inteREVIEWING the situation… and jobs

Senior Music Education Majors’ Employment Prep

Did you miss your state MEA conference?

Three of the most important recommendations for PCMEA members and other new or prospective music teachers wanting to develop a “personal brand” and presence on the job market are:

  1. Being an active member of your national (NAfME), state (PMEA), and local (college chapter) professional music teacher associations,
  2. Attending every possible music education meeting, workshop and conference, and
  3. Reading everything you can get your hands on from the first two resources above, modeling well-practiced habits of professionalism and networking skills, and getting yourself focused, organized, and prepared for the upcoming interviews.

That’s how you will get land your first employment as a full-time music educator.

pmea

If you live or go to school in PA, you should have attended the PMEA Spring Conference in Erie, PA last week. Just to “rub it in” a little, here are a few of the excellent sessions you missed that were especially geared for collegiate pre-service music teachers:

  • Getting the Most Out of Your Student Teaching Experience
  • Cracking the Graduate School Code: When, Where, Why, How, & How Much
  • Starting with the End in Mind – or – You’ve Got 4 Years, Use Them Wisely
  • Music Education & Gaming: Interdisciplinary Connections for the Classroom
  • Ready for Hire! Interview Strategies to Land a Job
  • Planning Strategies to Develop a Responsive Teaching Mindset

More importantly, if you are in your 4th year and were a no-show to your state conference this year, you missed out the chance to do a little networking, to “put your ear to the ground” listening for market trends and possible position openings for next year. You could have rubbed elbows at a bar (drinking a diet coke) or clinic or concert with a music supervisor, department chair, administrator, or high school band/choir director who knows who is taking a sabbatical or retiring from his/her school upon completion of the current semester.

Successful professionals stay up-to-date with their journals

PMEA NewsAs a “professional,” you have an open, inquisitive mind, constantly strive for self-improvement, continuing education, and retooling, embrace change and better ways of doing something, and “practice” your craft. This means you read your educational publications from cover to cover. For example, these were a few of the tips in a recent PMEA News article, “I’ve Got an Interview, Now What?” shared by Dr. Kathleen Melago, PCMEA State Advisor and Associate Professor of Music Education at Slippery Rock University, and Doug Bolasky, retired band and orchestra teacher and former Department Chair of the Southern Lehigh School District:

  1. “The interview process at each school district is likely as unique as the district itself, and while there is no foolproof way to know in advance what questions will be asked of you, it helps to give some thought to what questions may come your way.”
  2. “It’s easy to tell someone what you would like to do; more valuable to the interviewers is what you DID do. Be ready to cite instances from your student teaching and even field experiences.”
  3. “Think about items you could place into your portfolio that would help you answer the questions. For example, if you are answering a question about an idea you implemented that was creative, consider including an artifact in your portfolio that provides credibility to your answer. Avoid simply passing around your portfolio during the interview. Instead, use it as a visual aid…”
  4. “Enlist the aid of a friend and use a webcam to record yourself answering the questions as in a mock interview. Look for distracting mannerisms like playing with your hair, saying ‘um’ or ‘like,’ and so forth.

Are you ready? Assess yourself! Then, DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW!

For those who are nearing completion of their coursework for a teaching certificate, the season of professional school interviews is coming… At this point, you should be familiar with assessment rubrics and other evaluative tools used in education. Right NOW how well do you stack up in prepping for employment screenings? Complete this checklist as honestly as possible. I am citing and “reviewing” past articles I have written at this blog-site… a perfect opportunity for you to “fill in the missing gaps” and get started on this process of finding the perfect job!

quiz-1-1189422

  1. [   ] I am familiar with numerous criteria for assessing teacher candidates (for what the employment screening committee may be looking), including specific instructional, professional, and personal skills, experiences, behaviors, or ”core teaching standards” of “Unsatisfactory,” “Satisfactory,” “Good,” or “Superior.” I know the Charlotte Danielson Framework (one evaluative model for professional development used by the PA Dept. of Education – (https://www.danielsongroup.org/) or sample school district assessment forms. DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/criteria-for-selection-of-the-ideal-teacher-candidate/ and https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/a-blueprint-for-success-preparing-for-the-job-interview/.
  2. [   ] I have developed a comprehensive unified philosophy of music education that spotlights my abilities from the perspective of a generalist not a specialist. I can model competency and experience in general music, piano playing, vocal and instrumental (band, strings, and guitar) music, Classical, jazz, pop, and folk music styles, improvisation, composition and music theory, and technology teaching grades Pre-K to 12. DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/.
  3. [   ] I am comfortable with today’s jargon, current trends, and key “buzz words” in general education. This includes everything from “The Common Core” to “The Four C’s” of 21st Century learning, and all of those constantly changing acronyms like HOTS, DOK, RTI, and UBD. These terms may come up at interviews, so I have at least a precursory understanding about them, and if I am “stumped” with a particular question, I will admit needing clarification (and I will look it up when I get home). DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/the-alphabet-soup-of-educational-acronyms/.
  4. [   ] I am becoming a proficient storyteller and have prepared a set of personal anecdotes to potential questions that may be asked at the interviews. I have practiced responding with specific examples of my past experience and accomplishments, not just “telling” my strengths but allowing the listener(s) to make his/her(their) own deductions about me from my stories. DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/.
  5. [   ] I have practiced taking “mock interviews” in front of my peers and recorded myself for self-assessment of my ability to answer employment screening questions. DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/the-dos-and-donts-of-interviewing/, https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/interview-questions-revisited/, https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/those-tricky-interview-questions/, and https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/body-language-interviewing-for-a-job/.
  6. I understand the concepts of…
  7. I have a high-quality…

What was YOUR score… out of 11?

Get to work… so you can get work!

job-concept-2-1140644-1

PKF

Photo credits: FreeImages.com, photographers hvaldez1 (studying for a test), Tory Byrne (quiz), and Svilen Milev (hire).

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Criteria for Selection of the “Ideal” Teacher Candidate

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.”    – Brad Henry

Standards and Benchmarks of Top-Rated Educators in Music and Other Academic Subjects

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best way to prepare for a job interview is to become aware of how you will be judged in comparison with your peers. What are the standards (or behaviors or criteria) of outstanding teachers? For what are administrators looking to fill the vacancies and build/maintain a quality staff?

Interviews will sort out (and rank) the competencies, certifications, education levels, and overall experience of the candidates. Obviously, mastery of subject content and teaching methods will be evaluated. However, you may be surprised that significant focus will be placed on personality traits, social skills, and evidence of personal drive, reliability, versatility, vision, and habits of professionalism.

In short, you may be the best musician this side of the Mississippi, the “model lesson planner,” and can conduct Orff’s Carmina Burana or Shostakovich‘s Festive Overture blindfolded, but if you cannot inspire students, work with coworkers, and communicate effectively, your interview and chances for being hired are doomed from the start.

Adapted from David Berliner and William Tikunoff, “The California BTES: Overview of the Ethnographic Study,” effective teachers score high on…

  • Accepting
  • Adult involvement
  • Attending
  • Consistency of message
  • Conviviality
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACooperation
  • Student engagement
  • Knowledge of subject
  • Monitoring learning
  • Optimism
  • Pacing
  • Promoting self-sufficiency
  • Spontaneity
  • Structuring

Effective teachers score low on…

  • Abruptness
  • Belittling
  • Student defiance
  • Counting hours or “clock punching”
  • Illogical statements
  • Mood swings
  • Oneness (treats whole group as “one”)
  • Recognition-seeking

In previous blogs (e.g. https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/the-meaning-of-pro/), I have defined the qualities of a “professional.” How many of these traits do you model?

  • Succeeded in and continues to embrace “higher education”
  • Updates self with “constant education” and retooling
  • Seeks change and finding better ways of doing something
  • Like lawyers/doctors, “practices” the job; uses different techniques for different situations
  • Accepts criticism (always trying to self-improve)
  • Proposes new things “for the good of the order”
  • interview-1238367Can seemingly work unlimited hours (24 hours a day, 7 days per week)
  • Is salaried (does not think in terms of hourly compensation, nor expects pay for everything)
  • Is responsible for self and many others
  • Allows others to reap benefits and credits for something he/she does
  • Has obligations for communications, attending meetings, and fulfilling deadlines
  • Values accountability, teamwork, compromise, group goals, vision, support, creativity, perseverance, honesty/integrity, fairness, and timeliness/promptness
  • Accepts and models a corporate standard of behavior and appearance

It is worth reading “Weigh In: What Makes a Great Teacher” by Jacqueline Heinze in the Winter 2011 issue of Administr@tor Magazine (see http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3755567). Among the numerous responses were these notable quotes:

  • “A great teacher must be resilient.”
  • “Great teachers are instructional leaders and curriculum designers.”
  • “Great teachers love what they do and perceive teaching as their calling.”
  • “Great teachers are empathetic and engaged.”

Also check out these websites for additional insight on the characteristics of a exemplary educator:

students-1460768Since the process of teacher selection in the public schools involves recruitment, screening, hiring, placement, induction, and evaluation, it is advisable for prospects to know the assessment practices already in place. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Pennsylvania has adopted The Framework for Teaching as the overarching vision for effective instruction in the Commonwealth.

The Framework for Teaching is written by Charlotte Danielson, an internationally-recognized expert in the area of teacher effectiveness specializing in the design of teacher evaluation systems that, while ensuring teacher quality, also promote professional learning.

The introduction to The Framework of Instruction Evaluation Instrument 2013 states its purpose:

“The Framework for Teaching identifies those aspects of a teacher’s responsibilities that have been documented through empirical studies and theoretical research as promoting improved student learning. While the Framework is not the only possible description of practice, these responsibilities seek to define what teachers should know and be able to do in the exercise of their profession.” – Charlotte Danielson

The model focuses the complex activity of teaching by defining four domains of teaching responsibility:

  1. Planning and Preparation
  2. Classroom Environment
  3. Instruction
  4. Professional Responsibilities

The domains can be further broken down into…

danielsons_image_dom1-4

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

  • 1a Demonstrating Knowledge of Content & Pedagogy
  • 1b Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
  • 1c Setting Instructional Objectives
  • 1d Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources
  • 1e Designing Coherent Instruction
  • 1f Designing Student Assessments

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

  • 2a Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport
  • 2b Establishing a Culture for Learning
  • 2c Managing Classroom Procedures
  • 2d Managing Student Behavior
  • 2e Organizing Physical Space

Domain 3: Instruction

  • 3a Communicating with Students
  • 3b Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques
  • 3c Engaging Students in Learning
  • 3d Using Assessment in Instruction
  • 3e Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness

inside-a-class-room-school-1435436Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

  • 4a Reflecting on Teaching
  • 4b Maintaining Accurate Records
  • 4c Communicating with Families
  • 4d Participating in a Professional Community
  • 4e Growing and Developing Professionally
  • 4f Showing Professionalism

Many Pennsylvania districts assess their professional staff and verify their teacher’s professional growth via rubrics or other evaluative tools, as well as the collection of artifacts that support these domains. Archives of these “best practices” would be assembled in portfolios for the principal’s year-end review (samples printed in blue below are possible artifacts for music educators in particular):

Domain 1: Planning

  • Assessment Tools
  • Lesson Plans
  • New Curriculum Innovations
  • Personal/Professional Goals
  • Music Repertoire/Program Lists
  • Subject Outlines

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

  • Audio-Visual Resources Including Recordings
  • Formal Observations
  • Informal Observations
  • PowerPoint Presentations
  • Sample Classroom Displays/Bulletin Boards

Domain 3: Instruction

  • Arrangements (Teacher Composed)
  • Conferences with Colleagues/PLCs/Teams
  • Meetings with Mentors/Curriculum Leaders/Principals
  • Printed Concert, Musical, Drama, or Recital Programs
  • pencils-1240400Sample Homework and Worksheets
  • Student Composed Music/Lyrics/Exercises
  • Warmup Drills and Style/History Handouts

Domain 4: Professionalism

  • Act 48 Clinics and Workshops
  • Congratulatory Notes from Parents/Staff
  • Grade Books and Attendance Records
  • Letters/Newsletters Sent Home
  • Minutes of Department Meetings
  • Professional Development Programs
  • Student Recommendations
  • Student Records

Individual school districts define their own “vision of a model teacher,” aligning the selection criteria with the goals of the school system and the needs of the individual schools. For example, Upper St. Clair School District (an Allegheny County public school system located in southwestern Pennsylvania, and where I worked 33 years as music educator and seven years as Performing Arts Curriculum Leader) adopted the following Assessment Criteria for Teacher Candidates (developed by Superintendent Dr. William Pope, Human Resource Director Ms. Jean Toner, and other staff). “In a nutshell,” these are what USC calls “core behaviors” or standards of personality traits, skills, and knowledge, and serve as categories for assessment of all job applicants during the interview process:

Instructional

  • Educational Philosophy
  • Knowledge/Experience
  • Classroom Management
  • Technology
  • Oral Expression
  • Written Communications

college-1241412Professional

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Judgment
  • Problem Solving
  • Planning & Organizing
  • Innovation

Personal

  • Initiative
  • Dependability
  • Adaptability
  • Self-Insight and Development
  • Energy and Enthusiasm
  • Appearance

My next blog on this subject will provide examples of music teacher interview questions for each of the above criteria… suitable for individual practice or group mock interview sessions, and to assist in the formulation of stories/anecdotes that would support a candidate’s mastery of each standard. The importance of this preparation is explored in a previous blog: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/.

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Overview – Strategies for Landing a Music Teacher Job

“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a challenging job market with limited openings for public/private school music educators in many geographical areas of the country, there is great competition in the screening and evaluation of the applicants. I am happy to offer some tips and techniques towards successful career preparation, employment searches, interviewing, and promotion of your image and record of past performance, experiences, achievements, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that are job-related.

The concept of marketing oneself for employment is based on several skill sets:

  • Knowing the territory
  • Making connections
  • Branding yourself
  • Storytelling about the challenges and triumphs you faced in life
  • Proving that you have “what it takes” and your skills/experiences would be a “good fit” to the needs, goals, and values of the institution, employer, and position to which you are applying
  • Being persistent and well-organized

Here is my outline of general targets for marketing professionalism and a successful job hunt. Many of these subjects have been/will be shared in current or future blogs on this site.

  1. Develop and model your skills as a “professional.” (Read my July 1, 2015 blog “The Meaning of Pro.”)
  2. Complete a self-assessment of your content knowledge, teaching skills, musicianship, and personality traits. (Prepare in advance so that you will be able to share your “best” attributes.) One model for evaluation of prospective and current educators is Charlotte Danielson’s “Four Domains” from The Framework for Teaching. (To research these, see http://danielsongroup.org/framework/).
    • Planning and Preparation
    • Classroom Environment
    • Instruction
    • Professional Responsibilities
  3. Seek out avenues (while in college or around your music education peers) to practice and improve your weakest skill areas (less familiar band/string instruments, improvement in piano accompaniment, jazz improvisation, or singing)
  4. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities, the precursor for the development of a comprehensive résumé and portfolio.
    • Bulleted list of specific academic and music accomplishments with dates
    • College assessments and transcripts
    • Scholarships and other awards
    • Education experiences (e.g. lists, photos, and/or audio/video recordings of student teaching, observations, and other field assignments, private teaching, substitute teaching, other employment in the private and public schools, conducting or performing in community ensembles, summer camps, sports, scouts, church programs, marching band sectionals or field assistance, choral accompaniment or vocal/drama/dance coachings, etc.)
    • Sample solo recital and chamber/large group concert programs
    • Sample lesson plans, learning targets, rubrics, and other student assessments
    • Original compositions and arrangements
    • Congratulatory notes and letters of reference
  5. Create a philosophy of music education. Be ready to answer the key essential questions “What is your personal mission?” and “What is the role of music in a child’s education?” (To define a broad-based vision for becoming the ultimate “total music educator,” avoiding any prejudice to, limitations in, and restrictions of a particular music specialty, see my July 4, 2015 blog “Marketing Yourself and Your K-12 Music Certification.”)
  6. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon, terminology, trends, and acronyms, possible topics administrators may check for understanding at a future interview. If you do not know the meaning of terms like The Common Core, formative/summative assessments, or 21st Century Learning Skills, look them up. (See my July 18, 2015 blog “The Alphabet Soup of Educational Acronyms.”)
  7. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes (see #2 above), artifacts (#4), and examples of your professionalism (#1) – the most important successes you have had in your education, career and personal life. Metaphors, analogies, and humorous anecdotes are the foundation for excellent storytelling at interviews. (See my August 2, 2015 blog “When It Comes to to Getting a Job, ‘S’ is for Successful Storytelling.”)
  8. Pre-interview preparation
    • Creation or revision of your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website
    • Practice and drill on answering common interview questions (including self-assessments of video samples) – see examples of interview questions from the 2013 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association In-Service Conference: http://www.uscsd.k12.pa.us/Page/6361
    • Research of the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations
    • Development of appropriate and meaningful questions to ask the interviewer
    • Trial run (know exactly where you are going, time needed, traffic patterns, etc.)
  9. Positive interview techniques (future blog)
  10. Post interview (debriefing yourself) and organization of the job search process (another future blog)

As they say in the theater, “break a leg” at your job interview!

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox