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

RECAP – Retirement Resources

A Treasure Chest of Tips for Living the Dream!

Are you retiring soon? Thinking about “taking the plunge” and “Crossing the Rubicon” into your “second beginnings” or “next chapter” of senior life?

No matter how busy you are now, you need to “take five” from your work or personal to-do’s and review the following recommendations from past blog posts at this site. Consider this a personal toolbox for the retired and soon-to-retire professional… and assigned HOMEWORK!

A good starting point would be to pick-up “The Myths of Retirement” and “Three Exit Lanes to Self-Help Retirement Guides,” or if you prefer to tackle everything at once, check out the omnibus “monster” resource guide posted here.

Now the top-ten list – a well-balanced collection of online essays. The more you read, the better you will be able to embrace a healthy transition through this major life passage!

1. Plan ahead for retirement: “It’s Not Only About the Money”

Read the entire article here.

It is agreed that a period of adjustment will occur during the first years of “interning” as a retiree, especially critical during the “pre-retirement” stage (believe-it-or-not, as many as six to ten years prior to “taking the big leap” to FREEDOM!). The solution to a smooth transition is to be prepared: communicate your intentions with your family members, and reflect on the vast considerations of the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” of retirement. This prep to your “golden years” is the perfect time for a little self-assessment and self-reinvention in finding new purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in your life.

2. Identify and take steps to alleviate the stress of leaving your job:
“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

Read the entire article here.

The phases of retirement are discussed in greater depth here, as well as different departure scenarios and the usual post-employment “cycles of emotions.” This piece is particularly good if you have ever felt pushed into early retirement or experienced being unappreciated, disrespected, uninspired, unsupported, or “burned out” in your career.

3. Are you really ready? “Signs it is time to retire… OR “Signs is NOT okay.”

Read the entire article here.

This “countdown to retirement” article poses the essential question “Are you psychologically (or emotionally) prepared to retire?” and offers a “road map” of seven easy steps towards closure for prospective music teacher retirees.

For more insight, you should also peruse “When Should You Retire.”

4. Determine your retirement destination:
“Do you know where you’re going to…?”

Read the entire article here.

This early blog post proposed several factors to consider for the choice of where you want to live in retirement… both geography and floor plans. Another good source to read on this topic is the book that was published two years later by the retirement guru and former PMEA session presenter Dave Hughes: The Quest for Retirement Utopia – How to Find the Retirement Spot That’s Right for You.

5. Maintain your professional associations:
“Ask not what PMEA can do for you, but what you can do for PMEA!”

Read several articles:

A retired educator is a valuable resource. If you care about the profession, there are many ways you can continue to contribute your experience and wisdom, albeit less stressful and time-consuming moments, but still assist your colleagues who continue to “fight the good fight” in the field.

6. Acquire a more carefree attitude: “It’s Not Your Sandbox”

Read the entire article here.

It may be at times a challenge to surrender your urge to continue as “an agent of change” or, as E.A. Wynne has written in “The Moral Dimension of Teaching” (Teaching: Theory into Practice, 1995), habits of “moral professionalism.” Learn how chill out and NOT to stress out over someone else’s supposedly poorly run “sandbox” and limit the need to provide unsolicited advice or major problem-solving for other organizations. 

7. Make music: “Dust off your chops” and 8. “Sing your heart out…”

Read the both articles here and here.

What led you to select a career in (and the “calling” of) music education? Retirement is the perfect place and time to expand on your love and skills in creative self-expression. When a music educator retires, among the many joys and fruits of his/her career in the arts is a sudden life-style change – the glorious transformation of being set free from those things you no longer want nor need to do (routine day-to-day drudgery, paperwork, meetings, etc.), embarking on new journeys to explore and embrace revised personal goals – hopefully including a renewed refocus on making your own music!

9. Explore mind-stimulating engagements: “Have you fed your brain today?”

Read the entire article here.

The mind is a terrible thing to waste, even during retirement. Discover something new every day! Maximize your “brain health” with a host of these ideas to consider for your bucket list.

10. Take time to “give back” and volunteer:
“What does it mean to be eleemosynary?”

Read both of these articles here and here.

In the scheduling our free time in retirement, it is important to feel “needed” and find activities that foster “mattering” to promote a positive self-esteem, good mental health, and stable life balance. Are you making choices to contribute to the musical and personal success and welfare of others? For the realization of the mission of this blogger’s retirement pastime: “I refuse to sit idle, binge-watch movies on Netflix, or view hours of boring TV.” To quote the song’s lyrics, this “senior citizen” will never lament…

Life is so unnerving
For a servant who’s not serving
He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon
Ah, those good old days when we were useful
Suddenly those good old days are gone
Ten days we’ve been rusting
Needing so much more than dusting
Needing exercise, a chance to use our skills
Most days we just lay around the castle
Flabby, fat, and lazy
You walked in and oops-a-daisy!

– “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast

Stay Connected with PA Music Education

PMEA Annual Conference April 6-9, 2022 at the Kalahari Resort (Poconos)

PMEA retired members, please take note of these special events especially geared to YOU:

  • Free Retired Member Breakfast Meeting (including take-away gifts) on April 8 at 8 a.m.
  • Retirement 101 session on April 8 at 11:30 a.m. – Retired music teachers are encouraged to participate on the guest panel to “tell your own story” to help any interested soon-to-retire colleagues.
  • Three keynote speakers will join this year’s event: Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Lesley Moffat, and David Wish.
  • The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will be featured on Thursday evening (April 7).
  • See last month’s blog for more details on the conference, tentative session schedule and exhibitors, AND the PMEA website.

PKF

© 2022 Paul K. Fox

Graphics from Pixabay.com:

New Year’s Resolutions for Retirees

Do you believe in formulating annual goals or drafting a couple “New Year’s Resolutions?”

THE STATS DON’T LIE

Every year around this time, the web highlights many so-called experts touting the benefits of making personal improvement plans… and is just as quick to admonish us for breaking them. The statistics are not encouraging:

Success/Failure rates over the first 6 months

  • Of those who make a New Year’s resolution, after 1 week, 75% are still successful in keeping it.
  • After two weeks, the number drops to 71%.
  • After 1 month, the number drops again to 64%.
  • And after 6 months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it.
  • In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after 6 months.

Overall success/failure rates

  • According to a 2016 study, of the 41% of Americans who make New Years resolutions, by the end of the year only 9% feel they are successful in keeping them.
  • An earlier study in 2007 showed that 12% of people who set resolutions are successful even though 52% of the participants were confident of success at the beginning.

Reasons for failure

  • In one 2014 study, 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions said they had unrealistic goals.
  • 33% of participants who failed didn’t keep track of their progress.
  • 23% forgot about their resolutions.
  • About one in 10 people who failed said they made too many resolutions.

https://discoverhappyhabits.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Of course, it does not have to be this way! Last year, yours truly made a promise to “practice what music teachers preach” and “make meaningful music” at least a little every day on his instrument. How did it go? Success! I made it to the middle of July without missing a day (until I sprained my left hand). But the goal led me to playing better than I have for decades, more self-confidence, a lot of fun polishing off movements from my favorite sonatas and concertos, and even the purchase of a new viola. Now? It is time for me to find a tuba, dive into my past “brass flame,” and join a community band! 

As we succeed in everything else for our lives, the process of setting aside time to analyze our personal pathways, assessing our needs, and making new goals is healthy. For the eternal pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment in retirement, I found these secrets to a ”winning” set of New Year’s Resolutions in the “Top-10 List” by the UAB School of Medicine:

  1. Start with specific micro-goals. (Keep them small, simple, and easy to accomplish.)
  2. Set resolutions for the right reasons. (Choose what is important to you, not someone else’s expectations.)
  3. Document your progress. (Write it down.)
  4. Practice patience and forgiveness. (No one is perfect. Just keep at it despite the curve balls thrown at you.)
  5. Schedule time to achieve goals. (Dedicate the necessary resolve and resources to accomplish them.)
  6. Embrace the buddy system. (Share in collaborating on group goals. You don’t have to achieve them alone!)
  7. Consider your budget. (Finances may play a role. Stay within your means.)
  8. Slow down and meditate. (Breathe, refocus, and be mindful.)
  9. Reward yourself for achievements. (No matter how big or small, treat yourself for reaching your targets.)
  10. Ask others to keep you accountable. (Publicize your intentions. They might help you achieve your goals.)

https://www.uabmedicine.org/-/10-secrets-of-people-who-keep-their-new-year-s-resolutions

SAMPLE RESOLUTIONS

You probably do not need someone to suggest things-to-do in 2022 or ways to self-improve. Effective goals and action plans must come from within yourself. However, there are countless advisors “out there” offering ideas to motivate you:

  • Keep a Positive Mindset
  • Commit to at least 10 Minutes of Exercise Daily
  • Make Better Dietary Choices
  • Stay Young-at-Heart – Surround Yourself with Young People
  • Stimulate Your Mind
  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Reach Out to Old Friends and Make New Ones
  • Kick Your Bad Habits
  • Maintain Your Purpose in Life as You Age
  • Give Back – Explore New Volunteer Opportunities

— Example sites: https://www.luthermanor.org/new-years-resolutions-for-seniors/ and https://www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/tip-sheet-top-10-healthy-new-years-resolutions-older-adults 

Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA)

ENGAGEMENT, ADVOCACY, & ASSOCIATION IN MUSIC EDUCATION

Modeling PROFESSIONALISM, these terms promote the power of “collaboration” and connections among music education colleagues and stakeholders (music students, parents, and the general public). To foster a broader picture and devise “bigger than self” New Year’s Resolutions, we should embrace forming partnerships throughout our pre-service, in-service, and retirement years with enhanced goals of active engagement, advocacy, and support of our professional associations.

In many past blog posts here and articles in PMEA News, Retired Member Network eNEWS, and NAfME Music in a Minuet, we have addressed ways that retirees can share their awesome “musical gifts,” know-how, and perspective to promote creative self-expression. If you are looking to adopt a 2022 New Year’s Resolution to “make a difference” in the music education profession, revisit this free archive here: https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/PMEA-Retired-Member-Network-eNEWS-s090721.pdf and also peruse this link: https://paulfox.blog/2021/11/10/giving-back-to-the-association/.

On a personal note, besides getting back to my viola practice and resuming my love of playing the tuba, I resolve to continue a focus on “giving back” whenever possible to my local community, PMEA, and the music education profession. How will I do this in 2022? By bestowing the gifts of SERVICE:

  • Chair of the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention
  • Coordinator of PMEA Retired Members
  • Artistic Director of the South Hills Junior Orchestra
  • Trustee and Communications Director of the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair
  • Volunteer Escort for the St. Clair Health
  • Author, clinician, and workshop presenter on the topics of educator ethics, interviewing and job search, professional standards, retirement, and self-care

Additional blog posts on the topic of New Year’s Resolutions and helping others in retirement:

PKF

© 2021 Paul K. Fox

iStockphoto.com graphic: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year by Tasha Art

Pixabay.com graphics:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Fox Household!

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

COVID-19 vs. New Year’s Resolutions?

How to “Make a Difference” in 2021

Of those who make a New Year’s resolution, after 1 week 75% are still successful in keeping it. After two weeks, the number drops to 71%. After 1 month, the number drops again to 64%. And after 6 months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it. In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after 6 months.

New Year’s Resolutions Statistics (Updated 2020) from Discover Happy Habits

Although we may be seeing the first signs of “the light at the end of the tunnel” with the distribution of the vaccines, coronavirus still has its grip on us… off-the-chart infection rates, record-breaking hospital admissions, schedule disruptions, restrictions on restaurants and small businesses, mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, precautionary self-isolation, etc. By all accounts, mindfulness, self-care, patience, and a positive outlook for the future are keys to making personal and professional goals as the pandemic rages on…

This article spotlights an age-old but usually neglected perspective – “think first” before you formulate any New Year’s Resolutions! For this to really work, you need a little research and reflection… and then COMMIT TO YOUR GOALS! Read on!

Start Out by Being S.M.A.R.T.

Admittedly, 44+ years in teaching has affected how I view goal-setting – “make it intention!” Adopt the often published S.M.A.R.T. approach to any plan. Make goals that are…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

What goals do you want to satisfy in 2021? “Keep it simple” and S.M.A.R.T. Like lesson plans, write your resolution(s) in behavioral terms… “by the end of this class, the students will…” For example, the easiest way to limit the intake of fried food in your diet is to write on a post-it note, “I will not eat anything fried this week” and place it on your bathroom mirror.

A lot of these resolutions fail because they’re not the right resolutions. And a resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons: 1) It’s a resolution created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change. 2) It’s too vague. 3) You don’t have a realistic plan for achieving your resolution.

How to Make and Keep a New Year’s Resolution by Jen A. Miller (New York Times)

Review the Usual Ones…

According to Brad Zomick in his GoSkills blog, these are the most common New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Learn a new skill or hobby 
  • Live life to the fullest
  • Save more money / spend less money
  • Quit smoking
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Travel more
  • Read more

Just as important to WHAT you choose is HOW you approach it. In his article, Zomick provides a “how-to” roadmap to success, if you follow his steps:

  1. Mentally prepare for change.
  2. Set a goal that motivates you.
  3. Limit resolutions to a manageable amount.
  4. Be specific.
  5. Break up big goals into smaller goals.
  6. Write down your goals.
  7. Share your resolutions with others.
  8. Automate when possible.
  9. Review your resolution regularly.
  10. If you fall off track, get back on quick.

Do these recommendations sound familiar? They should if you are a disciple of the aforementioned S.M.A.R.T plan. Also, the concept of “writing down your goals” should ring a bell if you recall the supposed 1979 Harvard Business School MBA Study on Goal Setting (urban legend?) reviewed by Wanderlust Worker here:

Have you set written goals and created a plan for their attainment? Prior to graduation, it was determined that 84% of the entire class had set no goals at all. 13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans. 3% of the class had both written goals and concrete plans. The results? Well, you’ve likely somewhat guessed it. 10 years later, the 13% of the class that had set written goals but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all. However, the apparent kicker is that the 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan, were making ten times as much as the rest of the 97% of the class. 

The Harvard MBA Study on Goal Setting from Wanderlust Worker

Whether the Harvard (or Yale) study is fact or faction is probably irrelevant. The point here is that to improve the odds for accomplishing our goals, we need to take the time to write them down, announce our intentions (your spouse or significant-other), and define the details with “action plans.”

The Glass Is Half Full

Have you heard the joke about the identical twins, one an optimist and the other a pessimist?

A psychiatrist has one son who is a total pessimist, and another who is a complete optimist.  He decides on an experiment.  For Christmas he fills the pessimist’s room with hundreds of beautifully wrapped gifts, and dumps a heap of horse manure in the optimist’s room. On Christmas morning he sees the pessimist boy sitting motionless at the center of his room, eyeing his gifts suspiciously. But over in the optimist’s room he sees his boy filled with joy, digging happily in the odorous pile. He asks the kid what he’s doing and he answers:  “Daddy, with all this horse dung, there’s gotta be a pony in here someplace.”

The Center for Optimism

It’s time to cheer-up, look to the future, and embrace HOPE for tomorrow!

Are you kidding? You want me to “put on a happy face” after all the pandemic has done? YES!

One remedy for “losing the blue funk” is to reject all “blame and complain” speech or behavior! It is so easy to get caught up in negativity… family adversity or “challenges” of a medical or employment nature, or simply being forced to remain distant from each other, daily news media reports about COVID-19, political dissension and the polarization of viewpoints, angry rants on social media, etc. literally fanning the flames of an unprecedented perpetual global “bad mood!” I even found myself in the throes of periodic bouts of public distemper, griping on Facebook about a Dial for Men product that made my hair dry (my FB friends responded, “Thanks for the heads-up” – ha, ha!), or grumbling about the roll-out of new revisions of WordPress and Constant Contact program editors that are not backwards-compatible nor fail to support the “look and feel” of previous versions. The effect of exposure to or expression of all of these “B” words (badmouth, beef, bellyache, bemoan, bicker, b*tch) is to make you even more bitter… not fostering the “can-do’s” for taking steps towards helping others, self-renewal, or an optimistic attitude.

Do you find your emotions swinging rapidly from sadness to elation to anger or fear during the lockdown? If your mood is all over the place at the moment, that’s completely understandable. This is not a normal situation. It’s a hugely disruptive, sudden change to our daily lives that nobody was prepared for. It isn’t surprising that many people are experiencing unpredictable moods. “It is going to affect everyone’s mood in many, and sometimes unexpected, ways,” reveals psychotherapist Mark Bailey. “Whether it’s worry, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, discombobulated, angry and even perhaps unexpected emotions like relief as we accept some of our current situation, it’s useful to know that as we experience one emotion it doesn’t nullify or negate another.”

COVID-19: How to Manage Mood Swings... by Natalie Healey

Get Inspired by Good Role Models and “Positive Gurus”

Many music educators attend the keynote addresses at state MEA/NAfME conferences to “recharge their batteries.” A few of my favorite “master motivators” are Tim Lautzenheiser, Peter Boonshaft, and Fran Kick. As a sample, check out this video (sponsored by MusicFirst) that featured “Dr. Tim” – One Person Can Make a Difference!

Who can have a positive influence on us or serve as a “catalyst for change” to help us realize our resolutions? Practically anyone! I bumped into this provocative article by Professor Dr Ger Graus: Good Role Models – How Has COVID-19 Changed Pupils’ Career Aspirations? He relates these criteria “to elevate a person or profession to role model status” (at least in the eyes of a child) – possibly an excellent framework for creating your plan.

  1. Demonstrate passion for what you do and have the capacity to infect others with it.
  2. Show a clear set of values and live them in their world. Lead by example. Children admire people who act in ways that support their beliefs. It helps them understand how their own values are part of who they are and how they might seek fulfilling roles as adults.
  3. Demonstrate commitment to community. Be others-focused as opposed to self-focused. Freely give your time and talents to benefit people.
  4. Show selflessness and acceptance of others who are different to you. Be fair.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to overcome obstacles. Young people admire those who show them that success is possible.

Someone who has recently become inspirational to me is the wonderfully uplifting Lesley Moffat, probably an expert on the search for “mindfulness” in personal life and even during her band warmups. In my opinion, her transformative stories provide the blueprint for happiness and wellbeing! She now has two published books (you need to read both) – I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me, and Love the Job, Lose the Stress, and if you are still teaching music full-time, you need to peruse her website: https://mpowerededucator.com/. For a good laugh, view her recent “rap” – Moffat’s HamJam for Band – for which she performed for her music students.

Apply the concepts of social and emotional learning (SEL), EMPATHY, and “corona kindness” to yourself and loved-ones! Seek out advice from a few of these experts: Manju Durairaj, Scott N. Edgar, Bob Morrison, and Edward Varner.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The key components of SEL are self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making, self-management, and relationship skills.

Finding Sanctuary – Social and Emotional Learning and Visual and Performing Arts by Edward Varner

Sum it Up – Fox’s “Top-Ten Tips”

  1. Renew your efforts to intentionally reach-out, connect, and engage with people, albeit virtually for now.
  2. Focus on the things you can control.
  3. Remind yourself about the good things in your life and your personal resilience.
  4. Start small and change one behavior at a time.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up when things get a little rocky
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  7. Seek creative new ways to reduce your stress.
  8. Exercise, meditate, go outside, and plan better meals.
  9. Share your experiences with family and friends.
  10. Implement one or two S.M.A.R.T. goals and embrace the “spirit” of self-improvement.

It’s easy to become an idealist when the new year rolls around, but it’s important to remember that New Year’s resolutions are ultimately a tool to help you grow into the person you want to be. Take some time this New Year’s Eve to really consider who you want to be in the future, and then employ S.M.A.R.T. goals to help you fulfill your vision. Making a resolution to live your life with purpose and passion is a beautiful and exciting thing, not something to dread.

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions by Using S.M.A.R.T. Goals by Mary McCoy

PKF

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

Resources

Credits:

iStock.com photos (in order): “2021” #1280953227 by phototechno, “SMART Goals” #1134658098 by BrianAJackson, “New Years Goals List 2021” #1266648329 by Olena Sakhnenko, “Half Empty to Half Full” #1128990168 by Fokusiert, “Lead by Example” #849367144 by Michail_Petrov-96, and “2021 Happy New Year” #1273431483 by Weedezign

“Happy Face” VectorStock.com/467693 

SMART Practice

Fox’s Fireside – Summer Camp Edition

foxsfiresides

 

My wife is a genius!

Well, I knew this before I married her in 1978, but every day I work “side by side” with her on music education projects like the South Hills Junior Orchestra Online Academy (SHJOOLA – pronounced shah-ZOH-lah), I discover even more of her amazing “hidden” talents and insights!

Donna Stark Fox is the author of 99% of this Fox’s Fireside.

We launched SHJOOLA and other digital/virtual/alternative programs (like SHJO.clips) to keep our community orchestra instrumentalists practicing inspite of the school closure and restrictions caused by the pandemic. We want to foster our players’ self-confidence and motivate even greater focus on new growth and achievement in instrumental technique, key literacy, ear-training, musicianship, personal goal-setting, and artistic enrichment. As the character Jean-Luc Picard from the Star Trek Next Generation series says, ENGAGE… in the pursuit of their own inspired initiatives in music learning!

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During the first week of SHJOOLA, we introduced this SMART Practice Primer (download and adapt to your own practice regime). The philosophy comes from my wife’s (ahem) 55+ years in the field of music performance as a violinist and pianist and a versatile career of 38+ years in the public schools teaching strings, band, general music, elementary chorus, musicals, etc.

What are the secrets of practice success? Past Fox’s Firesides address many issues of time, goals, focus, mentors, problem solving, and various playing techniques. (You may also peruse this catalog of past articles and our SHJO.clip library here.)

This article hopes to bring out a new approaches to “practice builds self-confidence…”

Are you ready for SMART Practice?

  • Schedule time for practice by using a calendar.
  • Find a quiet place to practice and gather everything you need.
  • Set goals. Write them down, make them measurable, and be specific and realistic. Check them off and “raise” your goals frequently.
  • Gather your equipment, including your instrument, music stand, chair, pencils, music folder, metronome, and tuner.
  • Chart your practice with a list of what to practice, because writing it down is a promise to do it!
  • Keep a reflective journal to organize your thoughts, to analyze and to set new goals.
  • Regularly make audio or video recordings of yourself and keep them in a file in a folder on your electronic device.

Smart Practice 1

Success starts with a plan!

Begin with a long-range goal/dream.

  • I will perform a solo with a symphony orchestra.
  • I will become a professional musician.
  • I will play in a college orchestra or band.
  • I will enjoy music throughout my adult life.

Set medium-range goals.

  • I will play a Mozart Concerto before I am 16.
  • I want to upgrade to a better-quality instrument when I am 14.

Set and rest short-term goals on a weekly and even daily basis.

  • This week, I will play the Bach Fugue with accurate fingerings and pitch.
  • This week, I will play the Bach Fugue at performance tempo.

Here is an example of one violinist’s SMART Practice plan:

 

Practicing with a plan

Tips on SMART Practice

  1. Warm-up with drills and exercises.
  2. Identify the key of each selection you are practicing.
  3. Play the scale for the key you have identified, using a rhythm or articulation pyramid.
  4. Select a passage to improve and mark the fingerings in pencil.
  5. Say the note names in half notes. (“If you can say it, you can play it!”)
  6. Be sure you practice every note as a half note using the fingerings provided by the conductor.
  7. Use a metronome to “keep it honest.”
  8. Practice VERY SLOWLY using the original rhythm and bowings/articulations.
  9. Gradually increase the tempo by “inching up” on the metronome.
  10. How many times have you played the passage correctly?
  11. Ten consecutive times right today, and ten more tomorrow, will already make the passage 20 times better than it was before!
  12. Schedule your next practice session.
  13. Reflect in your journal and set new short-term goals for tomorrow!

 

smart practice is training your brain

Training your brain is SMART Practice

  • Practice is a process.
  • Practice is all about habit development.
  • Practice leads to self-confidence.
  • Practice is an opportunity for self discovery.
  • Practice is cumulative.
  • Practice is where you can make mistakes privately.
  • Amateurs practice to get it right.
  • Professionals practice so that they never play it wrong.

This is your brain on SMART Practice

Variety is the spice of life and music variations challenge the mind!

You may have heard these strategies before:

  • First make it easier, then progressively harder.
  • First subtract (e.g. remove slurred notes) and then progressively add more challenging elements to the music (dynamics, longer phrases, articulations, fingerings, positions, memorization, etc.)
  • First play it slower, then progressively faster.
  • First take smaller sections (measure by measure, phrase by phrase), then progressively expand to larger sections, eventually being able to play the entire piece.

practice rubric

Try these rhythm and articulation pyramids on your scales, warmups, etudes, and any difficult passage in the music. Taking “baby steps,” create a new way to learn the part…

More to come… Part II will dive into additional recommendations for personal music problem solving with numerous examples.

Keep at it! You’ll make us all proud. Most importantly, especially yourself!

PKF

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The mission of the nonprofit South Hills Junior Orchestra is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow players.

The second half of our 37th season (Spring 2020) was postponed due to school closures and the pandemic. We are now offering SHJOOLA – the South Hills Junior Orchestra Online Academy. The program includes virtual sectional rehearsals, special workshop seminars via Zoom, and remote music learning activities, both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, and provides a one-year subscription to MusicFirst Classroom, PracticeFirst, Sight Reading Factory, Musition (music theory), Noteflight (score notation) and other apps. Western PA instrumentalists are welcome to apply for membership in one of the 25 remaining “seats” in SHJOOLA by contacting Managing Director Janet Vukotich.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts. For a printable, hard copy of this article, click here.

 

© 2020 by Paul K. Fox and Fox Paws Publications

 

Photo credit from Pixabay.com:

“Camp Fire” by Chris Aram

 

 

Leadership Lessons

Summertime Reading Suggestions for Music Directors

3 leadership books

What do authors C.S. Forester, Simon Sinek, Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin have in common?

They offer a fresh perspective on leadership principles, reflections perfectly applicable for the skill-set development of music teachers who desire to better “lead” their music programs, students, and parent boosters.

It was no accident that I chose these books to help explore the truths of inspiring confidence and leading groups of people like we do daily in our classrooms, rehearsal halls, and on the stages or marching band fields. Their use of military (as well as company or government management) anecdotes defines and re-enacts the very essence of leaders, leadership concepts, goals, and public service.

“These [military group] organizations have strong cultures and shared values, understand the importance of teamwork, create trust among their members, maintain focus, and, most important, understand the importance of people and relationships to their mission success.”

— From the Foreword of Leaders Eat First

Why do we admire music teacher “heroes” and most sought-after conference keynoters in our profession such as “Dr. Tim” Lautzenheiser, Peter Boonshaft, Scott Edgar*, and Bob Morrison* (*the latter two to be featured in the PMEA Summer Virtual Conference on July 20-24, 2020). They inspire us. They recharge us and pick up our spirits. They serve as models of visionaries and coaches. They challenge the status quo and help us to grow!

I believe these books will do the same, assist in your career development to morph into an even better leader and teacher. Since many of us are “stuck at home” during the pandemic for awhile, here is a new “reading list” for personal self-improvement.

EPISODE 1-MUTINY
ITV/Rex Archive: Ioan Gruffudd in “Hornblower” 2001 TV series

Who is Horatio Hornblower?

To start with, how about a series of historical fiction from the Napoleonic-Wars era?

Hornblower is a courteous, intelligent, and skilled seaman, and perhaps one of my favorite examples of an adaptable “leader.” Although burdened by his (almost shy) reserve, introspection, and self-doubt (he is described as “unhappy and lonely”), the Forester collection illustrates numerous stories of his personal feats of extraordinary cunning, on-the-spot problem solving, and bravery. The first book spotlights an unpromising seasick midshipman who grows into a highly acclaimed, productive, and ethical officer of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, gaining promotion steadily as a result of his skill and daring, despite his initial poverty and lack of influential friends. And yet, the common thread throughout is that he belittles his achievements by numerous rationalizations, remembering only his fears.

A_74_gun_Royal_Navy_ship_of_the_line,_c1794
74-gun Royal Navy Ship-of-the-line ~1794

“Hornblower’s leadership is thoroughly self-conscious: what makes him a great leader, morally, is that he assumes as a matter course that he must lead rather than he can lead; Hornblower’s pervasive sense of responsibility would be diminished if it all came to him naturally and that he acts therefore as each situation demands. He can be self-effacing or fierce, or obsequious, all depending on what is necessary to get the job done. As it happens, Hornblower‘s many other gifts, including a formidable diligence, always beyond the call of duty, and a supple intelligence, make him a man others trust and lean on; but for the reader, especially young reader, it’s his moral qualities that are most engaging, it is instructive.”

by Igor Webb, Hudson Review

This set is a wonderful “chestnut” to acquire, sit back in your leather recliner, and devour over the coming months. Even though it may take you some significant time to finish Forester’s eleven novels (one unfinished) and five short stories, I promise you, it will all be worth it!

[If you like the Hornblower assortment, also checkout the works by Alexander Kent and Dudley Pope, all drawing parallels to the exploits of real naval officers of the time: Sir George Cockburn, Lord Cochran, Sir Edward Pellew, Jeremiah Coghlan, Sir James Gordon, and Sir William Hoste.]

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Now, how can you personally glean new leadership habits from this treasure chest? Coincidental to doing some research for this blog, I bumped into the article on LinkedIn “Leadership Lessons Learned from Horatio Hornblower.” My sincere thanks and “attaboy” go to Amro Masaad, Education and STEM Leader at Middlesex County Academies, who gave me permission to share his documentation and insightful interpretation of the following leadership tips learned from Hornblower that we can all employ as “best practices” in the education profession:

  1. Don’t be afraid to stand up to a bully.
  2. Don’t insist that all of your successes be praised.
  3. Don’t let employees sabotage your mission.
  4. If you want excellence, you can’t look the other way.
  5. Prove yourself when the situation demands it.
  6. Take one for the team.
  7. Show sacrifice and honor, even with your enemies.

I have always been inspired by the adventures of Hornblower, mostly because of his displays of humanity at a time in history when things were inhumane and primitive. Hornblower consistently modeled his intentions for the care and success of his subordinates while other officers “stepped on them” to get advancement, his unimpeachable moral code that guided his every action, and “taking it on the chin” when necessary for his shipmates and the good of “god and country.”

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Leaders Eat Last

I was struck by this quote by Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action, who posted a popular TedTalk lecture of the same name:

“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold the position of power or authority, but those who lead, inspire us. Whether they are individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And, it’s those who start with ‘the why’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others to inspire them.”

TEDxPugetSound

silent-drill-platoon-1398509_1920_skeezeHis latest book, Leaders Eat Last, brings up the rationale of mutual collaboration and prioritizing the mission and the needs of your team members. Sinek observed that some teams were able to trust each other 100%, so much so that they would be willing to put their lives on the line for each other, while other groups, no matter what enticements or special incentives were offered, were “doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure.” Why was this true?

“The answer became clear during our conversation with the Marine Corps general. ‘Officers eat last,’ he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: great leaders sacrifice their own comfort – even their own survival – for the good of those in their care.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Throughout his book of vivid narratives from armed conflicts to business “revolutions” of take-overs or new CEO transformations, Sinek dives into the precepts of what constitutes “great” leadership:

  • The value of empathy should not be underestimated.
  • Trust and loyalty exist on a two-way street – to earn them, leaders must first extent them to their team members.
  • The role of leadership is to look out for (and take care of) those inside their “circle of safety.”
  • For the success of the team, goals must be tangible, visible, collaborative, and written down.
  • Leaders know: There is power in “paying it forward.” It feels good to help people, or when someone does something nice to us, or even when we witness someone else doing something good.
  • It’s also a big deal when leaders express that final personal touch and shake hands.
  • Leadership is all about service… to the “real, living, normal human beings with whom we work every day.”

I have never found a better source for defining the four “chemical incentives” in our bodies (also known as hormones) and numerous actual examples of their daily use (and misuse): endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

UnSelfieAlso intriguing is an expanded Chapter 24 and Appendix section in the book called “A Practical Guide to Leading Millennials.” Similar to another suggestion for summer perusal, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D (Simon & Schuster, 2017) which focuses more on our current young “charges,” Sinek’s differentiation is provided to inspire and educate the ultimate multitaskers of the “distracted generation.”

“This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.”

“The biology is clear: When it matters most, leaders who are willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance their leaders vision and their organization’s interests. It’s amazing how well it works.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

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Extreme Ownership

This next leadership philosophy, the core premise of the book Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, will not surprise anyone who has ever taken on the inherently risky task of programming a student concert, marching field show, dance recital, or musical/play: the music director assumes full responsibility for the failures and faux pas that may occur during the performance, but instrumentalists, singers, actors, and/or dancers should get all the credit for a successful production.

“Combat, the most intense and dynamic environment imaginable, teaches the toughest leadership lessons with absolutely everything at stake. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin learned this reality firsthand on the most violent and dangerous battlefields in Iraqi. As leaders of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, their mission was one many thought impossible: help US forces secure Ramada, a violent, insurgent-held city deemed “all but lost.“ In gripping, firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories, they learned that leadership – at every level – is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.”

Front panel of the hardback Extreme Ownership

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This is a comprehensive textbook on Leadership 101. Admittedly, the rehash of their battle scenes are scary. This is a world so far apart from anything I have ever experienced. We do owe all our veterans a massive depth of gratitude to face such dangers to defend our freedoms and way of life. (As an inexperienced teacher, the worst fear I ever had to face was a homeroom of 99 excitable and talkative Freshman girls in my first year as the high school choral director.)

When possible, I try to share the Contents (chapter titles) of my book recommendations, giving you a broad glimpse of the outline of their publication:

  1. Extreme Ownership
  2. US Navy SEAL Team Three [ST3][Patch][1.5]No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders
  3. Believe
  4. Check the Ego
  5. Cover and Move
  6. Simple
  7. Prioritize and Execute
  8. Decentralized Command
  9. Plan
  10. Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command
  11. Decisiveness Amid Uncertainty
  12. Discipline Equals Freedom – the Dichotomy of Leadership

From these sections, we can explore these fundamental building-blocks and mindsets necessary to lead and win.

Part I: Winning the War Within (Chapters 1-4)

  • Leaders must own everything in the world. There is no one else to blame.
  • A leader must be a true believer in the mission.
  • Even more important then “the how” and “the what” is “the why” of any plan. Not knowing the rationale of a decision or goal is a recipe for failure. It is a leader’s job to understand the mission and communicate it to his/her team members.*
  • During situations lacking clarity, leaders ask questions.
  • Leaders temper overconfidence by instilling culture within the team to never be satisfied and to push themselves harder to continuously improve performance.
  • Leaders know that over-inflated egos cloud judgment and disrupt everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to except constructive criticism.

* Who said “great minds think alike?” (Answer: Carl Theodor von Unlanski.) The concept of “the why” is also described in great detail in the aforementioned TedTalk by Simon Sinek.

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Part II: Laws of Combat (Chapters 5-8)

  • Elements within the “greater team” are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose.
  • In life, there are inherent complexities. It is critical to keep plans and communication simple. Complex goals and plans add to confusion which can compound into disaster.
  • Competent leaders can utilize their own version of the SEAL’s prioritize and execute. It is simple as, “relax, look around, and make a call.” Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. Don’t try to do everything at once or you won’t be successful.
  • Leaders delegate responsibility, trust and empower junior leaders to make decisions on their own as they become proactive to achieve the overall goal or task.

Part III: Sustaining Victory (Chapters 9-12)

  • Effective planning begins with an analysis of the mission’s purpose, definition of the goals, and communication of clear directives for the team.
  • Effective leaders keep the planning focused, simple, and understandable to all of the team members and stakeholders.
  • Leadership doesn’t just go down the chain of command, but up as well. Communication to your supervisors is also key.
  • Leaders must be decisive, comfortable under pressure, and act on logic, not emotion.
  • In challenging situations, there is no 100% right solution, and the picture is never complete.
  • Leaders have self-control and “intrinsic self-discipline,” a matter of personal will. They “make time” by getting up early.
  • Self-discipline makes you more flexible, adaptable, and efficient, and allows leaders and team members alike to be creative.
  • A leader must lead, but also be ready to follow.

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A Leadership Recap for Music Teachers

I am probably not doing justice to these incredible resources. They offer an exhaustive body of knowledge and examples on leadership ideology as well as a dazzling array of practical advice on what habits/skills are essential to become an effective leader. You need to sit back and devour these books one-by-one, apply their relevance to your situation, and come to your own conclusions about prioritizing the needs for your own personal leadership development.

To sum up a few of the theories from all this literature, we could revisit page 277 in Extreme Ownership and quote “The Dichotomy of Leadership” by Jocko Willnick.

“A good leader must be:

  • confident but not cocky;
  • courageous but not foolhardy;
  • competitive but a gracious loser;
  • attentive to details but not obsessed by them;
  • strong but have endurance;
  • a leader and follower;
  • humble not passive;
  • aggressive not overbearing;
  • quiet not silent;
  • calm but not robotic;
  • logical but not devoid of emotions;
  • close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team; not so close that they forget who is in charge;
  • able to execute Extreme Ownership while exercising Decentralized Command.”

“A good leader has nothing to prove but everything to prove!”

—  Extreme Ownership

Many years ago, my wife and I were fortunate to participate in almost all of those early PMEA Summer Conferences that were basically leadership training workshops. Initiated and inspired by our first guest clinician Michael Kumer (who was then “modeling leadership” first-hand as Dean of Music for Duquesne University), we were exposed to a rich curriculum of “the greats” on leadership, team building, time management, and professional development. If you have not consumed them yourself, a few of these resources from the first couple years should be added to your reading list:

  • 7 HabitsOne Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
  • First Things First and other sections from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People series by Stephen Covey
  • A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior to Be More Creative and A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger Von Oech

As a part of fulfilling “total ensemble experience” and to make the learning meaningful, I have always “taught” leadership to my students. The settings may have varied, whether it was as a part of the longstanding tradition of training marching band leaders, student conductors or principals’ who ran sectionals, our spring musical “leadership team” of directors, producers, and crew heads, elected high school choir officers, participants (grades 6-12) in a six-day string camp seminar, or even booster parents in a “chaperone orientation.” Many of my own often-repeated leadership quotes were passed down:

  • “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey
  • “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “The very essence of leadership is you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
  • “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen R. Covey

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Finally, to close this seemingly-endless essay, I would share one of my regular but more unique lessons: “leaders flush.” We advise our plebe leaders-in-training that when anyone on the team sees an opportunity to take care of something that’s not right, or someone who needs help, or a problem that can be resolved on their own, they should take it upon themselves to do what is necessary for the greater good. We cite the example that, if you visit a restroom and discover someone before you did not flush the toilet, you do what’s right. Leaders flush.

PKF

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

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Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com

The Future of Music Education

Spring 2020 Final Lecture to the Music Education Graduate Students

by Rich Victor, PMEA Past State President and Adjunct Instructor for the University at Buffalo Graduate School Online

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Originally posted in the Facebook group PLAN: The PA Leadership Advocacy Network

 

This course, “Supervision of Music Learning Programs,” was focused on programs as they existed before this year. Obviously, some things have changed.

What has changed and what has stayed the same? To answer that question let’s take another look at this graphic from Unit 4.

Rich Victor Decision Making Process

All decisions should flow from the mission statement. That should not change.

As you discovered, most school district mission statements focus on ideals such as “success, life-long learning, and becoming responsible citizens in the community.” An effective music department mission statement will be in alignment with the stated district mission. It will inform the administration and the community how the study of music helps the district achieve their stated mission through the skills and knowledge children learn in music. It also explains what children would lose if the subject were not offered because no other discipline is available in the school district where children can learn those skills and knowledge as well as in music classes.

The school mission and the department mission define the WHY.

Victor3Once the WHY has been determined, then the district must determine the WHAT. WHAT learning activities need to be offered to the students in the district in order to help them achieve the desired outcomes stated in the mission? The answer to that question should help determine the curriculum for music.

The content for the music curriculum is determined partially by the district and department missions, partially by state mandated Arts Standards, partially by local school district inter-disciplinary curriculum requirements, and partially by the music department’s desire to provide each child with a comprehensive and high-quality music education based on National Standards.

The outcomes from those learning activities – the WHAT – should not change.

In pre-COVID-19 times, the next decision would be to determine how much time is needed for students to master the curriculum and succeed in their activities. How many years will each facet of that curriculum require? How many hours of instruction should be allocated in each year and WHEN should that time be scheduled in order to provide the maximum number of learning opportunities for each child?

The WHEN might stay synchronous or change to asynchronous instruction. The number of instructional hours provided to each teacher and each subject may need to be flexible. That is yet to be determined and we should prepare for all possibilities. However, keep in mind that the WHEN should not alter the WHAT.

Once it is decided how many hours of instruction should be allocated annually and when Victor2those hours would be scheduled, then the district must figure out exactly how many teachers will be needed to deliver that instruction and what qualifications those teachers should possess. The “WHO” part of the process – the staffing piece of the puzzle – should still be driven by the needs of the curriculum and should not change.

It will be the HOW and WHERE parts of this process where the largest changes will occur.

Obviously, the decision WHERE teachers and students will be in the fall will impact HOW music will be taught and what equipment and materials can be used for learning activities.

Facilities in school buildings must be adapted to provide appropriate space for instructional activities to take place and to conveniently store all of the materials and equipment used in those activities while following whatever social distancing protocols and approved procedures for safely handling musical materials are adopted. The WHERE may continue to be the student’s home or a combination of school and distance learning. Once again, we need to prepare for all possibilities.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the outcomes of the K-12 music curriculum – the WHAT – should not change. Teachers need to keep “the end in mind” rather than just focusing in on their own period of time with each student. Then, following the principles of Understanding by Design, K-12 music staff must work as a team to create appropriate learning activities that are designed to help each student make progress through each grade and ultimately achieve the specific learning outcomes Victor1of the K-12 music program using the WHEN, WHO, HOW and WHERE pieces that we will have to work with.

As my friend and colleague Bob Morrison said in a recent presentation “Change the HOW not the WHAT!”

Yes, it will be challenging. The challenges caused by these changes may appear to be daunting at first, but they are not insurmountable!

Fortunately, there are some great thinkers in our profession who are already coming up with ideas to make the best of the situation for both classroom and performance teachers. Even if you are the only music teacher in your school district – you are NOT alone! Wonderful ideas for solutions to these challenges can be found in social media and through webinars.

The most important thing to know at this time is that discussions are occurring right now in every school district throughout the country. When students might return to school, and how classes might be scheduled will be determined soon. You must be proactive and become part of that decision-making process BEFORE the decisions are made! Be at the table so that decisions affecting music education in your district happen WITH you and not TO you.

The future of music education is in YOUR hands. It will be what you make it. Good luck and keep in touch!

Editor’s note: As a follow-up to Rich Victor’s article, check out these PMEA webpages:

 

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About the Guest Blogger

Victor0Richard Victor is currently Adjunct Instructor for the University at Buffalo Graduate School Online.

Richard Victor had a 37-year career as State College Area High School Band Director. In 1987, he was also appointed to the position of Coordinator of Music for the State College Area School District. He was President of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) from 2000-2002 and served as its Advocacy Chair. He was President of the PA Unit of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) from 1989-1993, the PMEA All-State Jazz Coordinator and PMEA News Jazz Editor from 1993-1998, and chair for the NAfME Council for Jazz Education from 2014-2018. He has also served on the advisory board for the NAfME Teaching Music magazine and held the office of President of the Penn State Alumni Blue Band Association. Other professional memberships include Phi Beta Mu and The Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML).

Mr. Victor has been a guest conductor and adjudicator for concert band and jazz events in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and currently serves as an instrumental adjudicator for Music in the Parks. He frequently provides services as a clinician, consultant, and/or featured speaker for school districts and music events throughout Pennsylvania. He has presented sessions at five NAfME (formerly MENC) national conferences, three NAfME Eastern Division conferences, and the 2008 Americans for the Arts National Convention. He also has been a presenter for six different MEA state conferences, three JEN National Conferences, and three International Conferences on Music Learning Theory.

 

Teacher Self-Care During the Pandemic

We thought our next article in this series on music teacher health and wellness was going to center around burn-out. But then… COVID-19 struck (was this really only 3-4 months ago?), we were forced into self-isolation, and all “brick and mortar” schools closed. In the ensuing panic, we all scurried about seeking solutions to reconnect and engage our students from afar in compliance with strict shelter-in-place restrictions.

“Seemingly overnight, the world changed. Teachers and school leaders have had to revamp their entire instructional systems with, in many instances, only a day’s notice. To say many of us are experiencing whiplash, disorientation, and anxiety is an understatement.”

virus-4928021_1920_HoagyPeterma“Our students are feeling it too. Typically, nationwide, one in three teenagers has experienced clinically significant anxiety in their lifetime (Merikangas et al., 2010). It’s probable that during a pandemic that heavily impacts everyday life, levels of anxiety in children and teens are even higher, and the possibility of subsequent trauma greater.”

“In these unprecedented times, teachers are rising to the occasion creatively and quickly to shift to remote learning amidst school closures. Even in a traditional classroom, it can be a challenge to support students with anxiety and trauma histories to stay calm and learn. With distance learning, this difficulty is magnified. However, there is much teachers can do to reduce anxiety in students even while teaching remotely. During this crisis, we need to prioritize students’ mental health over academics. The impact of trauma can be lifelong, so what students learn during this time ultimately won’t be as important as whether they feel safe.”

“Maintaining Connections, Reducing Anxiety While School Is Closed” by Jessica Minahan in ASCD Educational Leadership, Summer 2020

My opinion? The Internet and other forms of media can be a godsend or a contributing factor to our feelings of malaise. The 24/7 nature and immediacy of news programs and web posts updating the statistics of new coronavirus cases, hospital admissions, deaths, shortages of personal protection equipment and respirators, unemployment numbers, and the stock market’s roller-coaster ride, have added fear, stress, and “noise” to the real problem… our ability to cope with the ramifications of this pandemic!

Well, at least a lot of dialogue has been generated “out there” about recommended remediation and “success stories.” The purpose of this blog-post is to share some of this “advice from the experts.” Many of you (I hope) may say, “This is just common sense.” True, but however “common” it is, more people than you think are not applying these principles to their own personal lives. And like the one online post that caught my eye the other day, “Teachers Are Breaking” by Jessica Lifshitz, all of us should share our anecdotes… the trials, internal struggles, and tribulations… to make it through this emergency.

Together, we are stronger!

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I have been accused of being a little too emotional and I should not “feed into the negativity,” as one reader complained in reaction to one of my blogs. However, according to this article by Christina Cipriano and Marc Brackett, “emotions drive effective teaching and learning, the decisions educators make, classroom and school climate, and educator well-being.”

“At the end of March, our team at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, along with our colleagues at the Collaborative for Social Emotional and Academic Learning, known as CASEL, launched a survey to unpack the emotional lives of teachers during the COVID-19 crisis.”

“In the span of just three days, over 5,000 U.S. teachers responded to the survey. We asked them to describe, in their own words, the three most frequent emotions they felt each day.”

“The five most-mentioned feelings among all teachers were: anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed and sad. Anxiety, by far, was the most frequently mentioned emotion.”

Navigating Uncertain Times: How Schools Can Cope With Coronavirus

Almost in unison, the strategies that seem to be echoed most often by medical and mental health professionals, educators on the front line, and even technology specialists, are outlined by this “wellness map of to-do’s!”

  1. Don’t obsess. Calm yourself. Set priorities.
  2. Connect and communicate often with your family members and your students.
  3. Set and maintain boundaries.
  4. Practice mindfulness.
  5. Take the necessary steps to maintain your own physical and mental health!

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Avoiding Becoming Overwhelmed

As a retiree, I “only” lost the spring season of my community youth orchestra to this crisis. In my position as state chair of the PMEA Council Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention (PMEA Council TTRR), I tried to soothe the “hysteria” of many of my still-working friends and colleagues who were grappling with the instantaneous roll-out of distance learning. After researching online music education resources, we were able to place countless links on the PMEA Council TTRR website (here). After 7+ weeks, one of our “omnibus Google Docs” has grown to 15+ pages and more than 225 separate sources of virtual, remote, and alternative music learning media and methods.

computer-768608_1920_free-photosFor some, this has made matters worse… an “overload of abundance!” The multitude of venues and opportunities (too many unexplored “new technologies” for many of us baby-boomers!) included information about virtual ensembles, YouTube libraries, music games, lessons plans and platforms for synchronous and asynchronous e-learning, video-conferencing techniques, hardware and software reviews, etc.

Take a deep breath! Focus! Prioritize your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Don’t try to consume all of the available resources “out there,” nor use every application or online lesson that you find on Facebook groups like https://www.facebook.com/groups/mecol/. What was it my mother used to say at the dinner table? “Sip and chew slowly… don’t gulp!” Take away what might help your situation, but approach anything brand new in moderation!

online-5059831_1920_TumisuGo ahead and sign-up for a webinar or planned learning community meeting or two. Many professional development workshops are provided with “no extra fees” right now, like the NAfME library here, the aforementioned Facebook group and others, and if you already have a membership in PMEA, this website.

BUT… plan to take away ONLY one or two new “teaching tools” from each session… maybe consider trying-out one new app or lesson idea every other week?

As if to anticipate our needs, more than a year ago, Elena Aguilar published the in-depth piece “How to Coach the Overwhelmed Teacher” in Education Week blog, summarizing excellent stress-reduction treatments. (Share these if you think they will help you or some else! Read the entire article for more detail!)

desperate-5011953_1920_Peggy_MarcoFive tips for coaching overwhelm:

  1. Describe it.
  2. Recall previous experiences.
  3. Identify one tiny next step.
  4. Listen.
  5. Plan for action.

“When coaching someone experiencing strong emotions, it’s important to know the signs and indicators of depression and anxiety disorders. Emotions can turn into moods, and if moods hang around long enough, they may become depression or an anxiety disorder. People who feel overwhelmed a great deal may be experiencing depression, whereas those who are ‘stressed’ a lot may be experiencing anxiety. This resource, AppD Depression_Anxiety.pdf, can be offered to your coachees or used to consider whether someone may need professional help.”

“When coaching any strong emotion, it’s useful to remember that emotions can be guides to self-understanding. They are a normal part of being a human being, and strong emotions show up to get us to pay attention to what’s going on. We can welcome strong emotions—in ourselves and in our coachees—and explore them to gain insight into ourselves and humans and educators.” — Elena Aguilar

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Making Connections

Your loved-ones and friends probably need you now more than ever!

And, a myriad of research supports the assertion that social connections significantly improve our own physical and mental health and emotional well-being, such as published by the “Center of Compassion & Altruism Research & Education” of the Stanford Medical School:

“Strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity, strengthens your immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation), helps you recover from disease faster, [and] may even lengthen your life!”

“People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.” — Dr. Emma Seppala

There’s even evidence that “human touch” and close connections with other people increase our body’s levels of the beneficial hormones serotonin and cortisol.

Just more common sense? Right? Probably!

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The first thing I did during that initial announcement of school/activity closures was to reach-out to my “musical kids.” Many music directors told me they quickly sponsored a Zoom/Google Hangout meeting of their ensemble members, mostly just to check-in with their players or singers and get everyone “on board” for future online interactions.

Perhaps COVID-19 has made me a better “citizen,” too. Much more frequently, I now call or text a friend, colleague, volunteer co-worker, or neighbor to see how they are doing. It’s terrible to admit that it took a world disaster to improve my interpersonal communications skills!

Finally, here’s a good “recap.” In spite of the need for social distancing, these examples of “safe connections” are suggested by Jennifer Wickham from The Mayo Clinic:

  • Use electronics to stay in contact with friends, neighbors and loved ones. This could include using video-conference programs, making voice calls instead of sending texts, or talking with a neighbor through windows while maintaining a safe distance.
  • Spend quality time with the people you live with, such as playing board games or completing an indoor project.
  • Make a family meal or dessert recipe that reminds you of friends or family you are unable to visit, and then call them to tell them about it. This way, you get an experience of internal and external connection.
  • Write in a journal about your experiences during this time of social distancing. Not only will this help you sort out what you are thinking and feeling, but also it can be shared going forward as a way for future generations to connect with the past.

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Setting Boundaries

Something else I admit to NOT doing!

“Going Google,” “exploring e-learning,” or “doing digital” –  it is easy to get carried away and not notice you just spent 12 hours in-a-row of “screen time” participating in online meetings or creating new remote learning opportunities for your music students. Exactly when are your classroom and office hours? You are likely pushing yourself too hard, even in your pajamas! This insane pace will only promote other health concerns!

The foresight of Elisa Janson Jones was evident for writing this in her blog “7 Self-Care Strategies to Prevent Burnout” back in September 2018 before the pandemic:

bulletin-board-3233653_1920_geralt“It’s hard to create a work-life balance when life is filled with work. Teachers are known for working long hours off-the-clock for no additional compensation. This is even more prevalent in music education. We add performances, competitions, musicals, individual lessons, fundraising, data entry, and even music composition and arranging to our task list.”

“We may find pride in saying we worked 60 hours this week, flaunting to our friends that we got to school in the dark and left in the dark. Perhaps we find self-importance in their pity and admiration.”

“However, to thrive in our profession, we must remember that teaching music is our career, not our entire life. Hobbies, families, volunteering, and other ways we contribute to our communities and our homes are also aspects of who we are.”

“Setting clear boundaries between when we are working for our paycheck and when we are working for ourselves helps us carve out space where we offer ourselves time to be free of obligations and burdens of our career. Whether it’s a few hours per day, a full day per week, or both, setting strict boundaries for when you’re on-the-clock and when you’re off is essential.” — Elisa Janson Jones

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Mindfulness and “Living” in the Present

Another concept that Elisa Janson Jones covered in her Smartmusic blog: mindfulness.

Now is the time for a little nonjudgmental “free reflection,” or what the psychologists call the best practice of “mindfulness” – a focus with full attention on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations “in the moment.” I think the “Teaching with Orff” website really nailed it in the article “7 Self Care Tips for Quarantined Music Teachers.”  Read co-author Zoe Kumagai’s examples of affirmations: “How do I want to feel today?”

  • I allow myself time and space to reflect.
  • My mind is aware of the present.
  • My heart feels compassionate and is full of love.
  • My mind is stimulated by books, stories, art, scholarly articles, music that inspire me to be my best self.
  • I maintain boundaries with technology and intake of the news.
  • My body is free to dance.
  • My voice is clear to sing, laugh and converse authentically.

According to this Harvard Medical HelpGuide, the habits and techniques of mindfulness can improve well-being, physical health, and mental health:

“There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment… Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.” — HelpGuide

Band director, best-selling author, and acclaimed clinician Lesley Moffat devoted an entire chapter to mindfulness in her book I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me. You know what they say, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” After learning the techniques for herself, she adopted mindfulness practice at the beginning of each band rehearsal for her students, a 4-5 minute routine of guided breathing and relaxation exercises leading up to the daily warmup chorale.

 

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I love the symbolism in her “snow globe” analogy:

“Just like a snow globe that’s been shaken up, it takes time for your mind and body to settle down. If you try to get the snow globe to settle down while you’re still holding it and carrying on with your regular activities, the snow may fall slower, but it won’t completely stop and allow you to see the objects in the snow globe. You must allow it to be completely still long enough for the water to stop swirling and the glitter to follow the pull of gravity and settle on the bottom. It only takes a matter of minutes until it settles, revealing the magical scene inside, and the very glitter that was covering up the view when it was moving around has become a lovely blanket of snow that grounds the scene in the snow globe. But without a few minutes of stillness, it is impossible for it to become completely settled. So it goes with a mindfulness practice. Your mind and body needs time to go from hyper-speed to a pace that serves you well, a place where you have space to think – and space to not think. That begins by bringing stillness to your body and to your mind. Easy to say – hard to do… until you practice it every day and it becomes habit.” Lesley Moffat

Love the Job, Loss the StressHer book should be required reading for all music teachers, even retirees who want to remain active in the profession. (Read my previous review here.) It serves as a true treasure-house of practical applications for de-stressing and re-centering your life. Her “mPower Method of Meals, Movement, Music, and Mindfulness” may be the solution to improving your situation.

FYI, her next book, Love the Job, Lose the Stress, is on the way. You can request an advance e-copy here.

 

“Do as I Say… Don’t Do as I Do!”

The worst part of this? We seldom take our own advice. Hey teacher, “heal thyself,” and “practice what you preach.” Taking care of our children or elderly relatives, we are probably the last to comply with the tenets of our own sermons on health and wellness.

Lesley Moffat also devoted a chapter in her book to the airline safety bulletin “Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First.” You cannot take care of someone else (your family members or your music students) unless you first take care of yourself!

salad-374173_1920_stevepbMake self-care PRIORITY ONE for YOU! I know, you have heard all of these before:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Hydrate.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise daily.
  • “Flex your brain.”

The latter “exercising your mind” is referenced in the Teaching with Orff website, and is a frequent emphasis on my blog-site (with examples here, here, and here). Pursue your own avenues of creative self-expression, and grow and learn something new every day!

According to charitable organization Waterford.org, the definition of “self-care” is “any action that you use to improve your health and well-being.” They cite extensive research from the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI), corroborating the statement that there are six elements to self-care:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Social
  • Professional

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And, as explained in the article “Why Teacher Self-Care Matters, and How to Practice Self-Care in Your School,” self-care is not about selfishness.

“Self-care is an important component of a teacher’s mental health, but there are misconceptions about what it is. It’s common for educators to dismiss the self-care movement as ‘selfish’ or ‘superficial.’ But for teachers, self-care is so much more than breakfast in bed or treating yourself to a spa day. It’s about taking care of your health so that you’re prepared to be the best teacher you can be for yourself and your students.”

Waterford.org

These endorsements probably represent just “the tip of the iceberg!” Peruse all of the resources listed below. In addition, perhaps we should take a close look at Alex Wiggin’s ASCD article,  “A Brave New World: A Teacher’s Take on Surviving Distance Learning” (Educational Leadership, Summer 2020), considering the adoption of these four lessons learned from the past four months:

  1. Relying on a team reduces work and stress.
  2. Connecting with students boosts morale.
  3. Learning new technology isn’t so bad.
  4. Model being a life-long learner

I predict that the hardest part, coming to the end of May and the completion of our first-ever “virtual spring semester,” is coming to grips with our “fear of the unknown!” At the date of this writing, no one really knows when “we” are going back to “in person” schools, how we will resume large group music instruction like band, choir, or orchestra rehearsals, and what will the “new normal” look like to successfully “move on!”

Summer break is just around the corner… a good time to stop and reflect! And yes, we will make it through this.

Please stay safe! PKF

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References

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order)

From Pixabay.com

 

3 Simple Words – KEEP AT IT!

How Are You Spending YOUR Time?

 

FoxsFiresides

This is probably the most important message we can share with you during this period of coronavirus self-isolation.

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No matter what this pandemic throws at us, or how long we remain away from close human interaction and participation in our ensembles or classes at the now closed “brick and mortar” schools, let’s keep a focus on maintaining our “chops,” building on our “musical momentum,” and practicing every day.

From an eco-friendly (“save our natural resources”) slant as well as an economist’s perspective, you have invested too much time and money on playing an instrument to give up now! So, nature and the COVID-19 have thrown you a few curve-balls these past seven weeks?

The only way we should respond to the challenge is to meet it head-on!

Take advantage of all of this available “free” stay-at-home time to further your artistic enrichment and make “new and improved” musical goals!

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crying-146425_1280No teacher will have any patience listening to your whining or remarks of “could have,” “would have,” or “should have been” excuses. What have we always wished for? “If only I had enough time to learn that new scale, étude, or song!” “With all of my other academic assignments, sports events, and extracurricular activities, how can I fit in moments for listening to bands, orchestras, or classical virtuoso artists performing on the web?” “When am I ever going to have the chance to compose…” (or “arrange” or “record” or “memorize” or “conduct” or “choreograph”) “…that piece?” “When will I get around to learn this new technique, practice sight-reading, or dive into those drills designed to improve my key literacy, rhythmic precision, tone, intonation, range, form, coordination, embouchure, stick rudiments, or bow control?

The answer is… now only one word: NOW! 

What are you waiting for? You have too much at stake here, and soon, this crisis will pass, and we will all come back together – only much stronger and wiser for making good choices in the use of our time!

SHJOclips

We divided up the SHJO.clips into categories to develop your “well rounded” musicianship:

  • C = Create, invent, explore
  • L = Listen
  • I = Inspire, read, analyze
  • P = Practice, perform
  • S = Share, show others, play for fun

(Download the interactive CLIP JOURNAL here!)

How many of these have you accomplished? In your clip journal, do you show progress in all focus areas? Can you advise SHJO family members and directors on your recommendations on future projects to further our “collective” knowledge, skills, and appreciations in music? (We would LOVE to hear from you!)

Now get out there and learn, create, and share meaningful moments in music!

PKF

 

hi-res logo 2018The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow players.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of this article and the Interactive Clip Journal.

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulfox.blog/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits from Pixabay.com:

“Campfire Stick Fire Flame Camping” by Free-Photos

“Learn Student Laptop Internet” by geralt

“Crying Smiley Emotion Sad” by OpenClipart-Vectors