking trails (including City Overlook and Witches Hat) https://berksnature.org/trails/
  9. Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, WWII history, artifacts, and tours https://uncoveringpa.com/mid-atlantic-air-museum-reading
  10. Chatty Monks Brewing, restaurant/craft brewery https://uncoveringpa.com/chatty-monks-brewing-west-reading
  11. Blue Marsh Lake, swimming, fishing, boating https://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Blue-Marsh-Lake/ 
  12. Berks County Heritage Center, museums and trails http://www.co.berks.pa.us/dept/parks/pages/heritagecenter.aspx
  13. Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, antique autos https://uncoveringpa.com/boyertown-museum-of-historic-vehicles
  14. Crystal Cave, first “show cave” located near Kutztown https://uncoveringpa.com/exploring-crystal-cave
  15. Reading Public Museum, exhibits, paintings, geology, planetarium https://uncoveringpa.com/reading-public-museum 
  16. Hopewell Furnace Historic Site, iron furnace https://uncoveringpa.com/visiting-hopewell-furnace-national-historic-site
  17. Golden Age Air Museum, WWI planes http://www.goldenageair.org/ 
  18. Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University https://www.kutztown.edu/about-ku/administrative-offices/pennsylvania-german-cultural-heritage-center.html

Finally, if you need any additional urging, here’s our new PMEA State President Scott Cullen with his invitation for you to join us at the Summer Conference: https://fb.watch/dYrKOvAHkG/.

But, don’t wait! Register today for the PMEA Summer Conference at this link.

The deadline for hotel registration is fast approaching! The discounted block of rooms at the Reading Doubletree will close out at the end of the day on Friday, July 1.

See you in Reading, PA!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Hacks to Help Music Teachers Organize

Tips, Tricks, & Techniques for Time & Task Management

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

“Hack” – hæk – noun – various definitions

  • “a usually creatively improvised solution to a computer hardware or programming problem or limitation” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “one who works hard at boring tasks” OR “a mediocre and disdained writer” (vocabulary.com)
  • “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently” (Google)
  • “someone who does work that is not important or original” (Britannica Dictionary)
  • “an illegal attempt to gain access to a computer network” (Wiktionary)
  • “a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something” (Merriam-Webster)

Is “hack” really a bad word? Consider this modern-day etymology in the article “A 125-Year-Old Letter Dives Into the True Meaning Of the Word Hack by Robert McMillan posted on SLATE:

If you walk through the heart of Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, you’ll find a rather imposing two-story mural painted by artist Brian Barnecio. It looks like a massive totem pole filled with abstract shapes that resemble lips and eyeballs and boxes of ping-pong balls, and in the middle of it all, there’s a single word: hack.

In the late ’80s and on into the ’90s and early 2000s, hack was a dirty word. It evoked danger and criminal activity. It was all about breaking into computer systems, telephone networks, and other vulnerable technology. People who knew their computer history disagreed, but the negative connotation took hold in the mainstream. But over the past decade, hacker has been rehabilitated. Today, it seems, everyone wants to be a hacker. Facebook has gone a long way towards renovating the word, building its massive successful company around the idea that hacking is a good thing, a way of transforming technologies into something better.

Referring to only positive interpretations of “hack,” we turn to the World Wide Web and our colleagues in collaboration to explore unique ways to streamline and make more efficient our personal organization, day-to-day routines, and management of our office and music teaching “best practices” in time/task management. Peruse through these insights “borrowed” from professionals in the field. Some may resonate within you and solve problems you may have; others may inspire you to create other “hacks” towards success.

If you haven’t done so already, please consult my past blog posts on similar topics at this site:

First, I will revisit and expand on one of my favorite “systems” called Priority Management.

The Four D’s

Ever heard of Priority Management (PM)? Trolling the Internet, there are a lot discussions and resources that extol the virtues of “the four D’s” – DO IT, DELETE IT, DELAY IT, or DELEGATE IT:

It may at first seem like a novel way to clean off your desk and desktop. But, in my opinion, it goes to the root of our problem in time management – PRIORITIZE and give rid of the (another “D”) DISTRACTIONS!

PM’s “WorkingSm@rt method” promises to help you “gain control over your day, find balance, prioritize your work, and reach your goals,” giving you time to focus on the tasks that are important to you. The bottom line – every digital or printed post-it-note, piece of mail, receipt, publication, email or other communication – must be “put in its place” on the spot – either completed instantly, deferred to another time, given to someone else to do, or THROWN OUT!

You could reverse the order of the D’s to make the workflow go even faster… “start with the end in mind” as Stephen Covey would say, and DELETE unnecessary “stuff” first. This “habit” is particularly suitable for email: clear out the spam and TRASH duplicate messages and things that do not need your response.

Consider these PM Hacks:

  1. In advance, set-up file folders labeled by months, weeks, or days, and one each of these: in-basket, out-basket, and (very important) PRO-TIME tray.
  2. Designate a “PM Period” every day when you go through your in-basket of unsorted (e)mail and delete unnecessary stuff/tasks, date/delay for another time, delegate to others (out-basket), or…
    DO THEM NOW!
  3. As part of your “delay file,” place journals, catalogs, or other professional readings in a professional read tray (PRO-TIME), but regularly schedule daily/weekly time to do “silent and sustained reading.”
  4. Allow NO unsorted pieces of paper to ever infiltrate the surface of your desk.

How does PRO-TIME look for a music educator? We should intentionally focus on fostering our own creative self-expression, artistry, and professional development:

  1. Read an article in a professional journal or digital newsletter.
  2. Write your own article or blog post for a professional e-publication.
  3. “Keep up your chops” on your instrument or voice. Practice every day!
  4. Keep up with your “musicianship training” like ear training, sight-reading, and score reading. Pull out a copy of Elementary Training for Musicians by Hindemith and practice exercises that make you sing in syllables, tap a different rhythm independently with your left hand, conduct the beat pattern with your right hand, and beat your foot to the pulse. OR revisit your college solfeggio assignments, and of course, sight-singing or playing-at-sight anything new-to-your-eyes is most beneficial.
  5. Take time to compose or arrange your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
  6. Perform or improvise on the piano or guitar, rotating weekly to different musical styles and forms.
  7. Is it time to learn a new instrument? When was the last time you crossed the break on the clarinet, drilled in paradiddles on the snare drum, OR shifted to third position on the violin? Can you play as well as your beginning students?
  8. If you’re not a piano wizard or an accomplished accompanist, try your hand at sight reading several different voice parts simultaneously from choral octavos. OR can you transpose and play “at-sight” a musical phrase from a full score? (Those French Horn parts always challenged this violist!)

Besides committing to regular scheduled PRO-TIME, you have to systemize your D-PLANNING by going over your DELAY files during your daily designated “PM Period.” (Yes., this will take discipline!) In addition, once a month (or whatever frequency you choose), you must to review and move things from longer-term goals to short-term or immediate action. Being conscientious and meticulous in the use of your very-limited planning time and scheduling what author of Fewer Things, Better Angela Watson targets for your “non-flexibles” is paramount for “taming the time tiger!” Her “aligning priorities” approach to time management echoes the philosophy of PM and First Things First by Stephen Covey:

  1. Identify your non-flexibles
  2. List your top priorities that you want to uncover more time for
  3. Specify what life would look like if you prioritized these things
  4. Add top priorities to the unallocated time in your schedule
  5. Identify/schedule the in-betweens

From How to Retire Happy, WIld and Free by Ernie Zelinski

Setting Priorities – How’s Your Work/Life Balance?

If you have been following this site, you know this blogger has retired from full-time public school music teaching. However, “preaching to the choir,” we all know how busy our schedules have become and how unbalanced things can get – no matter who you are – college music education majors, fully active music educators, even retirees. In fact, we should all be taking the advice of author Ernie Zelinski in his book How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free to set priorities and find equilibrium in our daily, weekly, monthly work/life to-do lists and tasks. How do your pie slices look (above)? Do you spend more time thinking of your school/job than your more pressing personal commitments. Do you commit adequate time for your own self-care?

Angela Watson helps us engineer “a plan” that will foster balance. Or, if you have a few moments, visit the website(s) of the late great Stephen Covey, author of the book and series Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in many ways one of the most renown experts on time management. I would start with this clever YouTube video excerpt of him hosting a workshop on the merits of “finding the big rocks” in your life: https://youtu.be/zV3gMTOEWt8. He summed it up with the quote: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

The next step might be to consume Covey’s First Things First book and corresponding website here.

Summer Reading

Before you get started with planning your 2022-23 school year, we recommend taking a “time out,” pulling up a comfortable lawn chair or Lazy-Boy, and diving into these personal tutors – “gems.”

Also, if you want to taste more of the vision and work of Stephen Covey, check out his many books.

Coming Soon…

Part 2 – More Hacks to Help Music Teachers Organize

In our next blog-post, we will next share more insights – music educator to music educator – hopefully helpful hints thanks to these very inspiring sources:

  • Band Directors Talk Shop
  • Clever Music Teachers Hacks by Wendy Higdon
  • 9 Time-Saving Tools… for Busy Music Teachers by Ashley Danyew
  • Band Room Hacks on Pinterest by Julia Arenas

NOTE: This blog-site has a “comment” button at the top. If you would like to “come to the party” and offer up a little wisdom of your own, send in your own “hack” for a future posting.

HELP… Yes, there are ways to help clear up the clutter and GET ORGANIZED!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Music and Literacy Skills

How to Use One to Improve the Other

Editor’s Note: For this month’s blog, we bring back guest writer Ed Carter, a retired financial planner. (See his website here.) His piece, perfect for new music parents, summarizes many of the “intangibles” that music education provides to foster child development, especially the enhancement of language skills. In 2019, I wrote the blog “The Importance of Music Education” (click here) based on an interview I did for a local community news program on the essentiality of teaching music that covered many of these concepts. Special thanks go to Ed Carter for sharing his research and perspective. 

Parents and educators are always looking for ways to improve their children’s learning –
especially when it comes to reading. Sometimes, though, unconventional approaches can work wonders. Experts believe the best way to boost a student’s reading is actually to expand their knowledge and vocabulary by teaching them history, science, literature and the arts.

Understanding the Connection

Children who learn to play an instrument or who join a choir have a longer attention span and better listening skills. Music stimulates the brain in so many ways. In fact, playing music may help the human brain more than any other activity. Some researchers even suggest that musical training can alter the nervous system in a way that improves learning in a way that offsets the academic gap between affluent students and students from lower income backgrounds.

Music improves language skills in particular because there is a neurological connection between maintaining rhythm and reading. Scientific American notes that when children learn how to keep a beat, they are better able to concentrate on a passage and decipher the meanings behind the words. A child’s reading ability relies on making a connection between the symbols they see on the page and the sounds of letters.

The Best Age for Music Lessons?

There is no such thing as a kid being too young for music. Many parents even expose their child to melody and rhythm before they are even born in an attempt to stimulate brain activity. Drumming is a great place to start. It is more important they gain experience with music and learn to develop a meaningful relationship with it at a young age. Children as young as 3 can develop skills like identifying a beat, melody and instruments in music.

By the age of 5, your child may be ready for formal lessons with beginner instruments such as drums, the piano, violin, recorder, guitar or ukulele. If your 5-year-old is not ready to start formal lessons with an instrument, they can still develop their musical skills online. Invest in a kid-friendly laptop and some durable headphones that allow them to interact with online music programs and apps that develop skills that can translate to playing an instrument in time.

To exhibit your genuine interest in your kid’s growing skills, consider creating a music room for them to be able to learn and hone their craft. This dedicated space is a perfect place for distraction-free lessons. It’s a good idea to soundproof the room, too, so others in the home aren’t disturbed. Having a bonus room that can act as a multipurpose room can increase your home’s appraisal value should you decide to sell anytime soon, as such upgrades are what many buyers look for.

Music Mistakes to Avoid

While some children pick up an instrument like a fish to water, all children develop differently. If you push your child into music lessons too early, they can become overwhelmed. Not progressing in their skill can hurt their self-esteem and discourage their progress. Let your child ease into their musical lessons gradually with time.

You can’t just throw money at a music tutor and expect that to be enough. If you want your child to grow in their skills, sit with them as they practice each day. Consistent practice is more effective than long lessons and your presence provides discipline and encouragement.

There is going to be a moment where your child expresses a desire to quit their instrument. Instead of letting them give everything up too soon, always talk with your child about why they feel like quitting and adjust their lesson goals to make playing music fun again rather than a chore. Encouraging your child to stick with it rather than quit teaches your child how important perseverance is in life.

Children all over the country struggle with reading. Adding music lessons to your child’s schooling can help improve their language skills and reading comprehension. There’s no exact age for starting music lessons, but incorporating music into other activities is a great way to start introducing them to rhythm and melody. As they grow up, involve yourself in your child’s learning and measure progress by the goals they reach and the amount of fun they have.

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits:

Storytelling, etc. – Part 2

More on Developing Employment Marketing Skills

If you have not read it, as a warm-up, check out our first blog-post: “When It Comes to Getting a Job, ‘S’ is for Successful Storytelling.”

Since posting a plethora of resources on the job search, interview preparation and questions, branding, and networking, we came upon a few more perspectives, tips, and hands-on exercises you can use to “practice – practice – practice” landing gainful employment as a school music teacher – especially on building your capacity to “tell your own story,” who you have become, what unique qualities you bring to the mix, and how/why you have chosen music education as your “calling!”

Probably the most extensive set of links ever compiled on the subject can be downloaded from here:

But, be warned! It may take you days to read and absorb all of these past blog-posts and articles! They represent the ideal prerequisite – knowledge is power! Before going any further, take the afternoon off, find an easy chair, and focus your attention on creating a successful “action plan” for handling your upcoming employment screenings.

The Exercises

In a recent session for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Annual Conference in Kalahari/Poconos, we explored the following reflective/interactive activities. These work best in pairs or small groups, but you can adapt/individualize them for self-study:

  1. Close your eyes. Who had the greatest influence on you becoming a music educator? (Do you see his/her face?) What did your “model” musician or music educator have or exhibit… name at least three attractive personality or professional traits he/she had and that you would desire to develop in yourself? WRITE THEM DOWN – LIST #1. In a group setting, share at least one of these with your neighbor. (Swap!)
  2. Now it’s time to turn the attention on YOU. On a separate piece of paper, WRITE DOWN (LIST #2) YOUR three most redeeming qualities, unique professional/personal traits that any employer would be proud to know about you. Again, in a group setting, share at least one of these with your neighbor.
  3. For now, put these lists aside. There are no RIGHT or WRONG answers, but in past interview workshops, these terms often get repeated (for both Lists #1 and #2): Charisma, Creativity, Dedication, Dynamo, Excitement, Expertise, Humor, Intuition, Kindness, Leadership, Musicianship, Problem-Solver, Sensitivity, Tirelessness, Versatility, Virtuosity, and Visionary. On another piece of paper, add 1-3 more of these you may not have originally thought were among your positive attributes – WRITE THEM DOWN ON LIST #3.
  4. According to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, effective teachers (the ones for whom HR/employers are searching) score high on these skill sets/characteristics: Accepting, Adult Involvement, Attending, Consistency of Message, Conviviality, Cooperation, Student Engagement, Knowledge of Subject, Monitoring Learning, Optimism, Pacing, Promoting Self-Sufficiency, Spontaneity, Structuring. Do a self-assessment and apply these to yourself. WRITE DOWN 3-4 OF THESE ON LIST #4. Pick new ones you have not mentioned in #1 through #3.
  5. Now comes the FUN part. It’s time to generate stories about past experiences you have had that would model these terms. For this exercise, we recommend writing down at least one unique anecdote from each list which would “show not say” your ability, new learning, or achievement. The “plot” of your story should be concise, focused on the one trait, and when told out loud, not take longer than a minute. Instead of “bragging” you are a problem-solver or adaptable, tell that story of how you had to instantly initiate a “plan b” lesson when it was obvious that the students needed more work on a concept you thought they had already mastered. Remember how you handled your first discipline problem or a child in crisis? If you feel you have the qualities of a leader or a team player, share specific examples of your interactions with children in high school, college, field observations/student teaching, church or community groups, volunteer jobs, etc. If you have trouble coming up with these, try to remember the funny or surprising moments, or even the challenging miscues or big boo-boo’s – all okay to share as long as you resolved the situation positively, created a solution that resolved the problem, or learned a new insight or skill to handle future episodes. No one expects perfection from a new teacher, just enthusiasm, professionalism, willingness to self-assess, and commitment to the cause.
  6. Now you should have a library of stories ready to practice on your roommate, friends and fellow collegiates. You cannot bring the scripts with you, so these have to be at your fingertips: memorized, well-rehearsed, short and sweet (and if you can make them humorous, go for it!).
  7. Every week from now through the job search process, add new stories to your collection. Scan your (e-)portfolio for more ideas. These are the criteria used by my former school district (from where I retired) to evaluative prospective candidates. Ideally, you should have anecdotes that cover each area:

My Favorite Rubric

At some point, you are going to have to “face the music” and practice swapping these stories with family members, friends, and/or fellow job seeking students. We’re all in this together! At your next college chapter of NAfME, music education methods class, or student teachers’ wrap-up meeting, try to schedule some “down time” to appoint each other to serve as interviewers/ees. At first, it may not be easy. Using randomly selected questions from the Ultimate Interview Primer above (pull numbers out of a hat), tell a story or two to exemplify your past history, competencies, and professional traits. Your “buddy” (who will be on the hot seat next) could evaluate your performance using the following rubric. Apply the Oreo cookie format (something good first/top cookie, something needing improvement/cream in the center, and end with something positive/bottom cookie) to avoid crushing anyone’s ego. Consider recording your mock interviews for future assessment. Here is a copy of the form with sample questions.

More Odds and Ends on Storytelling

These outside sources focus on the essential skill of storytelling, the whole point of the above exercises. After reading these, you may be able to assemble more meaningful anecdotes that truly model your positive qualities and experiences by telling “short stories” – and “actions do speak louder than words!”

We found this excellent website “How to Effectively Use Storytelling in Interviews” by Bill Baker on “strategic storytelling” that is worth your perusal. It sums up everything above nicely.

On the Media from NYC Public Radio offered an interesting radio show, coincidentally aired during my 5.5 hour drive back from the 2022 PMEA Annual Conference in Kalahari/Poconos. They dove into the geometric shapes of stories… and what they have to do with reporting on the pandemic AND perhaps (my perspective) considerations for telling better narratives (including ups and downs) at job interviews: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/kurt-vonnegut-and-shape-pandemic2

Even the popular website indeed advises us on interview stories: “10 Storytelling Interview Questions With Sample Answers.” This STAR approach is discussed with specific examples of questions and anecdotes:

  • Situation: Describe a situation you experienced in the workplace relevant to the question.
  • Task: Mention a task you had to complete in this situation.
  • Action: Summarize the actions you took to complete the task.
  • Result: Discuss the outcome of your actions.

Finally, here are a handful of YouTube videos… just the tip of the iceberg. Remember that iceberg metaphor? The part that you see above the ocean is the performance, the show, the interview, the product… while the mandatory practice, rehearsals, preparations, and planning take up much more space and are almost never seen. ARE YOU READY TO TELL YOUR STORIES?

Enjoy! Now the ball is in YOUR court!

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

PMEA’s Unique “Together” Conference

The return of in-person gatherings of PA music educators and students!

Here’s a “sneak preview” of the upcoming annual professional development convention for members of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) and Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association (PCMEA).

https://www.pmea.net/pmea-annual-in-service-conference/

After being “hunkered down” for two years of online workshops, virtual conferences, digital music industry exhibits, and Zoom rehearsals of PMEA All-State ensembles, we can now “crush COVID-19” with “face-to-face” meetings of the PMEA TOGETHER CONFERENCE on April 6-9, 2022 at the Kalahari Resort in the Poconos.

Not just a “play on words,” this LIVE event brings TOGETHER the awesome and inspiring vision and efforts of the PMEA Professional Development Council, state officers, and staff, along with a twist from tradition – offering a place to getaway from it all!

Ask your spouse or “significant other,” children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, other fun-loving family members, or close friends if they are available to join you for a three-day escape to the Poconos – “the world’s largest indoor waterpark” at Kalahari Resort! Experience great music, career development sessions, catching-up with colleagues, reconnection with your loved-ones, and entertainment for all ages – all wrapped up in one location.

https://www.kalahariresorts.com/pennsylvania/

Bring the family? Each spacious hotel room comes equipped with two double beds, a pullout sofa, microwave, and refrigerator, and the discounted $149/night conference rate allows you to register up to four people with access to all the resort’s amenities for no extra charge!

What resort amenities? Enjoy rides and slides (lots to “splash in” or just relax on the lazy river), a “big game” room, mini golf, mini bowling, 7-D motion theater, gourmet restaurants, spa, salon, fitness center, and amazing shopping and sightseeing excursions in PA’s northeastern region. While YOU are attending PMEA keynote sessions, clinics, concerts, and exhibits, the rest of your party could be “living it up” on as many as 29 waterpark thrills (from “mild” to “wild,” check out all of them on their website):

  • Anaconda
  • Barreling Baboon
  • Bugs Burrow
  • Cheetah Race
  • Coral Cove
  • Elephant’s Trunk
  • Flowrider
  • Indoor Outdoor Spas
  • Kenya Korkscrew
  • Lazy RIver
  • Lost Lagoon
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Rippling Rhino
  • Sahara Sidewinders
  • Screaming Hyena
  • Shark Attack
  • Splashdown Safari
  • Tiko’s Watering Hole
  • Victoria Falls
  • VR Waterslide
  • Wave Pool
  • Wild Wildebeest
  • Zig Zag Zebra

Source: Pocono Mountains Visitor Bureau

A joyful car trip to local scenes and attractions? The word “Pocono” means “the stream between two mountains.” This region encompasses 2,400 square miles of lakes, rivers, and woodlands just waiting to be discovered. Just how adventurous are you?

  • Explore numerous opportunities to hike, bike, bird watch, ski, fish, and photograph the wildlife, waterfalls, and other breathtaking landscapes.
  • Peruse the various exhibits of local artists at the White Mills Art Factory, 736 Texas Palmyra Highway (Route 6) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Wednesdays).
  • Try your luck at the Mount Airy Casino Resort Spa.
  • Or be a “wandering tourist” and visit nearby Stroudsburg, Milford, Jim Thorpe Honesdale, Lake Wallenpaupack, Hawley, Skytop, Bushkill, Lake Harmony, or Tannersville.
  • Check out this Poconos Mountains interactive map: https://www.poconomountains.com/interactivemap/.

Keynote speakers David Wish and Lesley Moffat

Now down to the business of professional development! In your free time from the above refreshing and re-invigorating moments of “down time,” you won’t want to miss the PMEA general sessions featuring keynoters David Wish of Little Kids Rock and Lesley Moffat, author of Love the Job, Lose the Stress. After opening the music industry and collegiate exhibits, numerous workshops, interactive demonstrations, and panel discussions will be hosted on a variety of “state-of-the-art” and timely topics:

  • Adjudication
  • Assessment
  • Career Development
  • Choral
  • Collegiate
  • Curriculum Development
  • Diversity/Equity/Inclusion
  • Exceptional Learners
  • Health and Wellness
  • Instrumental
  • Leadership/Mentoring
  • Modern Band
  • Music Technology

Draft of proposed 2022 PMEA Conference sessions

Sandwiched in between these clinics and meetings of PCMEA, PA Society for Music Teacher Education, PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention, PMEA Retired Members, Pennsylvania-Delaware String Teachers Association, and others will be opportunities to observe rehearsals and performances of the PMEA All-State Band, Chorus, Jazz, Orchestra, and Vocal Jazz, and attend concerts of guest performing ensembles – among “Pennsylvania’s finest.” Congratulations to:

Looking for that new classroom accessory, concert selection, educational travel group, fundraiser, instrument, technology tool, or uniform, or seeking to talk to representatives from music schools? Take time to visit the exhibits. PMEA thanks the continuing support of its PMEA Corporate Sponsors.

Early-bird registration of 2022 PMEA Conference Exhibitors

Yours truly (blogger) is proud to announce he is presenting three sessions at the conference:

  • CODES, CASE STUDIES, and CONUNDRUMS – The Challenges of Ethical Decision-Making in Education
  • THE INTERVIEW CLINIC – Practicing and Playacting to Improve Your Performance at Employment Screenings
  • RETIREMENT 101 – The Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How of Preparing for Post-Employment

PMEA will need volunteers to assist as presiding chairs or to serve at the INFO BOOTH near registration. In addition, the PMEA Retired Member Coordinator is seeking retirees to help serve on a guest panel of “semi-experts” for the retirement session.

It’s still a little early for much additional detail. However, check out this MOVIE TRAILER preview of the 2022 Conference, featuring The Pennsylvania March composed by PMEA retired member Ron DeGrandis.

As of January 17, 2022 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Kalahari Resort room reservations are open! The link to conference registration will be coming soon. For more information, please visit the PMEA website. Keep your eye out for revisions in future PMEA News, UPDATES, and other e-publications.

PKF

© 2022 by Paul K. Fox

Giving Back to the Association

A Pep Talk for Teachers to Become “Team Members!”

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!

Google English Dictionary provided by Oxford Languages

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.

Alabama Board for Registered Interior Designers

My “top-ten” benefits for membership in a professional association like PMEA are:

  1. Development and sharing of the standards and best practices of the profession
  2. Student festivals and music performance assessments
  3. Professional development and career advancement opportunities: workshops, conferences, and publications
  4. Leadership training
  5. Collaborative projects such as health and wellness seminars, ethics training, library of online resources, etc.
  6. Networking opportunities
  7. Models and resources for curriculum writing
  8. Coaching and mentoring resources
  9. Resources in job hunting and interviewing techniques
  10. 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.

PKF

© 2021 Paul K. Fox

Pictures from Pixabay.com by artist Augusto Ordóñez

PA Educator Ethics Update

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.

Besides criminal prosecution, based on the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Practices and Conduct for Educators, conduct that can trigger professional discipline include behavior defined as:

  • 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.”

Professional Standards and Practices Commission

Ethics Training… on a Personal Note!

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:

For PMEA, I have directed numerous professional development webinars or sessions at conferences. Check out the “free” materials posted here.

An excellent perspective on the judicial process for educator ethics prosecutions and interpretation of the PA law can be found on Thomas Bailey’s website and this blog-post.

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

Professional development workshops for PA Act 48 credit are offered by Thomas Bailey here.

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.

PKF

© 2021 Paul K. Fox

Do You Have a “Side Gig?”

4 Tips for Artists Seeking an Extra Income Stream

by Ed Carter

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?
  • What are the risks?

Tally up the costs and benefits and decide if the side gig is worth it. 

2. Start With a Trial Run 

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. 

© 2021 Paul K. Fox

Photo from Pexels by MART PRODUCTION 
Images from Pixabay by Brenda Geisse (flute), artesitalia (conductor), Vlad Vasnetsov (guitar teaching), and Светлана Бердник (dance lesson)

Studies in PA Educator Ethics Case Law

Photo by Associated Press: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

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.)

Manitoba Law Journal, October 1885

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

M.T. v. PA Department of Education: Analysis written by Thomas W. Bailey

Background

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. 

PSPC website

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

  1. Do the technical rules of courtroom evidence apply during an EDA hearing?
  2. What educator conduct constitutes immorality in a relationship with a student?
  3. What educator conduct constitutes lack of professional competence for an educator engaged in a sexual relationship with a student?
The Commonwealth Court of PA was established in 1968 and is one of two statewide intermediate appellate courts.

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.

Importance

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

https://twbaileylaw.com/blog/court-cases-4

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.

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.”

Unit 1, The Ethics of Teaching (Ethics Tool Kit)

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.

PKF

© 2021 Paul K. Fox