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.

dockan4

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

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.

theater-399963_1920

“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]

 

hand-648444_1920

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Hints for the Job Search Process

Ten (More) Tips to “Bag” Music Teacher Employment

man-showing-portfolio-1307965I will probably never tire writing articles for new or prospective music educators seeking a public school position. I am subject to a flash of inspiration – epiphanies or revelations – at any moment, many of which come while I am walking the dogs or driving the car. Here are some random loose-ends I have not covered before, the results of recent bouts of brainstorming and mind wandering! Hopefully, they will provide you additional insight towards success in the job hunt process. Good luck!

  1. First stop? Under “Becoming a Music Educator,” a link at the top menu of my WordPress site, there is a summary of all previous articles for getting a job. I have included many resources and recommended links to samples and blogs from “the experts” in developing marketing skills, personal branding, preparing for interviews, and e-portfolios. My blogs are presented in a suggested sequential order, so it would probably be a good idea that you read all of them chronologically beginning with “Marketing your Professionalism.” A copy of my PowerPoint slide handouts for presentations at collegiate music education seminars and PCMEA workshops is also posted.
  2. Timing is everything. Teachers who are planning to retire usually have to notify flip-calendar-1-1149834their school administration in the months of February, March or April to receive some of their “golden handshake” benefits. For the school district, it helps them plan for future hiring. For you, it should focus your attention and organize your work at a time when the jobs are just becoming available. (Don’t wait for summer vacation!)
  3. What is saturation? In “the old days” when I was fresh out of the university and looking for public school music employment, I used my own version of saturation marketing. I took the metal-end of a compass point and pushed it in a map on the spot where I was living. The pencil-end was stretched as far as I was willing to travel in one day to go to work (for me, seven PA counties). The circle that I drew represented the targeted school districts that I spent most of my effort. Of course, today we use online application registries such as OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPA-educator.com which broadcast data on the pool of candidates. Regardless, I sent a custom-designed letter to every superintendent of school “in my hot zone” announcing that I was interested, met all education and certification requirements, and was available for immediate employment consideration. You should prominently share the name/location of your professional website. In addition, this would be the perfect place to mention if you student-taught or served as a private teacher, coach, summer camp counselor, or marching band/musical assistant in their area. For me, this meant a lot of extra work (looking-up the names/addresses, and you can’t just send a blanket form-letter “To Whom It May Concern”), but it seemed to give me a little edge, a foot in the door so-to-speak, and the opportunity to place follow-up calls later to the HR department to confirm they received the letter and did not need anything to add to the file (transcripts/portfolio, etc.). If you’re not restricted to a specific geographic area, saturation this way would probably not be feasible.
  4. Enhance your online presence! The more I think about the process that today’s graduates must go through to get a music teaching job, the more I am convinced that digital portfolios and a website would be essential to show off your skills, experiences, and accomplishments. I would even go as far as to suggest the purchase a premium www-1213940domain name (something simple like yourname.edu or .com). Graduating this year from West Virginia University, my former student David Dockan (www.daviddockan.com), among a host of others at https://www.mcgill.ca/edu-e3ftoption/portfolios, http://music.psu.edu/musiced/e-portfolio.html, and http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-portfolios/, have excellent sample postings for your perusal.
  5. You need to research the school districts in your area for potential of job openings. If you graduated from a local school, a good person to ask is your former high school band, choral and orchestra directors. They probably go to music festivals and other events and would hear “through the grapevine” who may be transferring, going on maternity leaves, or considering retirement.
  6. Like it or not, you will be judged on how you look! In another blog, I talked about coming to the interview in “business-professional formal dress.” Try to avoid OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAanything trendy, mod,  or “cool,” and guys, this means you wear a tie and a jacket. Unkempt or unusual length/coloring of hair, extra body piercings, and visible tattoos will not help project the classic corporate image of “conservatism” which most administrators seek in teachers. Sure, you do have the right to be “unconventional,” “artsy,” “one-of-kind” or “make a statement,” but you also have the right never to get a public school job!
  7. Preparing digital samples of your teaching is important! Do this NOW while you are still in college. In a previous article, I have already strongly urged you to limit “specialization” and instead take pictures of all kinds of interactions with music kids: band and string lessons and small ensembles, large group conducting, choral practices, general music classes, dance/drama coaching, marching band rehearsals, etc. However, there is the issue of getting permission to photograph or video the students you are teaching in field experiences, problems with displaying their faces up-close in your e-portfolio and website (and definitely NOT printing their full names). In my school district, we have a “do not photo” list in each building, so just check with the school secretary where you are student teaching. This is also a concern for summer camps, recreational programs, church groups, etc.
  8. Testimonies are great! Don’t be shy! As far as I am concerned, you are within your right to “beg” for a congratulatory note or a thank you letter from a parent to insert ilettern your portfolio. This would look particularly good fulfilling Charlotte Danielson’s Domain 4c “Communicating with Families” in  The Framework for Teaching (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/criteria-for-selection-of-the-ideal-teacher-candidate/. Probably, I would approach it this way:  “Thank you so much for your kind comments. I am a budding music teacher, and need to get a few notes from parents to add to my portfolio. Would you be willing to send me something?” This process should be repeated with cooperating teachers and other professionals with which you have a relationship in music education.
  9. Go to www.majoringinmusic.com. I stumbled on this delightful website that gives comprehensive resources for majoring in music and preparing for the job market!  You should especially read their article, “7 Things Music Education Majors Can Do key-to-success-1307591When Facing the Job Market” at http://majoringinmusic.com/7-things-music-education-majors-can-do-make-themselves-more-employable-2/, “hitting the nail on the head” about this topic! They have given me permission to share their outline below. (Do these sound familiar? They are preaching from the same pulpit as many of my past blogs!)
    • Be an outstanding musician.
    • Learn how to improvise.
    • Acquire entrepreneurial skills.
    • Become as broad-based and well-trained as possible.
    • Combine advocacy with exchange to create better programs.
    • Learn all you can about relevant technology.
    • Keep an updated list of your skills, relevant experiences, and training.
  10. College students who collaborate have a significant advantage. As they say, “there is safety in numbers,” and the concept of teamwork would do you well in the college-building-1622355employment search process and preparation for interviews. For examples, you already have many lists of employment screening questions: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/a-blueprint-for-success-preparing-for-the-job-interview/. It is inconceivable to me that you are not already spending massive amounts of time together, with or without your head music education professor(s):
    • Dividing up the work load in finding contacts and possible job openings in local school districts.
    • Helping each other with the proofreading process of writing/designing resumes, cover letters, a philosophy of music education, and a personal professional website.
    • Holding numerous mock interview sessions, jointly assessing your class mates’ responses to possible interview questions and story-telling skills.

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing

Final Tips to Land Your First Music Teacher Job

“I hate interviews – but you have to do them.” – Jackie Chan

You just received that blessed, long-awaited phone call… “XYZ School District has reviewed your application and résumé, and would like to call you in for an interview.” Hooray!

A note pinned to a cork board with the text Interview!

Okay, but now what?

There is no perfect formula for “acing” a particular interview or clinching employment opportunities. Like music auditions, there are a lot of variables and factors even outside the control of the job seeker. One might say there’s a lot of “luck” involved in the inspiring a warm and productive chemistry/atmosphere at the interview, and “clicking” with members on the HR review panel. There is no magic “pill” or perfect process to communicate your strengths and experiences to the interviewer and matching them with the needs of the position.

When I ventured out the first time into the public school music teacher job market (1978), there were many more potential candidates than openings. The competition was very high. I had to be aware that selling myself as a “total music education professional” was essential, not allowing myself to be branded (and eliminated from the running) as a much more limited “music specialist” (string teacher, vocalist, band director, etc.). I had to “prove competency” and provide evidence (portfolio of my personal philosophy of music education, stories/anecdotes about my experiences, certifications, sample lesson plans, music programs, recommendations, and other documentation) that would support my mastery of the institution’s teaching standards, positive personality traits, and overall suitability for the job. I’ve said it before! This is everything about “getting noticed,” “making connections” with the interviewers, and demonstrating that you have “what it takes” and would be a “good fit” for their school district.

So, how do you get a job during hard times? Embrace and model the “five P’s” to employment success: Persistence, Professionalism, PR savviness, a “Powerful” organizational system, and (of course) Patience!

Hope these recommendations help! Feel free to share your thoughts. Let’s here from YOU!

DO THE PREP: A Thorough Sequence for Planning and Practice

“Rarely does an interviewer ask questions you did not expect. I have given a lot of interviews, and I have concluded that the questions always look alike. I could always give the same answers.” – Italo Calvino

Practice makes perfect, they say, and preparation is the name of the game.

man-showing-portfolio-1307850Trying to analyze and provide insight in developing the skill sets necessary for positive employment interviewing and “personal branding,” I have written several other blogs about marketing professionalism, formation of a unified philosophy of music education, current trends and “buzz words” in education, learning storytelling skills, the attributes of a “model” music educator and assessment of prospective candidates, and sample interview questions. At the bottom of this blog, please click on the links. (It is suggested to read the entire sequence in order for the best effect!)

DO THE GROUNDWORK: Research, Lead Time and Advance Leg Work

“Failing to prepare for your job interview is, in our experience, the most common reason why people fail at interviews. In fact, recent research found that 95% of job interviewers believe 90% of interviewees come to job interviews ill-prepared. You want to be in the 10% of interviewees who do prepare. Right?” – Catherine Jones, Recruitment Expert, at http://www.job-application-and-interview-advice.com/preparing-for-an-interview.html.
Research information about the school site, job posting, other music positions, and the academic (and arts) programs. If possible, find someone who works in the district, and get some background about…
  • The job opening and responsibilities;
  • Previous employees in this position;
  • General information about the music program;
  • School district’s mission statement and administrative support of the arts;
  • Work climate;
  • Community support.

man-showing-portfolio-1307965Discover in advance and/or ask a few of these questions at the interview:

  1. What do you know about this school district?
  2. What music classes and extra-curricular activities are offered?
  3. How many periods (not counting lunch) are scheduled daily?
  4. Are any specialties emphasized e.g. Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze?
  5. What is the average make-up of the community (education and socioeconomics)?
  6. What educational, cultural, and sport/leisure activities are available in and around the community?
  7. What position(s) is(are) open and what duties are required?
  8. What avenues of professional development exist?
  9. What percentage of students are in the music program?
  10. What percentage of the students own instruments, take lessons, seek outside ensembles, etc.?
  11. What indicators of cooperative parental and community support exist (concert attendance, private teachers, booster groups, community arts organizations, etc.)?
  12. What resources are budgeted (sheet music, music technology, field trips, piano tuning, instruments and instrumental repair, teacher in-service, festivals, etc.)
  13. How often is curriculum updated?
  14. What is the school district grading scale and music grading policy/practice?

Their website is an excellent resource to find out information. If the district has “teacher pages” or sections that the faculty may post information, review all submissions by the music staff and administration. Make sure you are aware of the mission and vision statements of the district and have a workable knowledge of the strategic plan, goals, and recent curricular/program innovations… almost always available as a public record.

Plan ahead! Learn the name, title, and level of responsibility of the administrator(s) and/or interviewer(s). Make a trial run to visit the site of the interview, observing first-hand any potential traffic or construction issues that could affect your arrival time. Arrive early, at least fifteen minutes prior to the appointment. (Punctuality is absolutely essential!) Dress to project an image of confidence and success. (Yes, this means wear a suit! If you are a guy, wear a tie!) Bring additional materials, such as transcript, portfolio, updated résumé, etc.

DO THE POSITIVE: Self-Confidence and a Self-Assured Mindset

“Emphasize your strengths on your résumé, in your cover letters and in your interviews. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people simply list everything they’ve ever done. Convey your passion and link your strengths to measurable results. Employers and interviewers love concrete data.” – Marcus Buckingham
“One of the most common mistakes for an entry-level job interview is to take the position: ‘What is this job going to do for me?’ You should be saying ‘Here’s what I can do and here’s what I want to do to help you.’ ” – Norah O’Donnell

Many say that first impressions are critical during the interview. According to Business Insider at http://www.businessinsider.com/only-7-seconds-to-make-first-impression-2013-4, “you only have seven seconds to make a strong first impression.” I have also heard that after four minutes, it’s all over!

Job_interview_0001The research also suggests that during the interview, the evaluation of your “merit” is based 7% on what you say, 38% on your voice or how you say it, and 55% on our facial expressions and non-verbal cues.

Do your best to relax and promote a calm, positive, and cheerful attitude. Share a warm greeting and firm handshake. Build rapport and demonstrate an attitude of openness and sensitivity to the interviewer’s style. Show a feeling of mutual responsibility for creating a comfortable atmosphere and establishing common ground.

Treat the interview process as an exchange of information between two (or more) individuals. Bring your questions! It is important you show you are motivated to learn about the details about the program and the position.

Be yourself, and demonstrate relaxed speech, posture, and body language. Angle your position so as not to sit directly in front of the interviewer. If possible, select the chair beside not across the desk, avoiding the creation of so-called “invisible barriers.”

Use the person’s name when talking. It is the best way to get/keep his/her attention.

A few more positive nonverbal cues to adopt include the following:

  1. Respond to the interviewer with an occasional affirmative nodding of the head.
  2. Sit erect in the chair with hands, feet, and arms unfolded, leaning forward slightly.
  3. Offer good eye contact and smile appropriately.
  4. Maintain a pleasant facial expression.
  5. Look interested in and listen to the interviewer.

Provide thoughtful, professional, and firm answers to the interviewer’s questions:

  1. Back up statements with specific examples.
  2. Share the outcome or solution to a specific problem.
  3. Summarize to emphasize your strengths.

man-jump-with-portfolio-1307845If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, be honest and admit it. Inexperience is not a crime! And, be sure to say what you mean! If you end up getting the job, you may be “stuck” with your own words!

Finally, it’s all about feeling and projecting self-assuredness – and remembering “the three C’s of interviewing” – be Calm, Concise, and Congenial. No matter how you feel inside, you need to show you are a confident and competent candidate worthy of their consideration.

Check out additional advice at “Acing the Interview” – http://www.myfuture.com/careers/articles-advice/acing-the-interview.

DON’T DO THESE BOO-BOOs: Bloopers, Blunders, and Bad Habits to Avoid

“I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews.’ The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day.’ ” – Jennifer Lawrence
Here are a few of the obvious no-no’s! Avoid these nervous habits, almost guaranteed to lower your rating at the interview.
  1. Repeated verbal pauses, or exclamations of “Umm” or “Ahhh” or “Like…”
  2. Unsubstantiated or unsupported statements
  3. Use of “weak words” that suggest a lack of conviction (“kind of” or “sort of” or “I feel like”)
  4. Failure to look directly at the interviewer(s)
  5. Verbal clutter (too many long run-on statements)
  6. Any form of fidgeting (tapping your foot, spinning a pen between your fingers, wiggling in your seat, etc.)
  7. 3221301604_ed4b6c1851_oFast talking or dropping the ends of your words
  8. Answers that are too casual, personal, or informal, or “flip” conversation
  9. “Bird walking,” changing of the subject, irrelevant or unclear responses to a question
  10. Touching of your hair, clothes, nose, mouth, or anywhere else on your body
  11. Responses that go overboard and/or volunteer too much
  12. Forceful, dominating, one-sided, opinionated views or arrogant attitudes
  13. Nonverbal cues that reflect nerves, insecurity or lack of confidence (slouching or poor posture, looking down, failure to smile, clenching or keeping hands in lap)
  14. Hollow, insincere, or disingenuous conversation

DO THE ANALYSIS: The Post Interview “Postmortem”

“I sometimes find that in interviews you learn more about yourself than the person learned about you.” – William Shattner
“I can count on one hand the number of people who wrote me a thank you letter after having an interview, and I gave almost all of them a job.” – Kate Reardon

After the interview, debrief yourself! (Do this on the same day – don’t wait for the memories to fade!) Write down everything you felt you handled right and wrong. Critique your “performance,” and document the details (including all names) for future reference. Learn from your mistakes. Look up the terminology or jargon on which you “stumbled” or with which you felt unfamiliar… so you will be ready for the next interview!

learning-1432359If you did well at the first job screening, you may be asked to come back for a second interview or “demonstration lesson.” In most cases, a member from the first panel or a music staff member may contact you and tell you what they want to see taught… perhaps leading a general music class on a specified concept, conducting a small ensemble, or teaching beginning instrumental music or jazz. Get ready! Look at your notes. Practice and drill (again) on those lists of interview questions, paying particular attention to possible content-area queries. If you did the research on the school district’s curriculum and focus areas of the music program, it will help you to prepare for the demonstration lesson.

Note information you need to include in future correspondence and follow-ups. This is where the “power organizer” in you should come out. Every communication you have “from” and “to” the school district should be recorded in a journal, and include the name/e-mail/extension of the secretary/interviewer/administrator involved and date of receipt and your response.

Write a personalized thank-you letter to the individuals on the interview committee. (Set yourself apart from the other applicants!) In your letter, you could offer to send them a(nother) copy of your digital portfolio or DVD video files of student teaching and/or other samples of your interaction with students (leading a church choir, conducting a small instrumental ensemble, coaching a marching band sectional, providing a private lesson, playing a piano accompaniment, etc.).

Follow-up your visit by making phone calls, fulfilling additional paperwork as requested, mailing materials (e.g. official transcripts) if asked, validating completion of coursework and clearances, confirming availability, etc. However, be careful not to become a “nag” or nuisance by making repeated calls and e-mails.

caring-teacher-1622554Break a leg! We are counting on every excellent music educator to become successful in marketing themselves and landing a position! Frankly, regardless of the current job market and status of arts education in the schools, we need more dedicated and inspiring music teachers to “get out there” and facilitate the spread of creative self-expression!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Additional Paulkfoxusc Blogs on Interview Preparation

Marketing Professionalism (getting a music teacher job)

Blueprint for Success – Preparing for the Job Interview

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

New or Prospective Music Teachers – Reviewing the Situation

By now, I hope you have had the opportunity to revisit and reflect on my past blogs about marketing professionalism, pre-interview preparation, tips and techniques on interviewing, development of storytelling skills, and the criteria for selection of the “ideal” school teacher candidate. Please peruse these articles at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/. I recommend starting “at the bottom” of the page with the oldest blog (July 1, 2015) and progressing towards the present.

Pay particular attention to the outline posted on July 8: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/overview-strategies-for-landing-a-music-teacher-job/. In summary, it is important for you to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete a thorough self-assessment.
  2. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities.
  3. Formulate a philosophy of music education.
  4. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon.
  5. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes.
  6. Create/revise your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website.
  7. Research the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations.
  8. Develop appropriate and insightful questions to ask the interviewer.

empty-interview-1180616Next, the purpose of this blog is to provide the “nitty-gritty” for you to practice and drill answering common interview questions. This material is suitable for individual prepping or group mock interview sessions, and to assist in the formation of meaningful stories/anecdotes that would support a specific candidate’s mastery of each “core teacher standard.”

Music educators have experience in “music performance.” All aspects of excellent delivery of responses to these sample questions should be explored… good vocal tone, clear diction, clarity and organization of thoughts, a calm but engaging attitude, poise, professionalism, and self-confidence in front of an audience, and demonstrations of competency, critical thinking and problem solving towards a smooth, well-practiced interview – the most important “performance” of your career.

What to Expect – Types of Interview Questions

According to Alison Doyle at http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewsnetworking/tp/types-of-interview-questions.htm, “You’ll be asked about your employment history, your ability to work on a team, your leadership skills, your motivation, as well as other interview questions related to your skills and abilities.”

As a music teacher, expect inquiries from these general categories:

Special Interviews and Screening Procedures

NAfME published an online article “Music Education Interviews” and shared the following. Click here for an excerpt of the 2014 article (no longer available on their website): NAfME – Music Education – Interviews

nafmeSome schools are utilizing special techniques to pre-screen applicants. For example, the Gallup Teacher Insight Assessment is an online interview subscription tool for school districts. It uses a combination of question types that includes multiple choice scales (strongly agree, strongly disagree, etc.) and open-ended essays. A computer scores the essays by looking for “keywords” and then compares the scores on all questions to the scores of outstanding teachers, before sending the results to the school. Sample questions include:

  • How would you plan a lesson to reach both auditory and visual learners?
  • How would you incorporate different cultures in your classroom?
  • Why did you want to become a teacher?
  • After school, you come across a student whom you know who is crying. He’s 16 years old. You ask him what is the matter, and he says he was caught cheating. What would you do?
  • One member of a team working on a curriculum project isn’t pulling his or her weight. What would you do?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?

Other similar tools are available for administrators to use to determine various aspects of your personality and philosophy of teaching. These tools, similar to the Gallup Assessment, look for keywords in your responses and provide the administrator with a “pass” or “fail” rating scale for each question….

In rare cases, savvy administrators may ask you to “audition” for a position. This could include having you teach a sample class, conducting an ensemble, sight-reading a musical selection on an instrument, or playing the piano. You may also find yourself being interviewed by a committee of music students and parents. Be prepared.

One Evaluative Rubric

Job_interview_0001From the Assessment Criteria for Teacher Candidates (developed by Upper St. Clair School District Superintendent Dr. William Pope, Human Resource Director Ms. Jean Toner, and other staff), specific skills/behaviors/”core teaching standards” may be assessed at an interview, soliciting ratings of “Unsatisfactory,” “Satisfactory,” “Good,” or “Superior.” To see a sample of the rubric, click here: 7000.1 Professional Rating Form

Instructional

  • A. Educational Philosophy
  • B. Knowledge/Experience
  • C. Classroom Management
  • D. Technology
  • E. Oral Expression
  • F. Written Communications

Professional

  • G. Leadership
  • H. Teamwork
  • I. Judgment
  • J. Problem Solving
  • K. Planning & Organizing
  • L. Innovation

Personal

  • M. Initiative
  • N. Dependability
  • O. Adaptability
  • P. Self-Insight and Development
  • Q Energy and Enthusiasm
  • R. Appearance

Sample Music Teacher Employment Questions

6028366401_90f47624db_b(for study and practice, listed by core teaching standard, above USC criteria A through Q or “most popular”)

Most Popular

  • 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?

A – Educational Philosophy

  • A1.  Concerning music education, what is your philosophy and mission?
  • A2.  What is your view of the teacher’s role in the classroom?
  • A3.  What is most important to you (and why): music content, outcome, or process?

B – Knowledge/Education

  • B1. Describe a successful lesson plan you have developed.
  • B2.  What units would you plan for __th grade general music?
  • B3.  List a few selections you might program on a choral (or band or string) concert.
  • B4.  What steps would you take to teach someone how to improvise?
  • B5.  How do you get a child to match pitch?

C – Classroom Management

  • C1.  What rules and expectations would you establish in your classroom?
  • C2.  How will you control behavior in large ensembles?
  • C3.  How would you deal with a difficult student who has gotten off-task?

D – Technology

  • D1.  How will you incorporate the use of technology in your classroom?
  • D2.  How have you utilized technology to assist in instructional preparation?
  • D3.  Summarize a list of software programs and other technology you have mastered.

E – Oral Expression

  • E1.  Describe your strengths in oral communications and public relations.
  • E2.  How would you disseminate information to the students in support of your daily lesson targets?
  • E3.  Provide sample announcements you could make at an a) open house or b) public performance?

F – Written Expression

  • F1.   Discuss your strengths in writing and/or written communications.
  • F2.   What role does the Common Core have in general music (or music ensembles)?
  • F3.   Describe your last or favorite college essay or article on music or curriculum.

G – Leadership

  • G1.  Describe your leadership style.
  • G2.  What actions would you take to get a group of peers refocused on the task at hand?
  • G3.  Illustrate your role in a group project or collaborative assignment.

H – Teamwork

  • H1.  How would you involve students in the decision-making or planning of your classes/ensembles?
  • H2.  How would you involve parents in your music program?

I – Judgment

  • I1.    How would your musical peers describe you?
  • I2.    How do you typically model professionalism and judgment dealing with conflict?

J – Problem Solving

  • J1.    How do you differentiate and teach to diverse levels of achievement in your music classes?
  • J2.    Describe a difficult decision you had to make and how you arrived at your decision.
  • J3.    How will you accommodate students who want to participate in both music and sports?

K – Planning and Organization

  • K1. How do you insure that long-term plans and music objectives are met?
  • K2. Illustrate a typical musical (or marching band or ensemble) production schedule.

L – Innovation

  • L1.   How would you structure a general music (or ensemble rehearsal) classroom of the future?
  • L2.   Share an anecdote about a new or innovative teaching technique you have used in music.

M – Initiative

  • M1. Describe a project you initiated (or would initiate) in your teaching or extra-curricular activity.
  • M2. What motivates you to try new things?
  • M3. How much time outside the school day should a music teacher be expected to work?

N – Dependability

  • N1.  How would you define professional commitment in terms of music education?
  • N2.  What after-school activities do you plan to become involved?

O – Adaptability

  • O1.  How do you cope with stress?
  • O2.  How do you manage shifting priorities or changing deadlines?

P – Self-Insight/Development

  • P1.  Why did you choose to become a music teacher?
  • P2.  In your own music-making or teaching, of which are you most proud (and why)?
  • P3.  If you could write a book, what would the title be?

Q – Energy/Enthusiasm

  • Q1.  What hobbies or special skills do you have which may influence your future activities?
  • Q2.  In what extra-curricular activities did you participate at the HS and college level?

Now, it’s up to you. How do you improve your interviewing skills? How do you better your chances of getting a job? Practice, practice, practice!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Criteria for Selection of the “Ideal” Teacher Candidate

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

Effective teachers score low on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The domains can be further broken down into…

danielsons_image_dom1-4

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

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

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

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

Domain 3: Instruction

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

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

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

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

Domain 1: Planning

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

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

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

Domain 3: Instruction

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

Domain 4: Professionalism

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

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

Instructional

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

college-1241412Professional

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

Personal

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

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

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

When It Comes to Getting a Job, “S” is for Successful Storytelling!

Thoughts on Marketing Yourself and Sharing Personal Anecdotes at Employment Interviews for PCMEA and Prospective Music Teachers

This article was submitted for publication in PMEA News – the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.

pmeaMany schools are implementing behavior-based interviews as the preferred method for screening and evaluating applicants. This approach seeks to highlight past performance, experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that are job-related. Throughout this process, the concept of marketing oneself for employment consideration is based on two principal skill sets: branding yourself and storytelling. It is not about “bragging” or false modesty, although you cannot come on too strong or too weak at the interviews. However, it is everything about “getting noticed,” “making connections” with the interviewers, and demonstrating that you have “what it takes” and would be a “good fit” for their school district.

Not everybody is a good storyteller, but music educators are generally good performers. In preparation of their craft, musicians music-1237358routinely model their knowledge of music making – poise, professionalism, and self-confidence in front of an audience, critical thinking, problem solving and repetitive drill towards a smooth, well-organized, and well-practiced performance, and all of those essential concepts of form and analysis, rhythms, articulations, tempos, phrasing (breathing!), dynamic contrasts, interpretation, and expressiveness… many skills inherently needed in the storytelling.

questions-1151886According to Antigone Orfanos in “Interviewing Techniques: The Art of Storytelling” (http://therapycareers.about.com/od/JobHuntSkillsStrategies/a/Job-Interview-Techniques.htm), knowing the questions an interviewer may ask is much less important than mastering your storytelling skills. “Think of all of your past accomplishments. Try to create a list of the most important successes you have had in your career and personal life. These are the stories that you want to highlight when your employer meets with you. The most important successes are the ones that are most likely to make the biggest impression on a potential employer. Then, use metaphors, analogies, and humorous anecdotes to capture an employer’s attention.”

reading-statue-1528168It turns out that stories are a very powerful tool, as validated by Lily Zhang in “The Interview Technique You Should Be Using” (see https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-interview-technique-you-should-be-using#). Jennifer Aaker, professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, explains that “stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone” and “we are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts, and figures.” Zhang expands on this. “Our brains are just more active when we’re listening to a story. In fact, if you can tell a good story, you can actually synchronize your listener’s brain with your own. You can literally share the experience with someone else. Talk about making a connection!”

Worth reading in depth, Zhang details in her article the steps towards better storytelling at interviews:

  1. Tell the punch line early.
  2. Give some context.
  3. Introduce the situation or challenge.
  4. Describe your specific actions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In “Interview Story Telling – Personal Branding Blog – Stand Out in Your Career” (http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/interview-story-telling/), Kevin Monahan predicts that you will be asked to “Share a time when…” or “Provide an example where…” which provides the perfect opportunity to tell a story. He recommends that stories need to have a beginning that sets the stage (provide the setting), action items (what did you do?), and final outcome (how did you achieve the goal or influence an outcome?). He shares, “During one interview session, I was asked what my first job was. I could have told them in five seconds that my first job was a paper route when I was ten years old. Instead, I told a story.” He narrated a more detailed explanation on getting to know his customers, learning their individual preferences, and developing a connection with each of them… leading to better service and greater business generated.

Monahan concludes, “The key… is to connect the story to a desired skill set needed for the position. By relating the stories and examples back to the core competencies of the job, I communicated an image instead of just providing answers to questions.”

An available self-assessment of your storytelling performance skills is available at http://www.storyarts.org/classroom/usestories/storyrubric.html. Using Heather Forest’s rubrics on her website “Storytelling in the Classroom,” you could make and lady-1580621then evaluate a video recording of a “mock interview,” asking yourself in front of a camera common questions like the following:

  1. What are your greatest personal strengths (and weaknesses)?
  2. What techniques would you use to motivate (or discipline) students?
  3. Describe your educational philosophy.
  4. How would you assess the learning in your classroom?
  5. Who had the greatest influence on you becoming a teacher and why?
  6. What are your career objectives?

During the panel discussion “Ready to Hire: Interview Strategies for Music Educators” at the 2013 PMEA Annual In-Service Conference in Erie, PA, colleagues Susan Basalik, J. Howard Baxter, Susan Metelsky, and moderator Scott Sheenan were generous in providing supplemental materials, including sample questions and other tips for excellent interview (and story) preparation. These handouts are still available online at http://www.uscsd.k12.pa.us/Page/6361.

One final thought comes from Beth Kuhel in “The Secret to a Successful Interview: Great Storytelling” in the April 17, 2014 online article of U.S. News and World Report. In a TED Talk, “Toy Story” movie co-writer Andrew Stanton says that “a great story comes from using what you know, capturing a truth from experiencing it, and from expressing values you feel deeply.” He suggests, “You allow the listener to make his own deductions about you from the story. That is, don’t come out and say you’re collaborative, adaptable or anything – you tell a story that convinces your listener you possess these traits.” Stanton concludes that a well-told tale grips, excites, and engrosses.

preschool-hands-on-activities-1565836In summary, it is important to apply your skill in storytelling to employment interviews. Provide thoughtful, professional, and firm answers in response to the interviewer’s questions. Back up your statements with specific examples. Share the outcome or solution to a specific problem. Summarize to emphasize your strengths. Make yourself “stand out” as you tell stories about the challenges and triumphs you faced in life. Interconnect and relate these anecdotes proving your skills and experiences to the needs, goals, and values of the institution, employer, and position for which you are applying.

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

The “Alphabet Soup” of Educational Acronyms

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

pmeaArticle submitted for future publication in PMEA News – the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association

foxpaws_logo

Preparing for an employment interview? Looking for that first job or interested in transferring to a new school district?

How well do you know current trends, key “buzz words,” and jargon in education? Even though no music teacher would have trouble identifying the meaning of our own abbreviations like D.C. al Coda or GM (G Major or General Music), administrators would expect that you know relevant and evolving general education terms, such as the following:

  • The Common Core
  • Customization and Differentiation of Instruction
  • The Four Cs – Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking (21st Century Learning Skills)
  • Flipped Classrooms and Blended Schools
  • HOTS – Higher Order Thinking Skills and DOK – Depth of Knowledge
  • Assessments – Diagnostic, Formative, Summative, Authentic
  • PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) SAS (Standards Aligned Systems) Portal
  • UBD (Understanding By Design) Curriculum Development with EU (Enduring Understandings) and EQ (Essential Questions)

Keeping up with the formation of new acronyms is quite a challenge… something you will have to do throughout your entire career. Get started by looking up any of these with which you feel unfamiliar. You can never predict when one of these will pop-up at a job interview!

Just for the fun and the challenge of it, try taking this crossword puzzle. For a printable copy of this article, full-size puzzle grid, clues, the answers and definitions, click on the link at the bottom of the page. Enjoy! PKF

 puzgrid1

Across

1. A multi-tier approach to the early identification, intervention, and support of students with learning and behavioral needs.
3. Statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom – what students should understand – not just know or do.
4. A web-based resource for districts/schools to communicate performance results to various constituencies and assist districts and schools in aligning and focusing resources for continuous improvement.
7. A psychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems of attention hyperactivity or acting impulsively that are not age-appropriate.
8. Standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards in reading, writing, math, and science.
10. Staff or programs to facilitate the acquisition of English language skills of students whose native or first language is not English.
11. Framework of study in science, technology, engineering, arts, in mathematics, bridging the gap between business and educational goals, and blending of science, the arts, and creativity in school.
13. A comprehensive, researched-based resource identifying six elements for improvement of student achievement developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
15. Developed by Norman L. Webb, the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment-related item.

Down

2. A customized statement of a child’s present level of performance, annual educational goals, modifications, accommodations, and special education supports and services to meet these goals.
5. A statistical analysis of Pennsylvania state assessments of growth and achievement data, allowing educators to make data-informed instructional decisions to promote student progress.
6. Using a backwards-design focus on the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, a tool utilize for educational planning in “Teaching for Understanding,” advocated by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.
8. An extended learning opportunity such as a grade-level teaching team or a school committee form to foster collaborative learning among colleagues in order to improve student achievement.
9. Statewide nonprofit organization of over 4500 members, dedicated to promoting the musical development of all Pennsylvania residents, your number one professional development resource.
12. Inquiries focusing on the key concepts in the curriculum, the big ideas and core content, provoking deep thought, lively discussion, and new understanding as well as more questions.
14. A process to document a measure of educator effectiveness based on student achievement of content standards developed for Pennsylvania’s new Educator Effectiveness System.

Click here: Alphabet Soup Educational Acronyms puzzle with answers

Terms used in alphabetical order

ADHD…………. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A psychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems of attention, hyperactivity, or acting impulsively that are not age-appropriate.

DOK……………. Depth of Knowledge: Developed by Norman L. Webb, the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment related item.

EQ………………. Essential Questions (UBD): Inquiries focusing on the key concepts in the curriculum, the big ideas and core content, provoking deep thought, lively discussion, and new understanding as well as more questions.

ESL……………… English as a Second Language: Staff or programs to facilitate the acquisition of English language skills of students whose native or first language is not English.

EU………………. Enduring Understandings (UBD): Statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom—what students should understand—not just know or do.

IEP………………. Individualized Education Program: A customized statement of a child’s present level of performance, annual educational goals, modifications, accommodations, and special education supports and services to meet these goals.

PLC…………….. Professional Learning Communities: An extended learning opportunity such as a grade-level teaching team or a school committee formed to foster collaborative learning among colleagues in order to improve student achievement.

PMEA………….. Pennsylvania Music Educators Association: Statewide nonprofit organization of over 4,500 members, dedicated to promoting the musical development of all PA residents – your number one professional development resource.

PSSA…………… Pennsylvania System of School Assessment: Standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency.

PVAAS………… Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System: A statistical analysis of PA state assessments of growth and achievement data, allowing educators to make data-informed instructional decisions to promote student progress.

RTI……………… Response to Intervention: A multi-tier approach to the early identification, intervention, and support of students with learning and behavioral needs.

SAS…………….. Standards Aligned Systems: A comprehensive, researched-based resource identifying six elements for improvement of student achievement developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

SLO…………….. Student Learning Objectives: A process to document a measure of educator effectiveness based on student achievement of content standards developed for Pennsylvania’s new Educator Effectiveness System.

SPP……………… School Performance Profile: A web-based resource for districts/schools to communicate performance results to various constituencies and assist districts and schools in aligning and focusing resources for continuous improvement.

STEAM……….. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics: Framework of study in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, bridging the gap between business and educational goals, and blending of science, the arts, and creativity in school.

UBD   Understanding By Design: Using a backwards-design focus on the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, a tool utilized for educational planning in “teaching for understanding” advocated by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.

© 2015 Paul K. Fox