The Professional Website

Pre-Service Music Educators Looking for Employment: Build a Web Platform to Promote Your “Brand”

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According to Wikipedia, “an electronic portfolio (also known as an eportfolio, e-portfolio, digital portfolio, or online portfolio) is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. Such electronic evidence may include input text, electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. E-portfolios are both demonstrations of the user’s abilities and platforms for self-expression. If they are online, users can maintain them dynamically over time. One can regard an e-portfolio as a type of learning record that provides actual evidence of achievement…”

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog about the “perfect portfolio” for getting a job at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/planning-the-perfect-professional-portfolio/. As a review, these elements were endorsed for inclusion in an e-portfolio:

  • Educational philosophy
  • Résumé or Curriculum Vitaeinternet-1181586_1920_the digitalartist
  • Letters of recommendation
  • College transcripts
  • Praxis® exam results
  • Copy of teaching certificate(s)
  • Artifacts of student work
  • Classroom observation documents/evaluations
  • Statement about class management theory (discipline) and the steps that you would take inside your classroom to create a safe and orderly environment
  • Letters from parents commending the work you did with their children
  • Samples of student assessments/rubrics
  • Excerpts (short video or audio recordings) of you performing on your major instrument/voice, solo and chamber recitals, piano accompanying, playing in college ensembles, and especially teaching in as many settings as possible: small and large group instrumental (band and strings), choral ensembles, elementary classroom lessons, extracurricular activities like marching band and musical, private lessons, etc.
  • Pictures (quote from http://www.theeduedge.com/top-five-must-haves-top-five-could-haves-your-teacher-interview-portfolio/): “We cannot emphasize the power of pictures enough when it comes to portfolios. During interviews, committee members are trying to get to know you and trying to envision you teaching. Don’t trust their imaginations to do so, give them pictures… photos or newspaper articles of you teaching students in the classroom, with students on field trips, learning excursions or outside class activities, with children while you are serving in adviser roles, with your students at business-15822_1920_PublicDomainPicturesmusical or athletic events, coaching or working with children in a coaching capacity, as a leader and role model.”

As I said in my article, all of this is “perfect fodder for marketing yourself” at future employment interviews. Do you have “what it takes” to be a professional music teacher?” In your opinion, what makes you qualified (“a good fit”) for a position in our institution?”

I also recommend you revisiting my blog-post “Tips on Personal Branding” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/tips-on-personal-branding/ for steps on warehousing the elements of your “professional brand.”

If your college does not set you up with a free online site, consider a “do-it-yourself” website creator from one of these, and read the rest of this blog-post:

  • WordPress.com
  • Wix.com
  • Weebly.com
  • SquareSpace.com
  • Web.com
  • Yola.com
  • GoDaddy.com
  • eHost.com
  • Site123.com

WordPress is a popular “open source” solution. This means you will need to independently set up a server, download a third party template, manage updates, set up a domain name, and configure everything on your own. This is what I did for this paulkfoxusc blog-site, and I paid zero for a domain name… but more on that later.

 

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The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Website

One of my favorite online “instruction manuals” for building a website comes from Christopher Heng’s “How to Start / Create a Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide” at  https://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/startwebsite.shtml. Their steps:

  1. Get Your Domain Name.
  2. Choose a Web Host and Sign Up for an Account.
  3. Designing your Web Pages.
  4. Testing Your Website.
  5. Collecting Credit Card Information, Making Money (not needed for us?).
  6. Getting Your Site Noticed.

This should be required reading… but take it slow, and click on all of the secondary links.

Some website builders and managers offer e-commerce and other special features. For a professional website to post your experience and accomplishments, you can avoid the extra cost of these nonessential additional web tools.

web-1738168_1920_CyberRabbitIf you can afford it, purchasing a simple domain name like your first and last name (something easy to remember) would be a great idea. Prospective employers will not have to write down a bunch of numbers, know your birthday, learn your nickname, etc. to find your e-portfolio. If you have an unique middle name or surname, you might luck out and be able to snag (and register) the perfect domain name. This was not possible for me! Do you know how many Paul Fox’s (even Paul K. Fox) are “out there” already taken?

In the process of obtaining an available email label, if needed, try rearranging your name (e.g. listing the last name first?), placing dots between the first and last name, etc.

 

Strategies for Saving Money and Seeking Tech Help

If you are like me, lacking a little confidence about advanced online technology or mastering a complicated website building program, read the following article for a general review of the process and terminology. Take the afternoon off (order a pizza, too) and totally consume it and “A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a WordPress Website” at https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/02/beginners-guide-creating-wordpress-website/#article-wpcom-wporg.

I suppose it would be fair to say that college students are not “made out of money,” so going to a professional website designer is probably “out of the picture,” even though this is one of your most essential tools for successfully communicating your brand! Are you going to lay out some big bucks for an impressive looking resume and business card?

However, have you considered the alternative of asking for help from your roommate, class buddy, or other student acquaintance who is majoring in communications? (Would “free pizza” be enough incentive for someone to sit down with you and get you started?)

The most cost-effective approach may be to sign-up for their FREE plan and self-hosting within the WordPress.com environment. (I am still amazed that this entire blog-site of mine, now archiving more than 73 articles, has been 100% free!)

If you desire more features, a free domain name, and no advertising on your site, you can upgrade to a monthly plan for WordPress (or any of the above providers).

 

 

WordPress.com plans

 

For me, WordPress was/is an easy application to use. You do not have to learn a programming language or fancy commands to format your menus and text. There are a lot of samples you can (almost literally) copy. The hard part is just… GETTING STARTED!

One of the first decisions you have to make is to establish a domain name. If you decide to be “cheap” (like me), just create a Google email account with a suitably professional name. If it is available, you set-up one like “first name” + “middle name” + “last name” + “music educator” or something else appropriate. Dots can be inserted as dividers in an email address. Shortly before I retired (and would lose my school email account), I found that paulkfox.usc@gmail.com was available. (USC is where I taught and continue to live.)

It should be noted here that “partying tuba player” and “crazy singer” are probably not good “professional names.” If you need help, just ask your grandmother what she thinks is appropriate. Remember: teaching is one of the most conservative of professions!

WordPressTo create your web site’s identity, WordPress will remove the dots and add their company’s moniker “.wordpress.com” at the end of your email name. That is how https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com was born!

Your next choice will be the theme, style, and features of your website… probably challenging because there are so many free templates available. Check these out:

As an example, for this site, I use the FREE “Nucleare” theme by CrestaProject. Their description is the following: “Nucleare is a classic blog theme with a crisp, elegant design and plenty of handy features. A built-in search box, links to your favorite social networks, four widget areas, and beautifully styled post formats make this an ideal theme for your personal blog.” Nucleare also supports the following features:

  • Site logo
  • Social Links Menu
  • Post Formats
  • Custom Menus
  • Widgets
  • Custom Header
  • Custom Background
  • Full-Width Page Template

 

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A Model Music Teacher Website

Educators love it when one of their students leave their classroom and choose to become a significant contributing member to our “exalted” profession! I felt blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity of teaching David Dockan, a trumpet player in both our Upper St. Clair High School orchestra and marching band. He validated some of my advice for marketing himself to land a job, and has created a super website. Go to http://www.daviddockan.com/ and use the password “Music” to view his e-portfolio.

His menu sections:

  • Home (Introduction)
  • Teaching (General, Choral, Instrumental, assigned schools, Private Lessons)
  • Philosophy
  • Musicianship (Performance, Conducting)
  • Resume
  • Contact

A trumpet teacher colleague of mine, Ryan Wolf, messaged me on Facebook after he read the initial posting of this blog. He said he had great success hosting his professional website on Yola.com, but he maintains his e-portfolio on his Google Drive to make it easy to share.

In conclusion, I offer a few more recommendations for your consideration:

  1. Proofread your online presence very carefully… misspellings, bad punctuation, grammar mistakes, or poorly formatted displays would be negative PR and a detriment to your marketing plan.
  2. Websites require frequent updates. Keep yours up-to-date at all times!
  3. Print the link to your professional website on your business card and resume.
  4. Consider placing a Q-Code on your business card that, if scanned on a smartphone, would redirect your contact or prospective employer to your website.
  5. Be careful to obtain permission in advance to video record students for your e-portfolio. During your field experiences or student teaching, ask your cooperating teacher (or his/her supervisor’s) permission. Some schools have “do not photo” rosters. (However, in my district, only a few elementary students were “on the list” and most defaulted to a “permissible” status unless the parent opted out. The principal’s secretary had a record of all exceptions.) It is also suggested that you focus your camera mostly on YOU and not the students, from the back of the classroom or rehearsal facility (possibly from afar), so that the student faces are not clearly discernible. To respect their privacy, in the recorded excerpts, do not use any segment announcing the names of your students.
  6. maintenance-2422172_1920_geraltShowing your versatility, try to assemble a collection of still photos, audio examples, and videos that ideally represent all specialties in music education: choral, dance, general music, concert band and string instrumental, marching band, jazz, theater, etc., and demonstrate your proficiency in multiple settings at all grade levels.
  7. There are many blog-sites with tips on “curb appeal” – layout and design, style, overall impact, style, user-friendliness, etc. Since this involves a cross between artistry and efficiency, these advisors may not agree (one says use large images, another suggests smaller pictures mean faster loading speeds). A few samples:

If you were introducing a new “widget” to the market or promoting a sales campaign, you would spend a lot of time (and money) on advertising. A website and e-portfolio are a job hunter’s advertisement tool. Take advantage of any chance you have to present your personal brand, “sell yourself,” and connect with colleagues in the field of education. Archive your training, successes, and goals. Show off your professionalism, proficiency, and personality to prospective HR people and the decision-makers that hire future staff. Be sure to provide “live demos” of your traits of artistry, collaboration, commitment, discipline, even-temperament, initiative, leadership, mastery of music and education, organization, positive outlook, style, tact, and teamwork.

Good luck!!

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

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Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “men” by photoshootings, “beautiful” by PublicDomainPictures, “internet” by thedigitalartist, “business” by PublicDomainPictures, “turn-on” by geralt, “web” by CyberRabbit, “iPad” by fancycrave1, “maintenance” by geralt, and “people” by Akshay93.

How Retirement Has Changed Me

Part I: One retiree’s quest for learning technology, science, and history

Freedom! “Living the dream” in post-employment life has opened so many new avenues of exploration, allowing me to embrace many things I have always wanted to try. Released from the 24/7 nature of running a music program, classes and/or ensembles (even at rest, your mind is still “back at work” thinking about your next lesson or concert selection – and we all know how much time we spent on extra-curricular activities and professional development), you must now find your own intellectual stimulation, replenish your “curiosity quotient,” rekindle your creative self-expression, and re-invent yourself. laptop-1242490

Gone are the days that my laptop computer was used mostly for taking daily homeroom and class attendance, updating the student data in MMS or the grade-book program, and reading school emails and directives from administration. Thank god, those forms of “technology” are “retired” (probably permanently for me).

Following my own advice from this series of blogs on retirement resources, I have had no trouble “finding purpose, structure, and community,” emphasized by Ernie Zeliniski as key components in his bestselling book, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. However, keeping track of the schedule (since it is ever-changing) can be a challenge! Our numerous appointments, lunch dates, babysitting chores, volunteer hours, and medical checkups now land at more unpredictable dates. Happily, the iPhone calendar app, which is linked to my wife’s devices, too, calendar-series-2-1192572is the most essential “tech tool” to maintain your “now busier than ever” daily/weekly plan.

It should be mentioned, if you are a fan of Google gmail, there is also an excellent Google Calendar, as well as a place for contacts, documents, and photos stored safely “in the cloud.”

Updates and Passwords

Retirement provides me more time to literally “figure out technology.” Although I would never claim to have much skill as a nerd (nor would I ever try to seek employment as a member of the highly esteemed Geek Squad), I am finally taking the necessary steps to update my software more regularly, download revised apps, and even go as falinux-login-1497422r as changing my passwords. Everyone knows, with hackers lurking around every corner of the Internet, you are supposed to do two things: have a different password for each application, and from time to time, change these passwords. They should not be something someone else could guess, like “1234” or your phone number or the nickname “foxy” for me. A “good” password should utilize numbers, capitalized letters and small-case, and special characters like $, &, or underline. Using a password manager program like Last Pass (my favorite, and it also comes with a “free version”), you can generate totally random characters for any password and maintain a secure “password vault” under one “master password.” For password manager reviews, check out PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp.

Media Moments

When I was teaching, after a long day of classes and rehearsals, the purpose of the television was to put me to sleep when I got home. Of course, that has not changed much. I hate television. There are very few programs in which I am interested. However, I finally got around to discovering what Amazon Prime and Netflix offer. Crazy old Trekkies like me can now can view every episode of the original Star Trek series in chronological order. When my wife revisits her fixation on the new Gilmoreleo-logo Girls three-part movie or The Crown (Netflix), all I have to do is go into another room, fire up my computer’s browser, and check out the latest video podcast of “Leo the Tech Guy” (techguylabs.com) or any number of the playlists of Ted Talks (these about music caught my notice):

silent-serviceOne of my hobbies furthest from a career in music education has to do with collecting and reading books about World War II, particularly U.S. Navy, submarines and surface fleet. One of my fellow hospital volunteer escorts, a veteran of the Vietnam war, turned me on to the free classic online episodes of T.V. series The Silent Service, for example the 25-minute 1957 broadcast of  SS Tinosa Story #8310 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1nESHgqAnY) archived by Persicope Film LLC.

Almost anything can be found on the Internet. Archived in YouTube, do you remember that old science film your elementary teacher may have shown called  “Hemo the Magnificant” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08QDu2pGtkc? Although the content is out-dated, I can’t help being a little nostalgic in sharing the entire “Bell Lab Telephone” series:

  1. Our Mr. Sun (1956)
  2. Hemo the Magnificent (1957)
  3. The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957)
  4. The Unchained Goddess(1958)bell-lab
  5. Gateways to the Mind (1958)
  6. The Alphabet Conspiracy (1959)
  7. Thread of Life (1960)
  8. About Time (1962)
  9. The Restless Sea (1964)

The Rise of “Siri” and other Personal Assistants

My new girlfriend Siri has become a constant trip partner, not just for using turn-by-turn directions (often needed since my wife would tell you I can get lost in my closet), but to open up opportunities for brainstorming and sound out new ideas for my  writing. Whenever I am “on hold” sitting in a doctor or dentist office, doing family shopping at the mall, or even waiting for traffic at an accident or during rush hour, my hands-free blue-tooth connection allows me to “babble” my thoughts into an app called Evernote, which provides (not always accurate) transcripts that can be downloaded from any of my devices including my computer. Later on, I can use the text as a basis for an article’s outline or to add to my “honey-do” list. However, just remember, you should not use this “tech technique” while driving… the distraction of turning Siri on and off or viewing your last entry does not allow for safe/alert driving!

echoPowered by artificial intelligence, other voice-activated virtual assistants and knowledge navigators including products like Google Home and Amazon Echo (with a different “girlfriend” named “Alexa”) are flooding the market. This should be no surprise… the 21st Century seems to be developing many new inventions of super-automation, not so far from the female-voiced computer interface on the USS Enterprise (Star Trek) that could control everything. Soon you may take a ride from Uber in a driver-less car or “program” the autopilot on your pure-electric Tesla. Do you foresee the time when you will accept your Amazon merchandise or pizza being delivered from the air? What were those drone-operated lights we saw in the background of Lady Gaga’s halftime performance at the 2017 Super Bowl… possible future special effects for HS musicals and marching band shows?

My generation of teachers who entered the profession had no experience or training in microcomputers, tablets, smartphones, smart watches or other devices, or virtual reality headsets. (They weren’t invented yet!) Throughout the advent of technological “innovations,” many of us felt like we were “technology immigrants” trying to catch-up! It was easier for those “technology natives” born after 1980 since they grew up with the Internet. Change is inevitable, and we are all life-long learners. So it almost goes without saying: You can teach an old dog new tricks… even retired music teachers and other baby-boomer retirees how to grasp the fundamentals and benefits of technology, media, and online learning.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

(First four photo credits: Ned Horton, Jean Scheijen, Maxime Perron Caissy, and Joshua Davis at FreeImages.com)