The Importance of Music Education

One Teacher’s Views on the Advocacy of Music in the Schools

Here are partial transcripts, excerpts, and commentary about this blogger’s perspectives on the value and benefits of music education, paraphrased from the program The Edge, produced by the Peters Township High School On-Air Talent class: Episode No. 45, “The Importance of Music Education,”https://archive.org/details/The_Edge_-_Episode_45_-_The_Importance_of_Music_Education

 

The Edge Episode 45

 

music-1781579_1280_GDJOver the years, I have been a strong advocate of equal-access to music and the arts as an essential part the education of all children. This blog will give me an opportunity to put a lot of my thoughts in one place. I am aware that there are many people “out there” who offer the premise that studying music makes you successful in other areas, and you will see that this assumption is well-supported. However, I am not a brain scientist. I cannot confirm research that seems to point to a direct correlation that “the music itself makes us smarter.” It could be that students who are attracted to and become proficient in the arts are somehow uniquely “wired,” have a greater work ethic, or are better intellectually “equipped” to become successful engineers, doctors, lawyers, educators, scientists – you name the career – and enjoy life-long happiness and self-realization. So many of those music-in-our-schools-month fliers say “music is basic,” “music is math,” “music is reading,” “music is science,” etc. and they are right! So, it’s not wrong to bring it up. But we should be fully aware that the primary goal of an education in the arts is for the development of creative self-expression.

In short: music for music’s sake.

When revising our Fine and Performing Arts mission and goals of music education for Middle States accreditation, the music and art teachers in my district centered on several primary goals. Probably the most important one was “to promote the skills of creative self-expression by using music, art, dance, and/or drama as vehicles for defining the students’ self-identity, learning concepts, communicating thoughts and feelings, and exploring mankind’s musical heritage in order to gain a broad cultural and historical perspective.” This statement was written many years ago… prior to the advent of Internet and social media, but perhaps it is even more relevant today!

However, there’s plenty of room here to provide you a wide spectrum of rationale and research from multiple vantage points.

It was my joy to be interviewed by host Sam D’Addieco, a junior percussion player in my South Hills Junior Orchestra. This link takes you to a 30-minute Vimeo recorded in the Peters Township Community Television studio on May 6, 2019. Although this was his assignment for a media class, it really prompted me to do some additional introspection about “what I think I think.” These were some of the issues we discussed… by no means verbatim, but, after all, this is my website. Now I can say what I really meant…

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Initial Questions and Responses

  1. Why did you choose to become a music educator? Music teaching is the greatest job in the world. Every day you deal with the inspirational subject matter of music, and then share it with students who want to be in your class! What could be any better? We guide students towards finding their personal identities, innate artistic and expressive potentials, and successes in making music.
  2. What inspired you to become a music educator in the first place? Were you always going to be a music teacher? I was one of those “goobers” who wanted to “live” in the music room… if I could, participating in band and orchestra eight periods a day! But, up to my Freshman year, I was going to be a doctor or surgeon, thinking that the field of medicine, “saving people’s lives” would be the most exalted career. That is until my Special Biology teacher gave each of us a needle, alcohol swipe, and blood type testing strip, and I found out I was too squeamish to poke myself. What did I really want to do with my life? Share my love of music!
  3. How did you get started in music? Before grade school, my mother signed me up for piano lessons, and I practiced on our Howard baby grand (Baldwin brand) at home reveling in its big, beautiful tone. At school in California, I started out on the snare drum. My piano teacher also introduced me to the violin in the summer between fifth and sixth grade. After that, every new band director I had when I moved to different school districts in Western Pennsylvania switched me to a “what was needed for the band” instrument (baritone then tuba), and my private string teacher moved me to the viola, probably due to the length of my fingers, which eventually became my “major” in college.
  4. Did you have any mentors that helped you along the way? I was blessed with many outstanding music educators, school directors, conductors of local community orchestras, and private instructors. Probablymusic-students-246844_1920_musikschule the one who had the greatest influence on my going into a career of music teaching was Eugene Reichenfeld, who I saw the last period of every day in Orchestra at Penn Hills HS, at least once a week in a private lesson and rehearsals of the Wilkinsburg Civic Symphony on Thursday nights, and over the three summers at the Kennerdell Music and Arts Festival in Venango County. What a role model! Partially blind and losing his hearing, Mr. Reichenfeld played violin, cello, and guitar, and taught uninterrupted until three weeks before he died at the ripe old age of 103!
  5. Any regrets? Absolutely not! My classmates in college dubbed me “mister music ed.” But some of my well-meaning supporters saw other skills in me and tried to talk me into other pursuits. From my senior year in high school to four of five years enrolled in Carnegie-Mellon University, my string professor George Grossman prepared me for employment as a professional musician, even to consider auditioning for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. I said, I want to teach students! My CMU music department chair Robert Page and Fine Arts Dean Akram Midani in 1977 urged me to look into enrolling in Harvard summer arts management courses. Again: I want to teach students! Believe-it-or-not, even my own dad encouraged me to rethink my plans. After attending my first Edgewood Elementary 4th grade musical production (1979), he marveled about how much time I devoted  to making music… 6-7 days a week including evenings! He asked me what were my earnings. We compared my first-year salary of $8200 vs. his position as manager in the nuclear division of Westinghouse Company (move the decimal point to the right – nearly $82,000 annual compensation). He suggested a partnership. “Why don’t you join with me, form a company together, and become entrepreneurs, and with a little luck and your obvious work ethic, we could both make a million dollars in a few years.”
  6. conductor-4189841_1280_GordonJohnsonDid your father ever realize why you chose music? In December 1986, Dad came to my choral/orchestra department production of Scrooge, involving over 250 students at my second career assignment, Upper St. Clair High School. After the closing curtain, he came up to me and asked, “Did you do all of this yourself? I answered, “Well, I had a lot of help. I did prepare the students on the dialogue parts in the script, the leads’ solos, chorus harmonies, and orchestra accompaniment, but I needed a drama specialist for coaching the actors and a choreographer for the dances. And yes, I am also the show’s producer, responsible for the printing of the program and tickets, finding people to assist in sewing the costumes, building the sets, running the stage tech, and applying the make-up.” After a short pause, he said something I will never forget: “Wow! This was incredible! You really made a difference to so many of your students’ lives.” He was proud of me, and finally expressed it! (It was a good thing too… he died suddenly of a heart attack exactly two years later when I was in the middle of staging USCHS’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.)

 

Statistics in Support of Music Education

What is the purpose of music in schools? Why is it important to take a creative arts elective throughout your middle to high school education?

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Okay, we can start with the huge body of research published just about everywhere that indicates “music makes you smarter.” Here are just a few examples and sample supportive documentation. (Please take the time to peruse these links!)

Other skills:

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More attitudes:

Several more general links, additional literature that supports the inclusion of music in the school curriculum:

 

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Learning Styles and “Intelligences”

Ever felt like you were a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? Now, lets dive into the concept that “music is a means to learning.”

Intelligence is often defined as our intellectual potential; something we are born with, something that can be measured, and a capacity that is difficult to change. In recent years, however, other views of intelligence have emerged. Also, more research has been applied to learning styles and preferences… all to promote better success in education.

“Many of us are familiar with three general categories in which people learn: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. Beyond these three general categories, many theories of and approaches toward human potential have been developed.”

— North Illinois University: https://www.niu.edu/facdev/_pdf/guide/learning/howard_gardner_theory_multiple_intelligences.pdf

In 1983, the theory of “multiple intelligences” was formed by Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor Education at Harvard University, and widely read in his initial book offering Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Supported by Thomas Armstrong (books such as Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom), “the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited.” Instead, Dr. Gardner proposed nine different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults (the first one is my favorite):

  • choral-3871734_1280_gustavorezendeMusical (sound smart)
  • Naturalist (nature smart)
  • Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
  • Existential (life smart)
  • Interpersonal (people smart)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)
  • Linguistic (word smart)
  • Intra-personal (self smart)
  • Spatial (picture smart)

“Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live. Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled “learning disabled,” “ADD (attention deficit disorder,” or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.”

— American Institute for Learning and Human Development: http://www.institute4learning.com/resources/articles/multiple-intelligences/

saxophone-3246650_1920_congerdesignTransforming the way schools should be run, the multiple intelligences theory suggests that teachers be trained to present their lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection, and much more. This approach truly “customizes the learning” and provides eight or more potential pathways to learning.

“If a teacher is having difficulty reaching a student in the more traditional linguistic or logical ways of instruction, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning.”

— Thomas Armstrong: http://www.institute4learning.com/resources/articles/multiple-intelligences/

“While a person might be particularly strong in a specific area, such as musical intelligence, he or she most likely possesses a range of abilities. For example, an individual might be strong in verbal, musical, and naturalistic intelligence.”

— Kendra Cherry: https://www.verywellmind.com/gardners-theory-of-multiple-intelligences-2795161

The bottom line? We need music in the schools for a variety of reasons, not the least to systemically and intentionally provide avenues of learning for “music smart” kids as well as to share resources that all teachers across the disciplines may use to enrich their lessons, differentiate the instruction, and “reach” their students.

 

Ever Heard of the Four C’s?

How about defending the rationale that “music makes connections, within us and from the world around us?” Easy!

Music and art courses offer great rigor in developing 21st Century learning skills:

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Released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2010), the best resource I found when this movement made the headlines was this P21 Arts Skills Map. It was developed to “illustrate the intersection between 21st Century Skills and the Arts. The maps will enable educators, administrators and policymakers to gain concrete examples of how 21st Century Skills can be integrated into core subjects.” With so much more detail, this document provides skill definitions, core subject interactions, outcomes and examples:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • stones-451329_1920_dweedon1Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Interdisciplinary Themes

“The music classroom is a perfect place to teach critical thinking and problem solving,” says MENC [now NAfME] member Donna Zawatski. Instead of giving students the answers, she asks questions that will clarify the process and lead to better solutions from the students. “Students will define the problem, come up with solutions based on their previous experience, create, and then reflect on what they’ve created,” she says.

— Donna Zawatski, “4C + 1C = 1TGMT,” Illinois Music Educator, Volume 71, No. 3.

 

Creativity is Number One!

One of my favorite educational gurus, probably an expert on creativity in the schools, is Sir Ken Robinson. His most viewed Ted-Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (18 million+) should be required of all pre-service teachers. A great story-teller with a wonderfully dry English sense of humor, Robinson tells a narrative about a child who was not “behaving” very well in school… “coloring outside the lines” and fidgeting in class. According to the primary teacher, she was distracting the other students, and was hard to “contain” and keep her sitting in her seat.

At the insistence of school staff, the parents took the little girl to a psychiatrist. He did a battery of tests on her to find out why she was so “antsy” and… The counselor’s analysis? He said to her parents: “Your child is not sick. She is a dancer. She likes to express herself in movement. Take her to a school that emphasizes dancing.”

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A “quick-from-the-hip” diagnosis might have resulted in prescribing drugs in order to “calm her down” and make her “fit in” better with the traditional school setting.

The rest of the story? The incident he was talking about described the childhood of the super-successful multi-millionaire English ballerina and choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, the late Gillian Lynne.

Creativity is probably the single most essential learning skill… and I have devoted a whole section of my website on the subject, starting with “Creativity in Education” to numerous blogs here.

 

Flexible Thinking, Adaptability, and Problem Solving

In the interview, I asked the question, “What is 1 + 1 + 1?” What I meant to elicit was, “Besides the obvious response of 3, how many different answers can you find to solve this math problem?”

  • 111
  • 11 (in binary)
  • 1 (draw it in the air, one vertical line and two horizontal lines making the Roman numeral I)

Living in the real world (as well as learning the arts), there are very few “one-right answers!” Unlike other subject areas and pursuits, music fosters abstract decision-making in situations where there are no standard answers, analysis of and response to nonverbal communication, and adaptations and respect of divergent styles and methods for personal expression and thinking.

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The arts foster divergent thinking (the ability to consciously generate new ideas that branch out to many possible solutions for a given problem) as well as convergent thinking (the ability to correctly hone in to a single correct solution to a problem).  According to Professor Curtis Bonk on his insightful “Best of Bob” – Instructional Strategies for Thinking, Collaboration, and Motivation” website, “In creativity, convergent thinking often requires taking a novel approach to the problem, seeing the problem from a different perspective, or making a unique association  between parts of the problem.”

“Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.”

— Proverb quoted by Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly

 

Are You of the “Right Mind?”

First, take the Left-Brain/Right-Brain test at the “Best of Bob” website above.

RThe 60s work of Nobel Peace Prize scientist Dr. Roger Sperry pointed to different sections of the brain being used for unique functions of the mind. Accordingly, the left brain is supposed to be more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the right brain. It’s sometimes called the digital brain. It’s better at things like reading, writing, and computations. In contrast, the right brain is purported to be more visual and intuitive. It’s sometimes referred to as the analog brain. It has a more creative and less organized way of thinking.

However, portions of his research, especially about brain hemisphere dominance have been disputed.

“Magnetic resonance imaging of 1,000 people revealed that the human brain doesn’t actually favor one side over the other. The networks on one side aren’t generally stronger than the networks on the other side.”

“The two hemispheres are tied together by bundles of nerve fibers, creating an information highway. Although the two sides function differently, they work together and complement each other. You don’t use only one side of your brain at a time.”

“Whether you’re performing a logical or creative function, you’re receiving input from both sides of your brain. For example, the left brain is credited with language, but the right brain helps you understand context and tone. The left brain handles mathematical equations, but right brain helps out with comparisons and rough estimates.”

Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/left-brain-vs-right-brain

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Here is what I believe. Parts of what we do in music, like interpretation, expressiveness, phrasing, aesthetic sensitivity, and perception of man’s creations around us, etc. involve imagination and intuition, and are more holistic, intuitive – I will call it “right” brained.

In his book A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World, Daniel Pink, formerly a lawyer and the speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore, forecast that most future careers throughout the world will involve the learning skills normally attributed to the right side of the brain – innovation, invention, ingenuity, adaptability, critical thinking and problem-solving, etc., not jobs that are dominated by predetermined or routine actions, instructions, scripting (e.g. tasks that can be done by robots, Legal Zoom for simple wills, or 1-800 tech help hotlines).

I recommend looking into Pink’s books and his “Discussion Guide for Educators.”

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Finally, with so many memories swimming around in my mind, I was asked by Sam what I thought was the greatest achievement of my career (or perhaps he meant what single student did I “inspire” to greatness?).  I replied that there were far too many to count, those blessed “AH HA” moments when a musician, singer, actor, or dancer goes for his dream and realizes his potential… “I made it!” Sometimes they don’t believe in themselves, are afraid to try, and the teacher has to nudge or encourage them. But, once it happens, you can see the sparkle in their eyes! And, even in retirement, they never let you forget their accomplishment(s) and the difference you made in their lives!

Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with the following statements regarding music’s role in everything from self-esteem development to building “symphonic” relationships and connections between seemingly unrelated or dissociated items or events – “putting the pieces of the puzzle together!”

“To be able to play a musical instrument (increasingly well), to be able to express oneself musically, to become friends with others making the same accomplishments, to reach musical goals and achievements — these things help people feel good about themselves. That has lasting value as it relates to nearly all other things in their lives, according to the music educators.”

The Herald Paladium, September 10, 2000

Music also boosts creativity and the ability to see the relationships between seemingly unrelated things—enhancing all learning. Children who have studied music develop faster socially, mentally, and even physically.

Woodwind Brasswind: “How Music Study Relates to Nearly Every School Discipline”

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Simply put, making music in school and life-long learning as adults are FUN! It nurtures our inner voice, feelings, and self-worth. We enjoy the social interactions of participation in an ensemble. Literally, we explore our artistic “souls” and embrace the beauty within and around us. A career of 40+ years of directing orchestras, both in formalized classes and community/youth groups, has been the most inspirational and life-satisfying of pursuits… something I hope I can do for many more years until I reach Moses’ age!

PKF

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com:

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© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Tips on Student Teaching

Digest of Resources for Pre-Service Music Teachers

Acknowledgments: Special thanks for the contributions of Blair Chadwick and  Johnathan Vest, who gave me permission to share information verbatim from their PowerPoint presentation, and to John Seybert (formerly of Seton Hill University), Ann C. Clements, Robert Gardner, Steven Hankle, Darrin Thornton, Linda Thornton, and Sarah Watt (Penn State University), Dr. Rachel Whitcomb (Duquesne University), and Robert Dell (Carnegie-Mellon University).

Photo credits: David Dockan, my former student, graduate of West Virginia University, now Choir Director / Music Teacher at JEJ Moore Middle School in Prince George, VA.

 

a field guide to student teaching in musicIf you are not fortunate enough to own a copy of A Field Guide to Student Teaching in Music by Ann. C. Clements and Rita Klinger (which I heartily recommend you go out and buy, beg, borrow, or steal), this blog provides a practical overview of field experiences in music education, recommendations for the preparation of all music education majors, and a bibliographic summary of additional resources. Representing that most critical application of in-depth collegiate study of music education methods, conducting, score preparation, ear-training, and personal musicianship and understanding of pedagogy on voice, piano, guitar, and band and string instruments, the student teaching experience provides the culminating everyday “nuts and bolts” of effective music education practice in PreK-12 classrooms.

Possibly the best definition of “a master music teacher” and the process for “hands-on” field training comes from the Penn State University handbook, Partnership for Music Teacher Excellence: A Guide for Cooperating Teachers, Student Teachers, and University Supervisors.

“The goal of the Penn State Music Teacher Education Program is to prepare exemplary music teachers for K-12 music programs. Such individuals can provide outstanding personal and musical models for children and youth and have a firm foundation in pedagogy on which to build music teaching skills. Penn State B.M.E. graduates exhibit excellence in music teaching as defined below.”

“As PERSONAL MODELS for children and youth, music teachers are caring, sensitive individuals who are willing and able to empathize with widely diverse student populations. They exhibit a high sense of personal integrity and demonstrate a concern for improving the quality of life in their immediate as well as global environments. They establish and maintain positive relations with people both like and unlike themselves and demonstrate the ability to provide positive and constructive leadership. They are in good mental, physipenn state university logocal, and social health. They demonstrate the ability to establish and achieve personal goals. They have a positive outlook on life.”

“As MUSICAL MODELS, they provide musical leadership in a manner that enables others to experience music from a wide variety of cultures and genres with ever-­‐‑increasing depth and sensitivity. They demonstrate technical accuracy, fluency, and musical understanding in their roles as performers, conductors, composers, arrangers, improvisers, and analyzers of music.”

“As emerging PEDAGOGUES, they are aware of patterns of human development, especially those of children and youth, and are knowledgeable about basic principles of music learning and learning theory. They are able to develop music curricula, select appropriate repertoire, plan instruction, and assess music learning of students that fosters appropriate interaction between learners and music that results in efficient learning.” — Penn State University School of Music

Making a smooth transition from “music student” to “music teacher” requires a focus on four goals:

  1. Preparation to your placement in music education field assignments
  2. Understanding of the relationships between your cooperating teacher(s) and the university supervisor (and you!) and promotion of positive communications
  3. Adjusting to new environments
  4. Development of professional responsibilities

As mentioned before, details of these should be reviewed in a reading of the introduction to A Field Guide to Student Teaching in Music by Ann. C. Clements and Rita Klinger.

Not to “toot my own horn,” but you are invited to peruse my past blogs on this subject:

 

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Observations

“Take baby steps,” they say?  Before your college music education professors release you to direct a middle school band, teach a general music class, or rehearse the high school choir, you will be asked to observe as many music programs as possible.

My advice to all pre-service teachers is, regardless of your formal assignments by your music education coordinator, try to find time to observe a multitude of different locations, levels, and socioeconomic examples of music classes. Do not limit yourself to those types of jobs you “think” you eventually will seek or be employed:

  • Urban, rural, and suburb settings in poor, middle, and upper-middle socioeconomic areas
  • Large and small school populations
  • Both private and public school entities
  • Elementary, middle, and high school grades
  • General music, tech/keyboard, guitar, jazz, band, choral, and string classes
  • Assignments as different from your own experiences in music-making

Ann Clement and Rita Klinger make the distinction between simply observing and analyzing what you see:

“Observation is a scientific term that means to be or become aware of a phenomenon through careful and directed attention. To observe is to watch attentively with specific goals in mind. Inference is the act of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true. Inference is the act of reason upon an observation. A good observation will begin with pure observation devoid of inference. After an observation of the phenomenon being studied has been completed, it is appropriate to infer meaning to what has been observed. Adding inference after an observation completes the observation cycle — making it a meaningful observation.”A Field Guide to Student Teaching in Music

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Some tips (from Student Teaching in Music: Tips for a Successful Experience by Blair Chadwick and Dr. Johnathan Vest):

  1. Have a specific goal for the observation in mind before you begin
  2. Make copious notes, but don’t write down everything.
  3. Write down techniques, quotes, musical directions or teacher behaviors that seem important.
  4. Don’t be overly critical of your master or cooperating teacher during the observation process.  Remember, they are the expert, you are the novice.  Your perspective changes when you are in front of the class.
  5. Hand-write your notes. An electronic device, although convenient, is louder and can provide distraction for the teacher and students, and you. Write neatly so you can transcribe the notes later.
  6. An small audio recorder can be very useful in case you want to go back and hear something again.

It is appropriate to mention something here about archiving your notes and professional contacts. It is essential that you organize and compile all of the data as you go along… catalog the information in your “C” files (don’t just stuff papers in a drawer somewhere):

  1. Contacts (cooperating/master teachers and administrators’ phone/email addresses)
  2. Course work outlines and class observation journals
  3. Concerts (your own solo and ensemble literature and school repertoire)
  4. Conferences (session handouts, programs)

Why is this important? Don’t be surprised if/when you are asked to teach in a specialty or grade level outside your “major emphasis,” and you want to find that perfect teaching technique or musical selection previously observed that would be a help in your lesson.

 

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Student Teaching

The success of the student teaching experience depends on all its parts working together. They include:

  • The Student Teacher
  • The Cooperating Teacher
  • The University Supervisor
  • The Students
  • The Administration and other teachers and personnel in the building

First, check out your university’s guidelines (of course), but here are “The Basics.”

  • Punctuality (Early = on time; On time = late; Late = FIRED)
  • Dress and Appearance: Be comfortable yet professional.  Be aware of a dress code if one exists, as well as restrictions on tattoos, piercings, and long hair length (gentlemen.)
  • Parking/Checking-In: Know this information BEFORE your first day
  • Materials and Paperwork: Contact your Cooperating Teacher  BEFORE the first day. Know what you need and bring it with you on the first day.

Teacher Hub in “A Student Teaching Survival Guide” spelled out a few more recommendations:

  1. teachhub.comDress for success (professionally)
  2. Always be prepared (checklists, planner, to-do’s)
  3. Be confident and have a positive attitude (if needed, “fake” self-confidence)
  4. Participate in all school activities (everything you can fit into your schedule: staff meetings, extra-curricular activities assigned to the cooperating teacher, and even chaperone duties for a school dance, etc.)
  5. Stay clear of drama (no gossip!)
  6. Don’t take it personally (embracing constructive feedback and criticism)
  7. Ask for help (that’s why you and mentor teachers are there)
  8. Edit your social media accounts (privacy settings and no school student contacts)
  9. Approach student teaching as a long interview (always, throughout the student teaching assignment: “best foot forward” and showcase of all of your qualities)
  10. Stay healthy (handling stress, good sleep, and other positive health habits)

Common questions that may be asked by the student teacher (Chadwick and Vest):

  • Will my cooperating teacher (CT) and school be a good fit for me?
  • Will I “crash and burn” my first time in front of the class?
  • What if  my CT won’t let me teach?
  • What if my CT “throws me to the wolves” on the first day?
  • Will the students respect me?
  • How will I be graded?
  • Will I pass the Praxis??

 

national core arts standards

Planning

Chapter 2 “Curriculum and Lesson Planning” in A Field Guide to Student Teaching in Music provides 12 pages covering scenarios, discussions, and worksheets on all aspects of instructional planning, including the topics of philosophy of music teaching, teaching with and without a plan, long-term planning, and assessment and grading.

If you are unfamiliar with the terms “formative,” “summative,” “diagnostic” and “authentic” assessment, or other educational jargon, or are not fully aware of your state’s arts and humanities standards and the National Core Arts Standards, don’t panic. (Many of us “veteran” music teachers were in the same boat at the beginning of student teaching, regardless of how much material was introduced in our education methods courses.) Do some “catch-up” by visiting  the corresponding websites. For example, in pmeaPennsylvania, you should be a member of PCMEA and take advantage of the research of the PMEA Interactive Model Curriculum Framework. Some educational “buzz words” and acronyms were explored in a previous blog here. It should be noted that, although you won’t be expected to know the full PreK-12 music curriculum while student teaching, when you are hired as “the music specialist,” you would likely be the professional who will be assigned to write and update that same curriculum… so get to know it ASAP. (On my second day in my first job, my JSHS principal came to me and said a course of study for 8th grade music appreciation was due on his desk by the last week of the semester! No, like you, I was not trained in writing curriculum in college!)

From the Penn State University Partnership for Music Teacher Excellence: A Guide for Cooperating Teachers, Student Teachers, and University Supervisors, the following criteria are recommended to be used by the cooperating teacher and the student teacher to assess the effectiveness of a long-term course of study. (Sample plans are provided here.)

  1. Stated learning principles are related to specific learner or student teacher
    activities.
  2. The importance of the course of study is explained in terms learners would likely
    accept and understand.
  3. Each goal is supported by specific objectives.
  4. The sequence of the objectives is appropriate.
  5. The goals and objectives are realistic for this group of learners.
  6. The objectives consider individual differences among learners.
  7. The content presentation indicates complete and sequential conceptual
    understanding.
  8. The presentation is detailed enough that any teacher in the same field could
    teach this unit.
  9. The amount of content is appropriate for the length of time available.
  10. A variety of teaching strategies are included in the daily activities.
  11. The teaching strategies indicate awareness of individual differences.
  12. The daily plans include a variety of materials and resources.
  13. The objectives, teaching strategies, and evaluations are consistent.
  14. A variety of evaluative techniques is employed.
  15. Provisions are made for communicating evaluative criteria to learners.
  16. The materials are neatly presented.

It is important sit side-by-side with your cooperating teacher and discuss some of these “essential questions” of instructional planning and assessment of student teaching:

  • What is the purpose of the learning situation?
  • What provision have you made for individual differences in learner needs, interests, and abilities?
  • Are your plans flexible and yet focused on the subject?
  • Have you provided alternative plans in case your initial planning was not adequate for the period (e.g. too short, too long, too easy, too hard)?
  • Can you maintain your poise and sense of direction even if your plans do not go as you anticipated?
  • Can you determine where in your plans you have succeeded or failed?
  • On the basis of yesterday’s experiences, what should be covered today?
  • Have you provided for the introduction of new material and the review of old material?
  • Have you provided for the development of musical understanding and attitude as well as performance skills?

 

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Getting Your Feet Wet… Becoming an “Educator”

[Source: Chadwick and Vest]

Be attentive to the needs of the students and your cooperating teacher. If you see a need that arises that the CT cannot or is not addressing, then take action. Don’t always wait to be told what to do. These situations may include:

  • Singing or playing with students who are struggling
  • Work with a section or small group of students
  • Helping a student with seat/written work
  • Attending to a a non-musical problem (such as student behavior)

Your supervising teacher or music education coordinator will probably instruct you on how much and when to teach, but each school and CT is different. In general, you should start teaching a class full-time by week 3 and have at least two weeks of full-load teaching per placement. (This is not always possible.)

Remember that any experience is good experience, so be grateful if you are asked to teach early-on in your experience.

What the supervising and/or cooperating teachers are looking for during an observation:

  1. The Lesson Plan
    • Lesson organization (components, logical flow, pacing, time efficiency)
    • Required components included
    • National and State Standards Included—and these have/are changing!!!!
    • Objectives stated in observable terms and tied directly to your assessment(s)
    • What the US/CT is looking for during an observation
  2. Teaching Methods
    • Questioning techniques (stimulate thought, higher order, open-ended, wait time)
    • Appropriate terminology use
    • Student activities that are instructionally effective
    • Teacher monitoring of student activities, assisting, giving feedback
    • Opportunities for higher order thinking
    • Teacher energy/enthusiasm
  3. Classroom Management
    • Media and materials are appropriate, interesting, organized and related to the unit of study.
    • Teacher “with-it-ness”
    • Student behavior management (consistency, classroom procedures in place, students understand expectations)
  4. Student Involvement/Interest/Participation in the Lesson
    • Student verbal participation
    • Balance of teacher talk/student talk
    • Lots of  “musicing” (singing, playing, listening, moving)
    • Student motivation
    • Student understanding of what to do and how to do it
  5. Classroom Atmosphere
    • Positive, “can-do” atmosphere
    • Student questions, teacher response
    • Helpful feedback
    • Verbal and non-verbal evidence that all students are accepted and feel that they belong

Student teaching is the opportunity of a lifetime. This is when you get to practice your pedagogical skills, make invaluable professional connections,  and learn lifelong lessons. Sure, it will take a lot of hard work and dedication. As TeacherHub concluded, “Use this time to learn and grow and make a great impression. Stay positive and remember student teaching isn’t forever – if you play your cards right, you will have a classroom of your own very soon.”

PKF

 

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Bibliography

A Field Guide to Student Teaching in Music, Ann C. Clements and Rita Klinger

A Guide to Student Teaching in Band, Dennis Fisher, Lissa Fleming May, and Erik Johnson, GIA 2019

Handbook for the Beginning Music Teacher, Colleen Conway and Tom Hodgman, 2006

Including Everyone: Creating Music Classrooms Where All Children Learn, Judith A. Jellison, 2015

Intelligent Music Teaching, Robert Duke

Music in Special Education, Mary S. Adamek and Alice Ann Darrow, 2010

Partnership for Music Teacher Excellence: A Guide for Cooperating Teachers,
Student Teachers, and University Supervisors,
Penn State University Music Education Faculty Ann Clements, Robert Gardner, Steven Hankle, Darrin Thornton, Linda Thornton, Sarah Watts  https://music.psu.edu/sites/music.psu.edu/files/music_education/pmte-student_teaching_handbook.pdf

Remixing the Classroom: Toward an Open Philosophy of Music Education, Randall Everett Allsup, 2016

A Student Teaching Survival Guide, Janelle Cox https://www.teachhub.com/student-teaching-survival-guide

Student Teaching in Music: Tips for a Successful Experience, Blair Chadwick and Dr. Johnathan Vest https://www.utm.edu/departments/musiced/_docs/NAfME%20%20Student%20Teaching%20in%20Music.pptx

Teaching Music in the Urban Classroom, Carol Frierson-Campbell, ed.

Teaching with Vitality: Pathways to Health and Wellness for Teachers and Schools, Peggy D. Bennett, 2017

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

inteREVIEWING the situation… and jobs

Senior Music Education Majors’ Employment Prep

Did you miss your state MEA conference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successful professionals stay up-to-date with their journals

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

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

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

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

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

What was YOUR score… out of 11?

Get to work… so you can get work!

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PKF

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

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Photo credit: FreeImages.com, photographer Alexander Kalina

 

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Tips on Developing Better Practicing Habits

Every good musician knows that regular practice is a must, but did you know that careless or inattentive practice can actually make you worse?

It is not necessary true that “practice makes perfect” – more likely that “perfect practice develops perfect playing.” Quality not quantity, you say? Your school music teachers will urge you to increase both the quality (focus, attention, goals/planning, etc.) as well as the number of minutes per week. Here are a few hints on improving practicing techniques. Read on… there are many additional resources for parents to guide their musicians to musical mastery!

  1. Designate a quiet place for practice at home
  2. Limit all distractions (TV, video games, computers, phones)
  3. Plan habits of consistent daily practice time(s) and weekly frequency
  4. Make practice goals (what do you hope to accomplish this week?)
  5. Take a few minutes to warm-up (scales, finger patterns, long tones, or lip slurs)
  6. Sandwich method (start at the bottom and work your way up)
    1. Review a song you already know (bottom slice of bread)
    2. Focus on a few “hard parts” (the meat in the middle of the sandwich)
    3. Sight-read something new (condiments, pickles or cheese)
    4. Review another well-prepared song (top slice of bread)
  7. Pizza slices
    1. Identify and prioritize the problems or hard sections
    2. Partition the entire song
    3. Focus on a “slice” of the music – a measure, phrase or line of music – at a time
    4. Drill (daily) on one or a few slices
    5. Next practice session, repeat then progress to next section
  8. Re-order the sections of a piece (scrambling)
  9. Target a difficult passage, play slow at first, then increase tempo gradually each time you play it
  10. Try patterns of instant slow/fast and then fast/slow
  11. Fire up different sections of the brain on a problem spot
    1. Say the letter names out loud (or sing them) – speech center
    2. Bow or tap the rhythms “in the air” – left-side psychomotor
    3. Finger the notes without the bow or mouthpiece – right-side psychomotor
    4. Combine a, b, and/or c on specific passages – all parts of the brain
  12. Create new rhythmic or articulation/bowing variations to challenge your playing of the passage
  13. To improve your musical batting average, implement the Ten-Times Rule (accurately in a-row)
  14. Always add expressive markings including dynamics, tempo and articulation changes, etc.

seriestoshare-logo-01Yes, practicing should be heard at home. It is NOT enough simply to play at school. The long-tested “success equation” is TIME + MAKING PROGRESS = FUN (encouraging more time, progress and fun). Practicing on a regular basis improves technique, musicianship, self-confidence, endurance, reading skills, and besides… playing better is a lot more FUN!

PARENTS: Here are several excellent websites on recommendations for developing better practice skills, but ask your school music director for more advice!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

This “Series to Share” is brought to you by… the Founding Directors of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO), “A Community Orchestra for All Ages” based in Western Pennsylvania. Please feel free to download a printable copy (CLICK HERE) and distribute to music students, parents, teachers, and fellow amateur musicians.

SHJO rehearses most Saturdays in the band room of the Upper St. Clair High School, 1825 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241. New members are always welcome! For more information, please go to www.shjo.org.

PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?

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PA Music Teacher Retirees – Renew Your Membership!

On behalf of the 375+ retired members of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (not to mention the nearly 4000 regular and collegiate members), let me congratulate and welcome you to retirement!

chorus-515897_1920This will sound like an advertisement (it is)… for retaining one’s professionalism, keeping involved albeit less active in the profession, supporting the future of music education, and on occasion lending a hand to PMEA throughout retirement! In return, the association will provide you opportunities to record and post your career accomplishments and position assignments (past and in the future), network with your friends and colleagues retired or still “in the trenches,” and nurture your personal quest for creative self-expression and artistry… everything from guest conducting or adjudicating ensembles to writing for PMEA publications or presenting sessions at the conferences. It is all about YOU!

When (now) Immediate Past President Dennis Emert appointed me to the position of State Retired Member Coordinator four years ago, I had no idea what I could offer… except to serve as a “cheerleader” and represent the best interests of our music teacher retirees. This blog-post is to acquaint you with the rich assortment of resources PMEA offers to its retired members, and examples of our retirees’ news, views, and rationale for continuing their participation in PMEA… even take a peek at sample Retired Member Network eNEWS issues and articles in PMEA News. That’s what’s in it for you!

grandfather-on-the-porch-1398795Research indicates that people either LOVE retirement or HATE it, and their journey to the blessed “golden years” can have many ups and downs, especially for type-A, peak-performing individuals who (used to) spend large amounts of time and personally identified with “the job…” like many music educators. Since retiring myself from the Upper St. Clair School District in June 2013, my goal has been to help others enjoy this life-changing passage, cope with life-style changes/altered expectations, and find creative new ways to self-reinvent and thrive. Objectives for retired members in 2016-18 are:

  • Continuation and expansion of PMEA Retired Members’ projects started in 2015-16, including the Retiree Resource Registry (R3), PA community band, orchestra, chorus and theater group listings, opportunities to volunteer at conferences, sessions on “how to retire,” etc.
  • Exploration of new and unique ways to inform, motivate, engage, and activate PMEA retired members, to enhance their feelings of value, purpose, and being “needed and useful” in support of PMEA and the music education profession: “The mission of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association is to advance comprehensive and innovative music education for all teachers and students through quality teaching, rigorous learning, and meaningful music engagement.”
  • Improvement in data tracking of retired members’ membership status and contact information in order to “keep connected”
  • Publication of news, awards, appointments, and successes of retired members
  • Promotion of additional tools for a smooth transition to happy retirement

Your first stop for retirement resources should be the PMEA website (look under the top menu “Focus Areas”), where we post recent editions of past issues of the digital newsletter Retired Members Network eNEWS, relevant articles in PMEA News, etc. Take a moment and “surf the net” at http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

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There’s so much you can do now that you are retired! Now that you have “more freedom” to seek out purposeful and “fun” activities in education (but only the things you WANT to do!), ask yourself: “How you can rekindle your expressiveness?”

  • Why did you go into music and education in the first place?
  • What have you always wanted to play… sing… compose… conduct… record… create?
  • Have you thought about learning a new instrument, skill, or musical style?
  • When will you complete your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and have it performed?
  • When are you going to publish your songs, sonatas, warm-ups, methods, essays on pedagogy, musical plays, halftime shows… or personal memoirs?
  • What is your next article, book, method, composition, drum-line feature, etc.?
  • When are you going to join a community band, orchestra, chorus or theater group?

Or, if you would like to “give back” to the profession, “stimulate your brain,” and develop more association leadership, you can jump in to PMEA and explore any of the following:

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  • Run for local or state PMEA office or council position
  • Serve as presiding chair or member of the PMEA planning or listening committees for the conference
  • Participate as guest lecturer or panel discussion member at a conference, workshop, or college methods program
  • Judge local/state adjudication festivals
  • Help plan or manage a local PMEA festival or workshop
  • Accompany, coach, or guest conduct festivals or school/community groups
  • Assist the local music teacher in private teaching, piano playing, marching band charting, sectional coaching, set-up of music technology, instrument repair, etc.
  • Write for PMEA or NAfME

r3_logoAre you still willing to “lend a hand” on PMEA projects or share your expertise and provide a free (but priceless) consultant service to new/transferred PMEA members and officers? We constantly update and publish a Retiree Resource Registry https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Retired-Resource-Registry-update-02-12-18.pdf and R3 Help Index https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/R3-Help-Index-021218.pdf on the website. This project is a “win-win” as it also allows the retired member a place to archive all of his/her achievements, awards, past and current assignments, interests, and hobbies. To join this prestigious roster of “who’s-who of past music teaching leaders in PA,” please go to https://pmea.wufoo.com/forms/pmea-retiree-resource-survey/ or the PMEA website to complete the R3 sign-up survey.

Do you know it only takes $30 to join as a PMEA Retired Member ($65 for joint membership to NAfME and receipt of their publications as well!). What a deal! The membership form is at http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/.

Lancaster MarriottIn addition, retired member registration at the annual PMEA Spring Conference is… (drum-roll, please!) ONLY $10 early-bird! Our next spring conference will be held on April 19-21, 2018 at the Lancaster Marriott & Convention Center. Music teacher retirees get to enjoy some social time to “swap stories” with a FREE breakfast on Friday, April 20. In addition, we are looking for volunteers to help man the PMEA Info Booth… of course, “retired members to the rescue!” Invitations and more details will go out to current members next month, but check out this section on the PMEA website for more information about the conference: http://www.pmea.net/pmea-annual-in-service-conference/.

In case you are interested, a past PMEA summer conference session on retirement is posted on the retired members’ section. Feel free to download the workshop’s slides (https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Retirement-Planning-Its-Not-About-the-Money.pdf) and the recently revised handout https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ultimate-retiree-resource-guide-111717.pdf, the latter probably the most comprehensive “reading list” ever published for music teacher retirees.

PaulFox_LogoAs a part of reflection and sharing of positive strategies for “Crossing the Rubicon” to a happy, healthy, and meaningful retirement, I have assembled a super-site of every website, article, book, publication, etc. of post-employment “gurus” that I could find. Visit the top menu link “For-Retirees” and come back often for updates.

Finally, since January 2017, we have published numerous retired member columns in the state journal PMEA News (access to current PMEA members is available at https://www.pmea.net/resources/pmea-news/):

  • “Pet Ownership and Retirement” (Fall 2016)
  • “Act Well Your Part; There the Honor Lies” (Winter 2016)
  • “Tips for Music Teachers Who Are Retired, Retiring, or Soon-to-Retire” (Spring 2017)
  • “What Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?” (Summer 2017)
  • “The Vocabulary of Retirement and Leisure” (Fall 2017)
  • “Sailing Through a Proverbial Sea of Self-Help Books on Retirement” (Winter 2017)

Also, as a teaser, check out the archived PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS editions… probably alone worth the discounted membership fee? (But, if you have the time and desire, perhaps you can submit better jokes and stories to “editor” Fox?): https://www.pmea.net/retired-member-network-enews-archive/.

Enjoy retirement… you have earned it! However, don’t forget the THREE BASIC NEEDS that work fulfills and which are essential to retirement, according to Ernie Zelinski, the best-selling author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free:

  1. Purpose
  2. Community
  3. Structure

Let PMEA Retired Membership help you on the way to self-fulfillment as you take the journey towards “living your dream and finding joy in your life!”

PKF

© 2016 and 2017 Paul K. Fox

(Photo credits: FreeImages.com)

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Happy Thanksgiving, Newbies!

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” — Plato

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Things for Which Prospective Music Teachers and Students Majoring in Music Education Should Be Thankful… and on Which to Reflect Over This Holiday Season!

Music educators and those training for this honorable career have many reasons to feel blessed. This Thanksgiving 2016 blog is another one of my “pep talks” and an ongoing goal to share resources for pre-service professional development. Lets begin with a classic “top-ten” list — the fruits and cornerstones of our profession:

  1. prospective-music-student-1440071-1Music is one of life’s greatest treasures!
  2. You will always have your music. Your future employment is also your hobby, and even after 35 or more years, you will inclined to continue your music throughout the “golden years” of retirement.
  3. There are so many ways you can make a difference in the lives of children with music. Whether it is singing, playing an instrument, composing, listening, feeling, or moving in response to music, music fills a basic need!
  4. Although music is an excellent vehicle for developing 21st Century learning skills (the four C’s of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication), participating in music for music’s sake is paramount. To find true meaning and personal artistry, you cannot review the arts without “doing” (or creating) the arts.
  5. parade-band-1421028Your joy of creative self-expression and “making music” will sustain you through almost anything… and will transfer to your students’ success in life.
  6. In many settings of school music courses and extra-curricular activities, your students make a conscious effort to choose you and the study of music in order to spend as much time together. “They may have to take math and English, but they also want their daily dose of music!”
  7. Newcomers to this field, you do not have to be right or perfect all the time in class. During your student teaching and early years on the job, if you are enthusiastic, dedicated, and respectful of the feelings of your students, youkids-singing-christmas-songs-1438089r mistakes (and there will be many) will be forgiven. Besides, there are usually no “single right answers” in music and art – only opportunities for divergent and flexible thinking, adaptability, and personal expression.
  8. You’ll never forget your students… and when you bump into them after graduation, they will remind you all about “those good times!” Don’t be surprised when they tell you were the best part of their education.
  9. Your band, orchestra, and/or choral director back home (school district and university) are rooting for you… and want you to succeed. If you have questions, go see them. They would appreciate you asking for their advice.unwritten-solo-2-1314639
  10. Good news! Help is on the way! On this blog-site, there is a single link to all of the articles, handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc., everything from branding yourself to a review of the interview questions you will need to answer at job screenings. To help you market your professionalism, develop a philosophy of music education, learn the basics of networking, dive into making a business card, professional website or e-portfolio, or practice taking interviews, go to the link above or https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/becoming-a-music-educator/.

Why Music? Why Do You Want to Become  a Music Educator?

It never hurts to embrace and share the excellent voices of our music education advocates. Check out these interesting online sources:

Ten Goals for the Holiday Break

After you finish your fall semester finals, juries, concerts, writing assignments, and other projects, you may have several weeks before you have to return to full-time classes at the university. Besides catching up on your sleep and visiting your family and friends, how many of these enrichment activities can you accomplish?

  1. Share your gifts. Play your instrument, accompany concert-1435286someone else, or sing solos at a local nursing home or senior center.
  2. Sit in with a church or community choir, band, or orchestra. Just ask the conductor if you could participate in a few rehearsals over your break.
  3. Learn something new about music… a different instrument, recent releases in sheet music or recordings, unique composer/arranger in your major area, music education article from a professional journal, innovative music software or interactive online programs (often free trials are available to future teachers), etc. For example, have you perused SmartMusic and MusicFirst?
  4. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpend a lot of time sight-reading… especially on the piano. To take your ear-training training a step further, pull out your old folk-song sight-reading series  or Hindemith’s Elementary Training for Musicians and practice musicianship exercises.
  5. To improve your score reading, take a choral arrangement and play the individual vocal parts at sight (soprano + bass, alto + tenor, soprano + tenor + bass, etc.). Or, perform on the piano 2-4 parts of a string quartet score.
  6. Volunteer to assist coaching a sectional or large ensemble at your local public school.
  7. Attend as many local concerts as you can: school, amateur adult, and professional.
  8. Compose or arrange a short holiday, folk, or classical song for unusual instrumentation (e.g. flute, viola, baritone sax, and tuba). Who knows? Someday you may have to conduct an ensemble with such unique membership.flute-player-1567317
  9. Record video/audio excerpts of your major instrument/voice for placement on your professional website. Begin preparations on or update your e-portfolio.
  10. Read all of the “marketing professionalism” articles on this blog-site. Take notes or print the things to which you want to refer back. Make a list of the possible interview questions, and put yourself through several “mock job screenings” (alone or with one or more college buddies) with you answering these randomized questions in front of a camera. Assess your performance. During your”free time” over the holiday break, assemble your “personal stories” – anecdotes revealing your skills, personality traits, teaching experiences, and accomplishments that could be shared at future employment interviews. Most important article on this subject? Look at thanksgiving-turkey-1521430https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/interview-questions-revisited/.

Best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and fulfilling holiday. Please enjoy lots of turkey with your loved ones, but if you can, “catch up” on your long term preparation for becoming a music educator. Make every day count over the recess. Reflect on why you are becoming a music educator, and be grateful for the multitude of benefits! Finally, never forget your own creative roots… make time for music every day!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Photos are licensed by FreeImages.com (all rights reserved)

21st Century Job Search Techniques

“New Age” Employment Tools for Music Teachers

Portions of this blog-post reprinted from “Job Searching in the 21st Century – The 5 W’s of the Application” in the Summer 2016 issue of PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educator Association. Special thanks goes to contributor Joshua Gibson, PMEA State Director of Member Engagement. PMEA members should go directly to the website, download and read the entire insightful article: http://www.pmea.net/resources/pmea-news/.

Hello and welcome to all collegiate music education majors and prospective job seekers! Here are a few more suggestions to help you go out and find the perfect public school music position, especially in Pennsylvania. But first, if you have not read my past blogs on this subject, please click on the above link “Becoming a Music Educator.”

Are you a PCMEA or PMEA member?

pmeaThe number one “tool” for finding a job is not a tool at all – it is all about modeling professionalism, networking with other college students and music teachers, and becoming actively engaged in your state/national music education associations (click on the acronyms to go to their websites) – National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) and Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Education Association (PCMEA). Interaction with others in your field is essential to build and maintain connections to what is “state-of-the-art” in curriculum/instruction, innovations in teaching and technology, news, trends, and other information related to the field of music education, and even “leads” to possible openings in PA school districts via job banks and conversations with other colleagues at state conferences and meetings. If you are not already a member of NAfME and PCMEA, you are walking away from numerous opportunities and benefits that could help you land a job!

The Mobile Resume

Much has been written about the curriculum vitae (CV) or employment resume. One recommendation is for it to be constantly updating, adaptable, flexible, and “very digital.” dockan1Your “travel document” (paper copy you bring to the interview or “one-of-kind” attachment in response to email application) should be easy-to-modify based on the specific job posting to which you are applying. Your philosophy, goals, education, and teaching experience should focus on and reflect your competencies in alignment with the requirements for the music position. Your professional website and online resume should be more “general” and not rule out being considered for employment assignments outside your major. The PA teaching certificate states you are licensed to teach music in grades pre-K to 12… which means you should be qualified for any opening in elementary, middle, and high school general music, band, choir, jazz, keyboard lab, and strings, right?

If your professional “contacts” (or the school district’s website) help you discover more specifics about the type of music position to which you are applying, you can include on your resume past performances and interactions with students even remotely related to this subject area, as well as become better prepared for the questions and a demonstration lesson at the interview. For example, the school district from which I retired recently began looking for a middle and elementary school band director and high school assistant marching band director. Even if you majored or emphasized in voice, piano, or strings in college, “if you really want the job,” you should be able to revise your resume to include such experiences like playing the flute in your HS marchingdockan2 band for a year, conducting a small instrumental ensemble to accompany your youth church choir, giving a few summer lessons to the bell players in the local drum line where you live, etc. In addition, prior to the first employment screening and mock lesson at the interviews, you could “bone up” on your instrumental methods, suitable middle and elementary band warmups/literature, the meaning/concept of “middle school education,” and perhaps even pull out and brush up playing a few scales on that flute (or whatever) in your closet.

Electronic Business Card

Past blogs (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/) discuss personal branding, the set-up of a professional website, business cards, and networking. Have you thought about placing a Q code on your business card that scanning would go directly to your e-portfolio and sample recordings, perhaps displaying an excerpt from your senior recital and several videos of your teaching or conducting?

Check out these online resources that are “pro” using a Q code:

To be fair, these sites recommend against placing a Q code on your card:

At the every least, you need to print on your business card the URL listing to your website or LinkedIn pages… access to find “everything you always wanted to know about” you as a candidate.

dockan3

Where Are the Jobs? Websites and Online Hiring Agencies

PMEA State Director of Member Engagement Joshua Gibson shared his research on using the Internet to search for music teacher openings posted in Pennsylvania. (PCMEA and PMEA members should read the entire article, “Job Searching in the 21st Century – The 5 W’s of the Application Process” on pages 62-63 in the Summer 2016 issue of PMEA News.)

With descriptions printed in the journal, you should become familiar with these sites:

PMEA Educational Entities Map

pcmeaAnother great reason you should be a member of your professional association (PMEA or PCMEA) if you are looking for a job in PA is… the PMEA Job Board. Many PMEA members have relied on the Job Board for the most recent information when it comes to available PA music teacher positions.

Adapted from Google Maps, Gibson recently created/unveiled the latest interactive tool to facilitate a hunt for PA musical jobs: PMEA Educational Entities Map. His explanation:

The PMEA Educational Entities Map will “allow anyone to be able to search jobs in any geographical area in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You can sort by Public School Districts (red), Charter Schools (blue), Career and Technology Centers (green), High Education (yellow), and Intermediate Units (orange).”

The job seeker can also use a specific PA county overlay to outline a specific area, as well as correlate with the PMEA District and PMEA Region maps.

In summary, “Once you click on the specific entry, you will be given the name, address, phone number, website, the employment website, and county of residence.”

For more information about the PMEA Job Board, go to http://www/pmea.net/job-board/. Gibson invites comments or questions for using the PMEA Interactive Map at jgibson@pmea.net.

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Break-a-leg! Hopefully these 21st Century marketing hints will do the trick! Best wishes on starting (or restarting) your music teaching career!

Photo credits: David Dockan, my former student and graduate of West Virginia University. Check out his professional website: http://www.daviddockan.com/.

Additional Blogs of “Tips and Techniques” for Getting Hired

 

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Retired from What?

concert-662851_1920Do music teachers ever retire? Not really!

The other night, I was attending a community foundation meeting for which I serve as trustee. One of the other members came up to me and made a little fun of the fact that he noticed I list my previous employment on the footer of my email.

I have to admit I was taken aback and a little embarrassed. I recalled that several months after I retired from public school teaching, I prepared some business cards to distribute at music education conferences and collegiate seminars which included the job titles I assumed when I was working full-time at Upper St. Clair. You have to admit it may be a little ironic. Why would a retiree use a business card to help broadcast his skills and experience for possible future employment opportunities… something no longer needed?

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Then it hit me. Most people retire and want nothing to do with the daily grind to which they were assigned during their career. Many want to forget everything and wash their hands of all memories of their former position(s) in sales, management, law, medicine, trades, manufacturing, service industry, etc. – perhaps, even non-arts related education!

Musicians and music teachers are definitely unique. Our job is really more of a “calling,” never just a place to go to work and earn a paycheck. We were inspired to make music and then share this fantastic process with our students and audiences. Our employment was never 9-to-5. And, all of the Performing Arts have no notion of a 9-to-5 goal…  “Hurry up, let’s finish learning this piece, play it, and then go to the bar and have a few drinks.”

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The mission of music education is to facilitate creative self-expression, to nurture understanding of ourselves, our culture, and our artistic heritage, and to seek out as many opportunities to “make music” in collaboration with other instrumentalists and vocalists. You have heard it before: “Music is lifelong learning!” That means there are no limits to lifelong participation in the arts based on race, color, religion, gender, sex, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, military status, and most importantly, age!

I know very few music education professionals who do not “bring home their music…” looking for more ways to experience it in their free time:

  1. Play, sing, act, or dance in a community ensemble
  2. Direct or accompany a church or community group
  3. street-musicians-1436714Practice and go out on a few gigs with your own jazz, rock, Barbershop, or chamber music group
  4. Teach private lessons
  5. Coach or compose for local marching bands, etc.

All of these activities become magnified when you retire. Once we are “set free” from the day-to-day academic schedule, lesson planning, faculty meetings, etc., we can focus our attention on what we really love to do. We are probably the luckiest professionals alive… we want to revisit our creative roots, not run away from them.

My previous experience (on my business card or e-mail footer) is relevant and I will no longer apologize for sharing it. I am not “stuck in the past,” but focused on the future! It means I am still active in the profession, available to mentor or help others in the field, always learning and growing, and exploring new directions and avenues to inspire my own artistry.

How many of you retirees agree that you are really just moving on to different pursuits in performance and/or music singer-1535103education? Of course, the best part of retirement is that you get to pick what you want to do every day for the rest of your life. So go ahead and say yes to those extra conducting gigs, writing/publishing your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” working with the church or community choir, accompanying a handful recitals, volunteering to help your favorite local marching band or civic theater, serving as an adjudicator for a music festival, supervising student teachers or teaching college music education methods classes, etc.

If you rearrange the letters, “retired” becomes “retried,” not “retread.” Yes, I embrace many of those other “re- words” meaning “growth,” such as redefining, retraining, re-targeting, re-tailoring, remaking, retooling, re-energizing, reflecting, and revitalizing, but not those negative or low-energy terms such as reverting, returning, regretting, retreating, recycling, refusing, regrouping, regressing, or retreading.

concert-1-1438833As long as I am alive, I will continue to inspire in others that music makes a difference!

Downsized… and Out!

Coping with the Unexpected Loss of a Music Teaching Job

Quotes from the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” directed by Stephen Herek

Vice Principal Wolters (William H. Macy): I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I’m forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.

Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss): Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.

Glenn Holland: I’m 60 years old, Gene. What are you going to do: write me a recommendation for the morgue?

* * *

Glenn Holland: It’s almost funny. I got dragged into this gig kicking and screaming, and now it’s the only thing I want to do.

Glenn Holland: You work for 30 years because you think that what you do makes a difference, you think it matters to people, but then you wake up one morning and find out, well no, you’ve made a little error there, you’re expendable.

worried-man-against-white-free-photos-1430353On the subject of music teachers exiting the job market, one area we have not ventured into with these blogs on “retirement resources” is the most difficult to handle – having to face a forced resignation or involuntary leave.

Being laid off, especially from what was a long-term position, is very much like losing a close friend or relative. The loss is palpable.

No matter the reason… budget cuts, downsizing the program, position re-assignments, new administrative directives, or health problems, the feeling is inexplicable. Helplessness. Frustration. Resentment. Resignation.

According to Easter Becker-Smith, Leadership Development and Life Coaching at http://www.slideshare.net/coacheaster/the-emotions-of-losing-your-job-5597103, it is normal to go through four stages of grieving after losing your job:

  1. Denial
  2. despair-work-falure-computer-1494555Depression
  3. Anger
  4. Acceptance

Your past experiences in professional development, employment transfers, moving, coping with change, or understanding management or hiring practices, do not help a bit…  you are “kicked to the curb” and left speechless.

For the music educator and school employee, the scenarios of “getting the ax” are many:
  • Music is eliminated from the curriculum or the building in which you teach.
  • You feel you must retire (earlier than you want) to avoid losing existing medical benefits due to problems with ongoing negotiations of the new teachers’ contract.
  • You were last hired and several arts teachers are furloughed due to a budget crisis.
  • You voluntarily retire from the full-time job, but hope to continue as assistant marching band director (to complete your 30th year). Due to “politics” unrelated to you, a board member withdraws your name from the agenda and you never receive approval.
  • The new head coach of the sport in which you have assisted for ten years fires you to bring in his “cronies.”
  • With no warning, the school secretary (not the administrator himself) informs you that “your services are no longer required” in an extra-curricular assignment you have served for 25+ years.

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Just like any regular retirement, you instantly become an outsider and unknown, and lose your former “member of the team” standing (e.g. the ID badge no longer works to unlock doors or operate the photocopier, and you are asked to return your keys). It even seems you and your history have already been forgotten. Of course this hurts – we are all human. Even if we do not care to admit it, we seek approval and validation from our supervisors and peers alike, as well as appreciation from our “clients” (the parents and students we are charged to serve). We want to know that what we did made a difference, were appreciated, and would somehow serve as a model for future employees. And, most of the time, regardless of the length of time and the meritorious contributions you gave to the school district, you will not hear words of gratitude or thanks from your former boss!

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I hate the terms “twilight” or “golden” years (a possible subject of a future blog), but during this “life passage,” things are definitely “going away.” Against our will, we say goodbye to our day-to-day “life’s mission” – a career in school music education – as well as many of our associations with coworkers, that hectic 24/7 schedule and the constant busyness it generated (thank god), and a lot of those social engagements that were a part of our career development and staff camaraderie.

We need to refocus on the future and forget the past. Change happens. Do you recall that famous John Lennon line? “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans!” Or an appropriate saying for musicians: “Life itself is not a dress rehearsal.”

Suggestive readings on how to cope? First, I would peruse NOLO’s “Losing a Job: Ten Things You  Can Do to Make It Less Painful” http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/losing-job-ten-things-that-help-29761.html.

Check out Lifehacker’s “Nine Things You Should and Shouldn’t Do if You Lose Your Job” by Shannon Smith: http://lifehacker.com/nine-things-you-should-and-shouldnt-do-if-you-lose-you-509536697.

Keep an eye on the health effects that your sudden job loss may have on you: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/job-loss-and-unemployment-stress.htm.

me-and-my-worried-thoughts-1475594Evaluate your response to stress since you were summarily eliminated from your district. It is worth reviewing the definition of PTSD and see if it should be applied to your behavior and the emotional upheaval you are feeling (from the online blog of the Dr. Oz Show at http://www.doctoroz.com/article/how-recognize-post-traumatic-stress-disorder):

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with people who deal with high-stress situations, such as emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police officers or soldiers. But every person has the potential to be struck by this debilitating anxiety disorder. The loss of a family member, severe injury, losing your job or your home – these are just some circumstances that put you at greater risk for PTSD.”

Another good website on the subject of PTSD is http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. However, PTSD is next to impossible to self-diagnose, so see your primary care physician or a therapist.

Finally, for music educators, I have written numerous articles (more to come) about the things you might consider to do with your newfound freedom… satisfying goals to fill and fulfill exciting new bucket lists:

To quote from the above Easter Becker-Smith resource:

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics has never estimated the number of times people change careers in a lifetime, but they did examine the number of jobs the younger baby boomers held between the ages of 18 and 36. It was found to be an average of 9.6 jobs. Other reports show that the average person would have 5-7 career changes…

Remember that losing a job always brings emotions and you will need time to work through those feelings. Lastly, remember that your goal is to always move forward.”

Exactly! Move forward! There’s a great future just awaiting your embrace!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

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Interview Questions Revisited

New Getting a Job Tips for Prospective Music Teachers

The Interview Playbook: Directing a Showstopping Performance in Interpreting and Reciting Your Lines!

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts… – William Shakespeare

 

concert-662851_1920

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! How do you market yourself, take interviews, and succeed in landing a job? Practice, practice, practice!

This article reviews rationale and methods to intentionally prepare, rehearse, “stage,” and “act out” your answers to interview questions.

tie-690084_1280Depending on the structure of the interview, the hiring procedures of the institution, and the type of session (whether it is a general screening prior to any job opening, or the first round, second round, demonstration lesson, final round with the superintendent, etc. in order to fill a specific position), you will be exposed to many different kinds of questions.

Listed below are 71 samples of what might be asked at interviews for a school music posting. As they say, it is time to “woodshed” your upcoming performances!

The first step is to think up as many examples as possible of past incidents that exhibit your mastery of core standards in teaching, critical thinking and problem solving, professionalism, music and academic accomplishments, and all positive interactions with children, in both musical and non-musical settings. Assemble and catalog these successful “scenes” (even write them down) to prep your responses for the interview.

business-819287_1920As I go out to help at job fairs and mock interviews for music education majors, I advise the soon-to-be candidates to practice their storytelling skills and recall relevant personal anecdotes in order to satisfy the interviewers’ questioning, promote an image of competency and self-confidence, “show that you have what it takes” and would be a “good fit” for their school district, and ultimately “ace” the examination.

One example I give the “recruits” is probably more suitable to a sales position. If an interviewer asks something like, “What was your first job?” – your response should not be a quick rejoinder of several words like “a paper route.”  To enhance your “personal brand” and illustrate your character, proficiency, and work history, you should take the opportunity to tell a story about that first “gig.” Describe what you did as the neighborhood paperboy, perhaps revealing a little insight into the kind of entrepreneur interview-1018332_1920you are, adoption of “customer-first” philosophy and habits, a savvy business sense, focused motivation, and a strong work ethic. Narrate an anecdote rather than list facts. Plan (and dress rehearse) something like this script: “My route was small, so I surveyed my existing customers, asked about their needs, desires, and their definition of a ‘perfect paper delivery,’ and how I could help them. I tagged and followed-up on their unique requests, like ‘hiding the pile of papers that end up accumulating during vacation periods’ (advertising to the world that homeowner is out-of-town), and ‘when NOT to place the paper in the screen door early in the morning so as to avoid waking up the dogs and the whole household.’ I also solicited business from non-subscribers, asking them how I could be of assistance. Pretty soon, word got around, and my enhanced customer-care translated into almost doubling the number of the people on my route.”

Next, with or without help from your peers (your future competitors in the job market), set-up one or more video recording sessions of “mock interviews.” Put yourself in the shoes of the both the interviewer and the interviewee… randomize and select questions from the lists below (take representative samples from all three categories for multiple interview-717291_1920settings) and form your responses. View and assess your performances. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what improvements could be recommended? Besides the content and clarity of your answers, monitor and evaluate your body language, eye contact, and posture, vocal tone and projection, and those intangibles like “charm,” “attitude,” and “first impressions.” If you do this in a group (roommates, collegiate music education chapter, methods class, etc.), request feedback from your “critics.”

Finally, here are five more considerations for successful interviews:

  1. Answer the questions as truthfully as possible. Be true to yourself. Never try to predict or recite what you think the interview panel wants to hear. Also, keep in mind, “anything you say may be held against you…” such as declaring a willingness to participate in a host of extracurricular activities, sports, student council, and other clubs. If you claim you want to become the marching band director, musical choreographer, swim coach, Sadie Hawkins dance organizer, and yearbook sponsor, the administrators (who are always seeking to fill these positions) will expect you to sign up for all of these extra-duties in your first year!
  2. Some questions may be designed to see how you respond to stress. Although no longer considered a valid measurement of intellectual capacity or emotional stability, exchange-of-ideas-222787_1920“stress interviews” are still conducted by some institutions. You’ll know immediately if for some reason you are thrown into one of these seemingly “hostile environments.” No matter what you say or how you respond to a question, the interviewer(s) will exhibit a negative attitude, look disinterested, inattentive, unimpressed, or disappointed, or even act angry, belligerent, or argumentative. Talk about “playing to a dead crowd!” Actually, their sole purpose is to evaluate your behavior during artificially-induced tension or conflict. Your only strategy? Play the game! Stay calm, cool, and collected.
  3. It is not a crime not knowing the meaning of a single educational term, solution to a problem, or failing to answer a question. If you are just starting out in your career, recently completed coursework in music education, don’t be surprised if a question or two is beyond your study or experience. Just admit it! You could say something teacher-1013970_1920like, “I haven’t had the pleasure of teaching long enough to totally comprehend what I would do in that situation.” Or perhaps, “I am not to familiar with that term/method/philosophy, but I am willing to research it, ask my building principal or supervisor for his/her advice,” etc.
  4. Don’t get carried away, offer too much information, or share irrelevant personal information or random opinions. Listen carefully to the question. Be precise and stay “on topic.” Refine your response to a specific story to back up your perspective, understanding, and/or success in dealing with the issue. And, as the dictionary defines “run on,” don’t “blab, blubber, blurt, cackle, chat, gossip, gush, jabber, mumble, mutter, prattle, rant, rave, run off at the mouth, trivialize, or yak!”
  5. Search and consume every job resource and advice you can get your hands on. Peruse the numerous articles about marketing your professionalism, branding yourself, creating e-portfolios, taking interviews, etc., and additional materials in the “Becoming a Music Educator” menu link at the top of this page.

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“The world is a stage” and now you need to “act your part” when participating in employment interviews. Carefully prepare to show-off the best elements of your training, skill sets, and personality traits. In the field of music and music education, we preach “perfect practice makes perfect,” so apply your performance know-how to interview storytelling and get ready for the questions! The stage is now yours! “Break a leg!”

The word “theater” comes from the Greeks. It means “the seeing place.” It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation. – Stella Adler

Most Popular Interview Questions

  1. Who had the greatest influence on you to become a music teacher and why?
  2. What are the most important qualities of an outstanding educator?
  3. What is your personal philosophy of student discipline?
  4. How would you assess the learning in your classroom/rehearsal?
  5. What purpose does music education serve in the public schools?
  6. What is the importance of professional development and how will you apply it to your career?
  7. What are your personal goals? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  8. How do you recruit students to “grow” a music program?

Questions on Philosophy or Core Teaching Standards

  1. Concerning music education, what is your philosophy, vision, and mission? (Educational Philosophy)
  2. child-375354_1280What is your view of the teacher’s role in the classroom? (Educational Philosophy)
  3. What is most important to you (and why): music content, outcome, or process? (Educational Philosophy)
  4. Describe a successful lesson plan you have developed. (Knowledge/Education)
  5. What rules and expectations would you establish in your classroom? (Classroom Management)
  6. How will you control behavior in large ensembles? (Classroom Management)
  7. How would you deal with a difficult student who has gotten off-task? (Classroom Management)
  8. How will you incorporate the use of technology in your classroom? (Technology)
  9. How have you utilized technology to assist in instructional preparation? (Technology)
  10. Summarize a list of software programs and other technology you have mastered. (Technology)
  11. Describe your strengths in oral communications and public relations. (Oral Expression)
  12. How would you disseminate information to the students in support of your daily lesson targets? (Oral Expression)
  13. Provide sample announcements you could make at an a) open house or b) public performance? (Oral Expression)
  14. Discuss your strengths in writing and/or written communications. (Written Expression)
  15. school-1063561_1920What role does the Common Core have in general music (or music ensembles)? (Written Expression)
  16. Describe your last or favorite college essay or article on music or curriculum. (Written Expression)
  17. Describe your leadership style. (Leadership)
  18. What actions would you take to get a group of peers refocused on the task at hand? (Leadership)
  19. Illustrate your role in a group project or collaborative assignment. (Leadership or Teamwork)
  20. How would you involve students in the decision-making or planning of your classes/ensembles? (Teamwork)
  21. How would you involve parents in your music program? (Teamwork)
  22. How would your musical peers describe you? (Judgment)
  23. How do you typically model professionalism and judgment in dealing with conflict? (Judgment)
  24. How do you differentiate and teach to diverse levels of achievement in your music classes? (Problem Solving)
  25. Describe a difficult decision you had to make and how you arrived at your decision. (Problem Solving)
  26. How will you accommodate students who want to participate in both music and sports? (Problem Solving)
  27. How do you insure that long-term plans and music objectives are met? (Planning and Organization)
  28. Illustrate a typical musical (or marching band or ensemble) production schedule. (Planning and Organization)
  29. children-593313_1920How would you structure a general music (or ensemble rehearsal) classroom of the future? (Innovation)
  30. Share an anecdote about a new or innovative teaching technique you have used in music. (Innovation)
  31. Describe a project you initiated (or would initiate) in your teaching or extra-curricular activity. (Initiative)
  32. What motivates you to try new things? (Initiative)
  33. How much time outside the school day should a music teacher be expected to work? (Initiative)
  34. How would you define professional commitment in terms of music education? (Dependability)
  35. What after-school activities do you plan to become involved? (Dependability)
  36. How do you cope with stress? (Adaptability)
  37. How do you manage shifting priorities or changing deadlines? (Adaptability)
  38. Why did you choose to become a music teacher? (Self-Insight/Development)
  39. In your own music-making or teaching, of which are you most proud (and why)? (Self-Insight/Development)
  40. If you could write a book, what would the title be? (Self-Insight/Development)
  41. What hobbies or special skills do you have which may influence your future activities? (Energy/Enthusiasm)
  42. In what extra-curricular activities did you participate at the HS and college level? (Energy/Enthusiasm)

Content-Specific Questions & Demonstration Lessons

  1. How would you teach “steady beat” or pitch matching in the primary grades? [GENERAL MUSIC]
  2. How and when would you teach syncopation to the intermediate grades? [GENERAL MUSIC]
  3. Describe in detail an introductory lesson on improvisation using 12-bars blues progression. [JAZZ]
  4. How would you assess the learning in EL/MS music classes? [GENERAL MUSIC]
  5. What marching band style do you prefer to teach and perform in the halftime show, and how would you organize the marching auxiliary units (majorettes, color guard, dance team, and/or drum line)? [BAND]
  6. music-726962_1920How would you improve the intonation/tone quality/bow technique of a string players? [STRINGS]
  7. Describe the selections you would program for a EL/MS/HS choral/band/orchestra concert in December/May. [ALL]
  8. How would you assist fifth graders performing dotted quarter/eighth combinations hesitantly or incorrectly? [ALL]
  9. When and how do you present the concepts of shifting/spiccato/vibrato to string students? [STRINGS]
  10. Describe a lesson in which you would use classroom instruments. [GENERAL MUSIC]
  11. How do you advise/assist in the student’s selection of a beginning band instrument? [BAND]
  12. What criteria and methods should be used assign voice types for your EL/MS/HS chorus? [CHORAL]
  13. What steps would you take to improve an ensemble’s phrasing/blend/balance? [BAND/STRINGS/CHORAL]
  14. Discuss the process you use in developing the singing voice. [GENERAL MUSIC/CHORAL]
  15. Describe your background and knowledge of each of the following methodologies: Orff, Kodaly, Gordon, Suzuki, Dalcroze. [ALL]
  16. What are your keyboard skills like? Vocal skills? Secondary instrument skills? [ALL]
  17. How would you warm-up a band/chorus/orchestra? How do you tune instruments? [ALL]
  18. Show us how you would start a piece in general music/band/chorus/orchestra. [ALL]
  19. Tell us about a composition/improvisation/multimedia project you have done with students. [ALL]
  20. How would you integrate music with the other academic subjects in the EL/MS/HS? [ALL]
  21. What are the most common problems for beginning instrumentalists/vocalists? [ALL]

 

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© 2016 Paul K. Fox