WHEN Should You Retire?

The Skills and Models of a Happy Retirement

[Portions reprinted from the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, PMEA News, Spring 2019 issue – All rights reserved.]

 

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Is It TIME to Retire?

This is a personal question that no one but YOU can answer… not even your PMEA Retired Member Coordinator! By the time you read this article in the Spring edition of PMEA News, this choice may be uppermost in your mind, especially if you are within a couple years of that so-called “retirement age.” Most school districts require advance notification of an employee’s plan to retire in order to retain full benefits and exit bonuses, and to allow planning for the job replacement search and screening process. (Check your teacher’s contract!)

In music educator conference sessions, director meetings at festivals, and printed in PMEA News and the online e-publication Retired Member Network eNEWS, much has pmeabeen discussed about the “what,” “how,” and most recently, “where” of retirement, even issues of “privacy” regarding your decision. For a review of these areas and a bibliography of resources, please visit:

The “why” of retirement is also relevant. There may be a lot of influences for someone to consider leaving their full-time career:

  1. Boredom or lack of stimulation in the current job
  2. Changing employment status or responsibilities
  3. Health problems (yours or other members of your family)
  4. Spouse retiring
  5. Your or family member’s desire to relocate
  6. Needs for caregiving (grandchildren, parents, or elderly family members)
  7. Travel opportunities
  8. Acceptance of a new position or the start or expansion of an “encore career” (higher education, music industry, travel/tour planning, or another field)

Other involuntary or more negative motivations may “encourage” you to resign your position:

  • Music and/or staff are eliminated from the curriculum or building in which you teach.
  • You are experiencing a decline in music program enrollment or participation.
  • You feel unappreciated, unsupported, devalued, or ignored as a professional.
  • You conclude you must retire early to avoid losing existing contractual benefits.

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However, the most important reflection on WHEN to retire should begin with the question, “Are you ready for retirement?” and…

Do You Have What It Takes for a Happy Retirement?

A successful retirement is not “all about the money.” Certainly, you are well-advised to make an appointment with an estate planner, elder attorney, and/or financial advisor (probably all three). Bring a copy of your bank and investment statements, annual reports on your pension, social security, annuities, and insurance documents. Make sure you have the “big picture” of your net worth and accomplish the following (https://www.fisherinvestments.com/en-us):

  • Determine your goals, objectives and time horizon;
  • Make key distinctions between income and cash flow;
  • Develop a basic plan to help achieve your retirement goals.

However, probably even more important, experts say there are many other requirements that foster preparedness to enjoying your post-full-time employment years. For example, proposed by the editorial team of the NewRetirement website, there are eight essential keys to a potential retiree’s “happy transition.” (Read the entire article for a greater perspective at https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/8-skills-you-need-for-best-retirement/.)

  1. A Knack for Dealing with Uncertainty
  2. Resilience: Can You Overcome Adversity?
  3. Capability to Maintain a Set of Friends
  4. Cash Flow Mastery
  5. Ability to Set Your Own Schedule and Stay Motivated
  6. Can You Relax?
  7. Capacity to Have a Purpose and Follow Passions
  8. Do You Know How to Manage an Overall Retirement Plan?

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These concepts are supported by the book Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention by Kenneth S. Shultz (DK Publishing, 2015) which focuses on the question, “Are you psychologically prepared to retire?”

  1. How important is your job when it comes to getting a sense of life satisfaction?
  2. How many non-work activities do you have that  give you a sense of purpose?
  3. How do you imagine your life to be once you stop working?
  4. How do you think retirement will affect your relationship with family and friends?
  5. How much energy for work do you have these days?

Being “psyched” for the “big day” also involves learning personal coping skills, modeling these characteristics of good mental health (from the book The Psychology of Retirement: Coping with the Transition from Work by Derek Milne, 2013):

  • Being able to use your talents and energy productively
  • Enjoying challenges and gaining pleasure from accomplishing tasks
  • Being capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship
  • Finding meaning in belonging and contributing to your community
  • Being responsive, sensitive, and empathic to other people’s needs and feelings
  • Appreciating and responding to humor
  • Coming to terms with painful experiences from the past
  • Being comfortable and at ease in social situations;
  • Being energetic and outgoing
  • Being conscientious and responsible.

 

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Should I or Shouldn’t I Go Now?

No, this won’t be an easy decision… but, you knew that, right? There seems to be a plethora of free advice “out there” to help (?) you deliberate. (Well, you get what you pay for!) A few samples from the Internet:

7 Signs It Is Time (http://www.plannersearch.org/financial-planning/7-signs-its-time-to-retire)

  1. Your bank accounts
  2. Your bucket lists
  3. Your health
  4. The markets
  5. Health care benefits
  6. Social Security benefits
  7. Your spouse

10 Signs It Is Not Time (https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/021716/10-signs-you-are-not-ok-retire.asp)

  1. Struggling to pay bills
  2. You have lots of debt
  3. Have major expenses
  4. Don’t know your SS benefits?
  5. Need monthly financial plan
  6. Need long term financial plan
  7. What about the effects of inflation?
  8. Need to re-balance portfolio
  9. Retirement worries you
  10. You love your job

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Happy retirement = busy retirement. We keep going back to what PMEA MIOSM Chair Chuck Neidhardt said about venturing into retirement – also the perfect bumper-sticker: “Have a plan!” In almost every case study, retiring music teachers must “move on” to an equally engaging and active life style, finding new purpose and meaning in their “senior years!” Considering that many professionals are “addicted to achievement” and the sudden cessation from work may cause some emotional turmoil (Sydney Lagier in US News and World Report, July 20, 2010), we should study examples of those who have happily “Crossed the Rubicon” ahead of us into “retirement bliss.”

Leaving your school employment does not mean you won’t continue doing what you have always enjoyed… personal music (or dance or drama) making, performing in or conducting an ensemble, composing, accompanying, etc. The PMEA Retiree Resource Registry – the proverbial “directory of past leaders in PA music programs” – lists many retired members who continue to offer their talents and experience to help others in the profession. This is a good place to start for asking “advice from the experts” on just about any topic… perhaps even tips on deciding WHEN to retire: https://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

How about a couple more “models and mentors” who made this “change of life” adjustment and explored new directions towards self-reinvention in retirement?

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Ben Franklin, Founding Father
“Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine art of indolence, ‘retirement,’ he said, was ‘time for doing something useful.’ Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement were: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of ‘The First American’ in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most ‘useful’ was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure….”

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/how-america-lost-track-of-benjamin-franklins-definition-of-success/400808/

2000 – “The Year of Retirement?” for two musical superstars
Barbra Streisand, singer, songwriter, actress, and filmmaker
Garth Brooks, country-music singer and songwriter
“In 2000, Barbra Streisand performed four farewell concerts to mark her retirement from performing live. At the time, she was 58 years old and wanted to focus more on acting, directing and recording albums, reported ABC News.”

“Her retirement ended in 2016 when she returned to the stage for her The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic! tour, which grossed $53 million over 16 performances, according to Billboard.”

“Garth Brooks shocked fans in October 2000 when he announced his plan to retire to Oklahoma until the youngest of his three daughters graduated from high school, reported Billboard. The country music superstar was 42 years old when he began his early retirement.”

“During his semi-retirement, he did a few sold-out stints at arenas and a 186-show Las Vegas residency with wife Trisha Yearwood, according to Billboard, but he largely stayed out of the spotlight. Brooks returned to touring in September 2014 and continued until December 2017, performing a total of 390 shows, reported Billboard. Forbes cited his 2017 earnings as $60 million. Together, Brooks and Yearwood are one of the richest celebrity couples.”

https://www.gobankingrates.com/net-worth/celebrities/celebrities-who-came-out-of-retirement/

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“If money can buy you happiness,” supposedly these ten athletes were financially more successful after retirement, as opposed to the total earnings they generated during their original sports careers:

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Jim Brown
  • Oscar De La Hoya
  • Lenny Dykstra
  • George Foreman
  • Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”)
  • Magic Johnson
  • Michael Jordan
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Dave Whelan

https://www.complex.com/sports/2012/01/10-athletes-who-made-more-money-after-retiring/

 

Agatha Christie, British writer
Finally, to answer the question, “What would Agatha Christie do in retirement?” best-selling author Ernie Zelinski quoted in his The Retirement Cafe website the following list of activities proposed to be “her favorite things” from the publication Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1977).

  • Sunshine
  • Apples
  • Almost any kind of music
  • Railway trains
  • Numerical puzzles and anything to do with numbers
  • Going to the sea
  • Bathing and swimming
  • Silence
  • Sleeping
  • Dreaming
  • Eating
  • The smell of coffee
  • Lilies of the valley
  • Most dogs
  • Going to the theatre

Ernie concluded, “This list of activities and things that Christie loved may trigger some of the stuff that turns you on and which you can use for an active retirement. This will go a long way towards conquering retirement boredom.”

http://www.retirement-cafe.com/Fun-Things-to-Do-When-You-Retire.html

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Is the time ripe for you to retire? Again, only YOU can answer that!

When it becomes the right moment for you to make that “big plunge” to “living your dreams…” KUDOS and BEST WISHES on your rebirth as you explore your own pursuit of retirement self-reinvention and post-employment “freedom!”

PKF

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “old” by dietcheese, “man” by geralt, “elderly lady” by mabelamber, “senior” by ritae, “woman” by silviarita, “old couple” by monicavolpin, “ben-franklin” by ericdunham, “Fisherman” by paulbr75, “grandma” by fujidreams, and “wooden-train-toys-train-first-class” by Couleur.

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The “Care and Feeding” of Your Principal

New Teachers’ Guide for Fostering Positive Relations & Good Interactions with School Administrators

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Conventional wisdom suggests that the initial school staff you should get to know immediately on a first-name basis in your new teaching job are 1) the building secretary, 2) head custodian, and 3) cafeteria workers. (The first one keeps you out of trouble, the second cleans up your messes, and the last group makes sure you’re well-fed!)

However, even more influential, the principal “assigned to you” will literally “make or break” a smooth transition and orientation into the workplace. Especially if this person was partially responsible for hiring you (a member of the screening committee which chose you out from all of the other qualified candidates), he/she should be your penultimate “mentor!” To validate the administrator’s judgment (and you continuing to be the “hero”), he/she will likely be highly motivated to foster your success!

So… once you land your new position, your first move should be to learn everything you marching-band-1404489_1920_sam99929can about “your champion!” Find out his/her goals, needs, and “pet-peeves,” and while you’ll at it, get off on the right foot with relations with all of your school supervisors.

Here are some tips for “rookie” or new music teachers to cultivate these relationships.

According to the article, “The Principal’s Role in the Music Program” by Orville Aftreth in the Music Educators Journal (Vol. 46, No. 3, January 1960, pp. 41-44), “A successful music program requires a principal who enables the following basic attitudes:

  • A belief in the value and importance of music;
  • A desire to grow his ability to enjoy, appreciate, and produce music;
  • A willingness to vitalize school activities through music.”

But, unfortunately, it seems that few administrators have significant and ongoing experiences in making music.

While I was doing online research for this blog, I stumbled upon an excellent thesis entitled, “Why We Love Music: a Case Study of High School Principals” by D. Benjamin Williams (https://nafme.org/ways-to-build-better-working-relationships-with-your-principal/), which seemed to support this premise.

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A principal’s musical background influenced their view of music as a key part of a quality education. Most of the principals’ formal experience in the arts ended early in their life, and none took classes on how to be an effective administrator for an arts program. Principal certification courses typically deal with finance, special education, and general leadership and administration.

—D. Benjamin Williams

My own history (35 years of teaching in the public schools with 30+ administrators) was to serve with only one principal who was a former music teacher, and perhaps 10% of the remaining administrators had any real arts education experience (or even regularly played an instrument or sang in a choir).

woman-2679619_1920_anna2005Williams shared the purpose of his case study: “to gain an understanding of school administrators’ thoughts on their school’s music program in regards to music’s role and value.” He documented the comments of five principals in their advocacy of the arts.

The research questions posed in this study centered on the following:

  1. What are common values and/or themes among administrators when it comes to music in their schools?
  2. Are there common points of advocacy administrators find themselves making in support of their school’s music program?
  3. What do administrators see as benefits of having a music program in their schools?
  4. Where does music fit in the overall vision of a school?
  5. What is music’s role in a quality education?

They mentioned how the arts are an opportunity to plug in, be engaged, and earn scholarships; that they create an identity for the individual and for the school; that they make a whole student and contribute to a whole education; and that they provide opportunities for higher-order thinking, such as critical or creative thinking and problem solving, that are encouraged in core-content areas as well. The pressure placed on education institutions in the 21st century are focused on these concepts, and the principals saw that music helped and encouraged students to develop these abilities. This is why they chose to support, advocate, and build up their school’s music programs.

—D. Benjamin Williams

I repeat: the first advice we give to newcomers to the profession is know your bosses! And, intentionally invite, “educate,” include, and engage them in your music classes and ensembles’ activities! Draw a circle around him/her to become a member of your team!

He drew a circle to shut me out,
heretic rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win,
we drew a circle that took him in.

— Edwin Markham

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This view is reinforced by the article “Ways to Build Better Working Relationships with Your Principal” by Gabriel L. Woods on the NAfME Music in a Minuet blog-site at https://nafme.org/ways-to-build-better-working-relationships-with-your-principal/. He shares a summary of the basics:

  • Understand your principal and his/her job.
  • Build positive relationships with your principal.
  • Learn techniques to make your principal work for you and your program.
  • Learn how to think like a principal.

Each year when I return from honor bands or other music related field trips, I make it a habit to purchase my administrators a small token of appreciation to let them know the trip was a great success. Students must write an essay, and they present the administrators with the gift. In the essay, students are required to write what they learned, what the field trip meant to them, and how they will use this experience to make the school better. Praise is effective.

— Gabriel L. Woods

NAfME blogAlso, you should check out an even more recent NAfME blog, “Stronger Together – How to Get Administrators on Your Side” by Lori Schwartz Reichl, which offers a great perspective. Several meaningful quotes from her piece:

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

— Henry Ford

Remember that even though you are not taking the role of administrator, you are a leader. You lead a program. You lead a musical family. You are the leader of a superior sound. You are the leader of inspiration for your community. In the most genuine way, lead your administrator to a music education crescendo.

— Lori Schwartz Reichl

After a little brainstorming, I recalled my own working “top-ten list” of techniques for building harmonious interactions and collaborations with your school leaders.

  1. Be the first to arrive and the last to leave, and you will earn their respect! Professionals, especially music teachers who participate in co- and extra-curricular activities, are not “clock watchers” and need to “put in the time” before and after school to prepare and achieve meaningful learning experiences for their students.
  2. man-1020389_1920_geraltLearn what makes them tick! Is your principal a site-based manager? Is he/she a stickler for “chain of command.” I had an administrator who would go bonkers if he thought you back-copied a memo to the superintendent or called a central office manager first. Be sure you conform to the management style of your chief. This is a way of showing him/her respect and cooperation, which in all likelihood, will be returned to you in spades.
  3. Keep your principal “in the loop” and “in your corner,” and make sure you communicate any serious disputes that come up (especially with unhappy parents) that could blow up in your/his/her faces in the future. This also which means you don’t subscribe to the philosophy, “Don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness.” Proponents of this belief will tell you to go ahead and stick your neck out, perhaps do something “for the good of the order,” and later declare “oops!” if it goes south and your administrators disapprove. I cannot vouch for the ethics of this position, and “venturing out without a paddle” usually did not serve the best interests of the students. There’s no reason to place “the teacher’s convenience” over the safety and welfare of the children, and you should first try to obtain the legal and political endorsement of your boss(es) as you keep them appraised about what you are doing. Don’t be a nag, just “cc:” when appropriate, and “ask,” don’t “tell!”
  4. Give them credit! Publicly, you make it clear: you and your students’ awards and accomplishments are also your administrators’ awards and accomplishments. If it is possible, have your principal join you on stage to accept any ensemble honors.
  5. Serve on a non-music related committee or project. Principals are always middle stateslooking for volunteers to help fulfill the overarching goals of the district. This might mean signing up for the strategic planning committee, Middle States accreditation evaluation team, school renovation planning meetings with the architect, etc.
  6. Engage your principal as a participant in your program: concert appearances as guest conductor or solo/ensemble performer, featured narrator or announcer, limited-engagement as a walk-on part in the musical, judge of talent show, etc.
  7. Model professionalism and good time management skills. Be prompt in the completion of all deadlines assigned by administration. Don’t turn your principal (or his secretary) into a “nag” requiring numerous follow-up reminders.
  8. Understand the importance of public perceptions and “appearances.” Many school leaders spend an inordinate amount time trying to defend the sometimes questionable actions of their staff. Don’t make this necessary! Be responsible for your “public brand.” If it looks bad, it is bad… and that’s always up to you!
  9. Don’t just bring up problems, have answers! At odds with an existing policy or boss-2179948_1920_balikpractice? Suggest a solution and a Plan B to an issue you would like to address. Upholding “moral professionalism,” tactfully but firmly point out what is not working (and why). But, do your homework first. Share the “facts and stats” and try to propose several different directions to consider (even a Plan C and a Plan D). You will impress the “head honcho” by modeling the traits of flexibility, creative problem solving, and sensitivity to the needs of other staff and programs.
  10. Think long term and back-up your requests with numbers! When you submit your budget for the next school year, include the “tangibles” and statistics that your principal could use to “fight for you.” Include data on and percent changes in student enrollments, per-pupil costs, history of past purchases, etc. and separate your proposals into one, two, three, and/or five-year “plans” to spread out the expense for big-ticket items. Be specific and prioritize! When asked to “cut” my sheet music amounts, I assembled a set of sample folders with all of the music I used in the current year and broke down each selection’s current (replacement) price, each concert’s overall value, percentage of the repertoire used from my library, projected losses, etc. In one case, I predicted that if the district went through with its reduction of the music budget by 20% and (at the time) the cost of sheet music was rising 15%, I would be forced to schedule one fewer public performance in the school year. (It never happened!)

Edutopia provided excellent insight in promoting collaborative relationships with your principal. In “Five Ways to Develop a Partnership with Your Principal” by Ben Johnson, this advice was shared:

  1. Have a Face-to-Face Meeting
  2. Make Your Resource Needs Known
  3. Write It Down
  4. Invite Her into Your Classroom
  5. Offer Encouragement

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If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

— George Bernard Shaw

Another resource worth reading is “A Teacher’s Guide to Working With Your Principals” by Kristy Louden. She reflects: “But aside from the obvious factor that your principal is your boss, and you want your boss to think well of you, I have found my relationship with my principal has helped in more ways than I probably realize. Here’s why:

  • They’ll think of you… (when an opportunity comes up that you might want).
  • You can ask for what you want.
  • You’ll get respect and recognition.
  • You have a reference (just in case).”

ENhancing the Professional Practice of Music TeachersFinally, the most comprehensive manual I have ever read on this subject should be a “required read” for every music educator: Enhancing the Professional Practice of Music Teachers: 101 Tips That Principals Want Music Teachers to Know and Do by Paul Young. To add to the above guidelines, I would especially peruse these recommendations:

  • Tip #13: Work closely with classroom teachers
  • Tip #30: Take charge of your schedule
  • Tip #41: Continuously improve classroom management
  • Tip #62: Make ethical decisions
  • Tip #80: Write notes, return phone calls, reply to email
  • Tip #93: Perform (satisfy your own pursuit of creative self-expression)
  • Tip #97: Improve your leadership skills (quotes from the book Leadership 101 by John Maxwell)

This final point is an excellent one. You are “in charge” of your own self-improvement projects and professional development. Administrators want to see staff members who seek growth experiences. Don’t wait for the annual implementation of the district’s “latest flavor of the year” in-service program (as it is sometimes referred to by teachers) or your supervisor’s year-end conference. Do your own self-assessment and plan specific and measurable goals and tasks to fulfill them. Always strive to do your best and be harder on yourself than anyone else (even administration) can ever be. Model the concepts of focus, cooperation, self-discipline, and a positive attitude in the workplace.

Now, take a deep breath. It’s all about one step at a time. Soak up these ideas. You can and will nurture happy and productive relationships with your principal and other school administrators, enhance your professional image and effectiveness, and foster opportunities of achievement and self-fulfillment for you and your music students!

PKF

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

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Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “handshake-regard-cooperate-connect” by johnhain, “laptop-office-hand-writing” by Aymanejed, “marching-band-chicago-thanksgiving” by sam99929, “violin-flute-music-classic” by horndesign, “woman-business-woman-boss” by anna2005, “people” by Russell_Clark, and “wooden-train-toys-train-first-class” by Couleur.

 

 

Transitioning from Collegiate to Professional – Part III

The Final Leap from Pre-Service to In-Service:

The Metamorphosis and Integration of Philosophy, Maturity, and Teacher Preparation

trumpet-1495108_1920_congerdesignTo “wrap-up” our final segment, we will review the development of a professional “marketing plan.” This is blog #3 out of 3. (Be sure to also check out #1 and #2, too.)

These are three critical skills you need to foster in the search for a school music position, marketing yourself, interviewing, and landing a “good” job:

  • Personal branding (who are you, what makes you unique, and what do you have to offer?)
  • Story telling (anecdotes) of your positive attributes and personal brand, including a record of your habits of “engagement” in music education, and
  • Networking (associating with other professionals and getting your positive stories “out there”).

 

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branding

Personal Branding

“Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging… Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.”

– Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_branding

What is the difference between marketing and branding? According to some, “marketing is what you do, branding is what you are.” (www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/)

phone-2840244_1920_RobinWiggins13Shama Hyder posted “7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand” at http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/, including the following outlined summary:

  1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand
  2. Audit your online presence
  3. Secure a personal website
  4. Find ways to produce value
  5. Be purposeful in what you share
  6. Associate with other strong brands
  7. Reinvent

During these waning months for college music education seniors, now is the time to finalize the preparations for personal branding and beginning the employment search! Personal branding is critical to help you “stand above the rest,” showing that you have what it takes and would be a major asset to a prospective employer, and defining and marketing your own unique qualities that would make you “a good fit” for the specific job openings.

Steps to Personal BrandingThe branding process involves first developing your philosophy of music education, archiving your awards and accomplishments, documenting your grades and ok-3061659_1920_RobinHiggins12experiences, and collecting stories/personal anecdotes of your strengths. The next steps include the creation of a written and electronic portfolio, business card, resume, and website. Finally, you must compile/assemble everything together and practice (and self-assess) your “story-telling skills” to answer those important questions at well-rehearsed “mock interviews.”

You will likely not have enough time to complete all of these tasks during methods classes or student teaching seminars. That’s okay. If you are serious about prepping yourself to find a great music teaching job, the valuable links (see below) and articles are out there… just manage your time and start reading.

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networking

Networking

According to the article “Network Your Way to Secure a Teaching Job” at https://resumes-for-teachers.com/job-search-help/teacher-network/, many people are unaware of the basics of networking and how to use them it to their advantage in securing a job:

“Networking simply refers to finding job-related contacts. Most teachers who are just beginning their careers may feel that they have few, if any, networking contacts in the teaching field. It is important to consider the many different areas of networking as you create your own group of networking contacts to help you secure a teaching job. It is interesting to note that many of the teaching positions that are filled each year are filled by those who came to the attention of personnel managers by recommendation.”

“Always think about adding to your teaching network. When meeting new people, be certain to add them to your network. Talk to them about your skills, education, experience, and learn about their jobs. Make sure that you always ask for a business card.”

Do you have a business card? Is your résumé updated and available online on your professional website?

young-3061653_1920As I laid out in a previous blog “Networking Niceties: The ‘How-To Schmooze’ Guide for Prospective Music Teachers” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/, the concept of networking is two-way communications. Just like collective sets of nerve synapses, two-way connections are expected to fire repeatedly in all directions. That’s actually the science behind memory. For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school HR managers and secretaries, administrators, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and YOU – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits.

pcmeaThe above blog-post also explores setting up a good organizational system to manage your professional contacts.

If you are a Pennsylvania collegiate member (PCMEA), I heartily recommend the article “Networking 101” by Dr. Kathleen Melago, PCMEA State Advisor and Associate Professor of Music Education at Slippery Rock University, published in the Summer 2017 issue of the state journal PMEA News (pages 40-42). Here are several quotes from her work:

“One of the most common ways music educators can plan to network is at conventions. First, try to avoid interacting only with people from your school or people you already know from other schools. Go to sessions that interest you and look for opportunities to meet people there. Before the session starts, introduce yourself to people sitting around you. Use your social skills to assess whether they seem like they want to engage in a conversation or not. After the session, go up and meet the presenter.”

“Of course, social media is another great way to build your network. Networking with professionals already in the field can help you see what they are doing and help you build ideas of what you would like to do in your program someday.”

“Sometimes, you might find yourself networking unexpectedly. For example, you might go into school to work with their clarinet section during band camp and just happened to meet the choir teacher. That is networking!”

“To help your networking be most effective you need to have good communication skills. When interacting with others in a networking situation, be sure to focus on the person with whom you are speaking. Avoid looking off into the distance as if you were to anticipating someone else more important coming by. But your cell phone away and be present to the conversation.”

“Be yourself in your networking interactions. If you pretend that you are someone you are not, you will either end up unhappy or you’ll be discovered is someone who is not genuine.”

Dr. Melago goes on to provide a myriad of excellent examples of networking skills and opportunities.

Another resource specifically for networking at music teachers conferences is posted at https://nafme.org/getting-music-conferences/.

 

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engagement

Engagement

Here is an excellent definition of “professional engagement” from “Domains of Teaching” of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership at https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/understand-the-teacher-standards/domains-of-teaching.

Teachers model effective learning. They identify their own learning needs and analyze, evaluate and expand their professional learning, both collegially and individually.

Teachers demonstrate respect and professionalism in all their interactions with students, colleagues, parents/carers and the community. They are sensitive to the needs of parents/carers and can communicate effectively with them about their children’s learning.

Teachers value opportunities to engage with their school communities within and beyond the classroom to enrich the educational context for students. They understand the links between school, home and community in the social and intellectual development of their students.

Engagement for prospective music teacher may include synonyms like “participate,” “enroll,” “join,” “be active,” “volunteer,” “seek experience,” and “make a difference!”

Are you a member of your professional music education associations?

  • NAfME National Association for Music Education
  • PCMEA Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association, or another state’s local NAfME collegiate chapter
  • pmeaPMEA Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, or another state’s NAfME-affiliated MEA
  • ACDA American Choral Directors Association
  • ASTA American String Teachers Association
  • NBA National Band Association

Did (or will) you attend your state music teachers’ conference and local workshops on music education and professional development?

To prove you are “professionally engaged,” I would expect to see a consistent record of modeling in the following areas:

  1. excited-3126449_1920_RobinHiggins9Self-reflection of the professional’s teaching practices and modification of these as needed to match changes in the environment and circumstances
  2. Self-assessment of the professional’s methods and approaches, as well as the progress of the students’ learning, using both formative and summative methods for constant and ongoing improvement
  3. Identification and planning of professional learning needs.
  4. Unsupervised (or unplanned by school administration) goal-setting and self-guided implementation of opportunities for professional development
  5. Association with professional learning communities, school and community meetings, and other collaborative projects
  6. Volunteer service in music and music education
  7. Membership and subscription to music education journals and participation in online professional community discussion groups

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a calling. One school superintendent I know said he expected prospective new recruits to show high energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and dedication during the interview… even a supposed willingness to “lay down in front of a school bus” or “do what ever it takes” to make the students (and the educational program) successful. That’s engagement!

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In summary, becoming a music educator is about finding your inner confidence, a mindset that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re ready for that real world experience. You’ve learned those essential skills in conducting, piano accompaniment, arranging, student behavior modification and discipline, music diagnosis and remediation, and even how to market your professionalism. Now… drum roll, please! Here’s… a master music teacher!

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In closing, here are supplementary materials to help you to “get your feet wet,” all free and available online. The following lists, although not comprehensive, are a good place to start (courtesy of https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Collegiate-Communique-No11-022218-2.pdf):

Good luck!

 

Personal Branding, Marketing, and Networking

Business Cards

Résumés

Portfolios and Websites

Interview Questions, Techniques, and Skills of “Story-Telling”

 

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “tutor” by nrjfalcon1, “trumpet” by congerdesign, “skills” by diwou, “phone” by Robin-Higgins, “OK” by Robin-Higgins, “feedback” by geralt, “young” by Robin-Higgins, “music” by ricardo-vasquez, “excited” by Robin-Higgins, and “classical-music” by pexels.

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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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.

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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

 

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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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PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Retirement = Deferred Gratification

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

One Music Teacher Retiree’s Soapbox: “I Paid My Dues – Now It’s Time to Reap the Rewards!”

that-s-lame-bad-and-or-stupi-1537799I write these blogs to “get things off my chest.” Fair warning! Unlike other articles on this site, I may project a little negative attitude in this piece, griping in response to what I consider is unfair public opinion.

One thing you discover very quickly during your career and in retirement, when you’re socializing at a party of mixed company, it is never a good idea to bring up the subject of teacher pay and benefits. 

You want to start an argument? In particular, discuss teacher pensions. Jealousy? Disrespect? Certainly not gratitude or understanding!

There’s a view out there that school employees are “public servants” (or should I say “slaves?”) deserving lower salaries, especially considering the fact that their compensation and fringes are funded almost entirely by taxes. “Don’t raise my taxes!” Possibly this is a translation of another unspoken sentiment: “You should not be making more than me!”

in-giving-we-receive-1241576While on this rant, I would also like to complain that I am tired of hearing how teachers only work nine months a year. Someone’s math is really bad when you look at the calendar. Most schools in Pennsylvania start by the fourth week in August for teacher in-service days (definitely before Labor Day) and end by the second week in June, depending on how many snow days or vacation breaks are scheduled in the school year. Closer to ten months?

Anyway, the real point is that I know very few educational professionals who do not constantly bring work home nights and over weekends, and spend their summer months researching, retraining, retooling, and finding new ways to reach their students for the coming term.

my-mad-teacher-1254564There will always be criticism and negative comments about the value of our teachers. Part of this is due to the fact we have all been there. Everyone knows a “bad teacher” who modeled laziness, incompetency, or neglect of duty. You may have had one of these “rotten apples,” or perhaps were forced to endure an educator or coach who demonstrated “abuse of power.”

That being said, I was mystified that some of our greatest parent critics were also the same people who made the most of demands on the educator. It seems crazy that these parents who cried out “no more teacher raises” are the ones who asked me for a last-minute recommendation for their college applicant, extra practices for or rides to/from music festivals, or requested a detailed analysis and recommendations for improvement when their son or daughter didn’t achieve what they wanted at an audition.

So, while these pet peeves are fresh on my mind, I would like to share a retrospective – the benefits and drawbacks of our profession – and why, in balance, I believe music teaching is still one of the most honorable, personally satisfying, and valuable of life’s pursuits!

Public School Music – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. Music education is a “calling,” not just a career. Another definition (applicable to all teaching subjects) is a professional “practice!” Like doctors and lawyers, we marching-band-1440110-1“practice” our job, applying different techniques to each unique situation, focusing on the needs of our “charges,” constantly re-assessing ourselves, retraining and updating our skills, and solving problems.
  2. Most music teachers agree that the profession demands a 24/7 schedule (at least, it feels like it!!)… and yes, that means most Saturdays and many Sundays, not to mention numerous afternoons and evenings after the classes are dismissed. Even when we are not at school, we think about our next lesson/unit, select new music, look for ways to inspire new knowledge and self-expression in our students, prepare the scores or instructional aides, and practice the accompaniments.
  3. For the HS music teacher, what are the five seasons of the year? (1) Fall Festival Auditions/Fall Play/Marching Band, (2) Winter Festivals/Concerts, (3) School Musical/All-States, (4) Spring Concerts/Adjudication Trips, and (5) Summer Camps/Curriculum Writing/Reading Workshops/Professional Development.
  4. I have absolutely no regrets. Having said this, make no mistake about it… the sacrifices were many! We had no time to start a family of our own. Since my wife (also a music teacher) and I were never at home, it would have been considered animal cruelty to purchase a dog. We enjoyed few summer vacations, and those trips we did take had to be short in duration… scheduled around string camp, summer conferences, and marching band rehearsals.
  5. singer-1414613No one goes into education to make a lot of money. With the same level of post-graduate work, nearly every other entry-level job or even being self-employed will fetch much more compensation.This is why it has been hard finding math and science teachers in some localities. They would have to accept major pay-cuts declining jobs in engineering, chemistry, computer science, and the technology industry as opposed to becoming a first-year teacher.
  6. The pay? You have to consider the salaries spanning over 30-40 years! In those early years in public school education (when I started), if you had a family with kids, you were eligible for food stamps. I suppose one should compare the usual range of corporate compensations (much higher) during those active years of employment vs. teacher pensions (higher) during retirement. Does it really equalize in the end?
  7. Compared to other proprietary consultants with highly specialized skills, many music teachers provide free or very-low-cost extra services, uncompensated on-the-spot lessons, etc. I remember on one occasion, a computerized lighting board service technician was able to charge my school district more than $1000 to come from Ohio to fix our controller… as opposed to “Johnny” randomly dropping in to see me after-school for some help in learning to play “a lick” for the concert.
  8. concert-1435286At least, we are doing something we love, and we can take “the joy of making music” to the grave!
  9. Music educators often sponsor fundraisers for their programs (tickets, sales, etc.), and also pour back a lot of their own finances into the extra-curricular activities of their classes/ensembles. I was seldom reimbursed for everything I contributed, although one year, my tax accountant allowed me a $2300 deduction in pizza “gifts” made to my after-school programs!
  10. Musical directors, how much do you dole out? I recall there were always significant out-of-pocket expenses for props, scenery pieces, costumes, etc.
  11. Music education professionals spend time and resources advocating for their programs (indeed even their own music students’ existence). Music and the arts are the first subjects to be cut during school budget crises. Unlike our English or math colleagues, instrumental teachers must recruit for and retain participants in their classes. A significant drop in band or orchestra enrollment is the fastest way to compel the school district to furlough the last-hired music staff member.
  12. Worse yet, it was always demoralizing when a parent came to me to pull his/her child from the ensemble. More often than not, the “quitter” is a musician showing i-myself-1515970great potential and one for whom you have spent much time and effort helping. It was always a crushing blow to hear “Johnny wants to give up playing,” “he is bored,” or “now we will try something new like (ahem) intramural tiddly-winks.” Parents/guardians conceded that it was hard to “make him practice.” My initial  response (if I have the guts to say it, but by then, it was usually too late): “Who is in charge here? Do you make your kids brush their teeth or do their math homework?”
  13. Being a music teacher at a student-centered pro-arts school district in Western Pennsylvania was incredibly satisfying and inspirational. I was one of the lucky ones. At Upper St. Clair School District where I taught for 33 years, the emphasis is/was on “customized learning” and “The Whole Child.” I received all of the administrative help and community support anyone could ask. I was encouraged to take risks, build the string and drama programs, direct countless concerts, plays, musicals, and other lessons in creativity and self-expression, and seek new avenues of professional development.
  14. I also have no regrets in retiring… I knew it was time to turn over a new chapter in my life, recapturing the freedom to try new directions in the journey of retirement.
  15. usctaglineI was relieved that, during a time of state and local budget crunches (when many school districts were not filling retired staff positions), my administration and school directors were true to their mission statement: “Developing lifelong learners and responsible citizens for a global society is the mission of the Upper St. Clair School District, served by a responsive and innovative staff who in partnership with the community provides learning experiences that nurture the uniqueness of each child and promote happiness and success.” When I retired, they hired excellent replacements for all of my former positions: Secondary Orchestra/String Teacher, Grades 1-12 Performing Arts Curriculum Leader, and Spring Musical/Fall Play Director/Producer.
  16. The benefits of retirement are wonderful. Yes, my wife and I enjoy a comfortable public school pension and, although it is now a “fixed income” that will never go up, we really do not have any financial worries… at this point.
  17. With our health and future secured, the “earlier then industry-standard” retirement allows us to do whatever we want… fill and fulfill “bucket lists!”
  18. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow we can “catch-up” on travel, pets, hobbies, volunteer work, gardening, home improvements, and revisiting our “creativity roots” which got us started in the first place towards a career in music and education.
  19. There is still a lot of joy running into appreciative former students and their parents at shopping centers or the grocery store. Our former “music stars” represent the kids we never had, and seeing them move on successfully to raise their own batch of musicians, singers, composers, conductors, or music teachers, literally moves me to tears. There is nothing better than being a music teacher and feeling appreciated!

Why Would Anyone Become a Music Educator?

My father could not understand why all three of his children ended up in music. When he visited my first 4th grade musical production in the spring of 1979 (Edgewood School District, now Woodland Hills), he asked me, “Why in the world would you choose to make your life’s work as a teacher?” Comparing our salaries (the difference of a decimal point – $8,000 for a teacher vs. $80,000 for a nuclear engineer) and the hectic 24/7 nature of my work, he pointed out that if I would go into business with him, as partners we could each make so much more than even he was earning as a manager at Westinghouse.

Although he briefly complimented my performance, he made these remarks after the show, and it burst my bubble. It hurt. I mustered a response like, “Thanks dad for coming, but you should know I always wanted to be a music teacher… to bring to others the incredible joy of making music.”

ColePorterThere is nothing worse than feeling that your father does not approve of who you are or what you want to do with the rest of your life. Of course, I am not alone in having this kind of parental disapproval. American composer and songwriter Cole Porter (who wrote Anything Goes) experienced a similar problem. At the insistence of his rich maternal grandfather for whom he was named after, he entered Yale University and then the Harvard Law School to become a lawyer. However, his true love was music. While at Yale (and secretively from his family), he wrote 300 songs and the words and music to six full-length student shows. Eventually he switched to studying harmony and counterpoint with the Harvard music faculty… the rest is history!

However, my story gets better. When my father attended my Upper St. Clair High School winter production of Scrooge (1982) involving nearly 200 choral students and the orchestra, he began to understand and accept a new perspective – what has become for me “the calling” of music education, theater, and creative collaboration with students. I sat him in the front row, while I conducted the pit orchestra literally feet from him. It was an “Upper St. Clair production” – the beginnings of what we do today – very high levels of artistry and professionalism and strong community support.

After the performance, my dad totally redeemed himself. He asked me, “You did all of this?” He praise me, said it was the greatest thing he had ever seen, and told me how proud he was of me. That was the last time he ever saw one of my shows… he died suddenly of a heart attack two years later almost on the day of my next choral musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

concert-1435286Why choose education? Well, the status of a teacher in some cultures is at the pinnacle of the society’s most cherished and respected. In fact, in some Asian countries, tradition dictates that the eldest rules the entire family, and is often considered a master teacher. The career of a teacher is on the top of the spectrum. The merchant is at the bottom. This is exactly the opposite for today’s Western countries… a worship of wealth, stockbrokers, millionaires, “things,” etc. (Of course, it should be mentioned that, using this analogy, Asian musicians are also at the bottom… considered to be nearly useless in lower socioeconomic agrarian societies.)

A wide-body of research proves that the arts help develop 21st Century learning skills, especially success in creative self-expression, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communications. We know practitioners of the Performing Arts find meaning and discover their talents and interests, and being involved in music and art brings out the appreciation of the beauty in our lives.

Although, now I’m retired, I was once there… and helped to make this happen!

For more articles on retirement by Paul K. Fox, go to https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/retirement-resources/.

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PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

 

All Eyes Are on the Job Resume

Music Teacher Resumes Revisited: Planning, Creating, and Maintaining

“The resume is the first impression an employer receives about you as a candidate and also serves as your marketing tool.” – Carnegie Mellon University Career and Professional Development Center at http://www.cmu.edu/career/resumes-and-cover-letters/index.html
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe walking document of “everything you always wanted to know about you” is your professional resume.

Inasmuch as it serves as an extended version of your business card, a “quick look” of your personal brand, an easy-access to contact information, and a showcase of your accomplishments and experiences, it is essential you invest a lot of time on the planning, careful review, creation, and constantly updating of your resume.

Here are a few tips I can offer, supported by websites like those listed at the end of this blog. My favorite resource for soon-to-be graduating musicians and music educators alike the-violinist-1413441is the “Prepare Your Materials” section of the Institute for Music Leadership, Eastman School of Music (ESM)/University of Rochester, Careers and Professional Development (https://www.esm.rochester.edu/iml/careers/library.php), where you can download comprehensive guides for creating a resume, cover letter, and philosophy of music education, and browse audition tips and interview questions. You should remember to revisit this link over the coming summer months when, as noted by the Eastman Careers Advisor, a major revision of these materials is targeted for completion.

  1. Keep it short and simple. Most people agree on the recommendation that no more than two pages is sufficient. According to The Ladders, an online career resource service (see http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-long-should-resume-be), class-1552432“Professional resume writers urge their clients to first try to trim their resumes down to a maximum of two pages.” One exception for a three-pager might be if the job seeker was to transition from one field to another, having to cover both sets of the candidate’s skills, qualities, and experiences.
  2. The format, style, and overall design should be clean and foster clarity. The resume is a reflection of your mission, professionalism, organizational skills, and even personal judgment and intellect. Yes, you want to layout the content to highlight your skills and grab the reader’s attention, but you do not want to clutter it with crowded text, over-use of multiple fonts, or fail to provide enough white-space separation between sections and margins. In Pulling the Pieces of the Job Hunt Puzzle Together for Your Success at http://www.powerful-sample-resume-formats.com/resume-fonts.html, it is suggested that you limit your choices to just one or a few of the most well-recognized drum-10-1502688and easy-to-read fonts in your collection. “Your goal is not to make your resume beautiful to your eyes… it’s to make it extremely readable to the people doing the screening and hiring.”
  3. A K-12 music teacher resume is no place to broadcast a limited vision or capacity of your skills and experiences. In other words, don’t label yourself as any kind of music specialist (e.g. band director), thereby eliminating all of the other music teaching jobs in which you are certified. I have tried to underscore the importance of modeling yourself as a competent, comprehensive “Generalist,” not a single-subject “Expert” (which may decrease your chances in finding a job) in a previous blog: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/.
  4. Consider the difference between a traditional resume (mostly a record of subjects, titles, or positions using nouns) versus a qualifications brief (verbs or action words that truly describe what you have done). When I approached getting a job back in 1978, most resumes were just lists. Many now say that giving more meaning or “the stories” SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAbehind the job assignments, field experiences,  or awards… is better. What did you do in each situation, what did you learn, and how did you grow? Check out author Diana in NoVa’s ideas at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/10/993023/-The-Qualifications-Brief-When-Should-You-Use-It. This viewpoint is furthered by Dr. Ralph Jagodka at http://instruction2.mtsac.edu/rjagodka/BUSM66_Course/Qualifications_Brief.htm. “Start a ‘Profile Folder’ that contains paragraphs about what specific skills you possess.  In this folder, focus on identifying all of your knowledge, skills and abilities (in separate paragraphs),” writing them in terms of accomplishments (not just duties and responsibilities).  This matches several of my “sermons” posted in previous blogs on “Marketing Professionalism” (especially https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/), where I echo Dr. Jagodka sentiments about “develop a plethora of anecdotes regarding the various solutions you can provide,” in this case, for the leadership staff of prospective school districts, school buildings, and specific music class teaching assignments.
  5. Go online and study samples of resumes, their standardization and band-of-boys-1426209-1conventions of grammar, punctuation, style, and order of presentation. For example, for new music educators entering the field, it is generally recommended that you list your experience, education, and achievements chronologically starting with the most recent at the top of each section. According to http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Resume, “chronological resumes are used for showing a steady growth in a particular career field.” That is perfect for the average college student entering the field of music education for the first time!
  6. Prepare the draft – gather and rank the importance of all your data. This could mean prioritizing and peering down from a list of your strengths, accomplishments, education, and experiences (see http://jobsearch.about.com/od/resumetips/qt/resumecontent.htm). A music supervisor or curriculum leader might be interested in hearing about your solo and ensemble performance experience, recitals, chamber music, compositions/arrangements, examples of jazz improvisation and/or Neonsinging, etc. However, from an administrator’s perspective, it may be more important to know about the prospective music teacher’s field experiences and previous employment working with children, classroom management skills, professional development goals and initiative (would you be interested in coaching or directing extracurricular activities?), teamwork and leadership skills, personality traits like patience/even temperament/self-discipline, and knowledge of a few “buzz words” of educational terminology and acronyms (like The Common Core, DOK/HOTS, IEP, PLC, RTI, UBD, formative/summative assessments, etc. You are welcome to review some of these completing a crossword puzzle at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/the-alphabet-soup-of-educational-acronyms/.)
  7. Is creating one resume good enough for all job openings? Perhaps not. According to Lannette Price in her blog Five Simple Tips for Building a Resume at https://www.resume.com/blog/5-simple-tips-when-building-a-resume/, you should “understand the position and tailor the resume.” She emphasizes this point. “Always look over a job posting and use the similar or the same words as the job description to highlight what has been accomplished in previous job situations.” guitar-woman-1435839Among her other suggestions are writing “an objective statement” which summarizes your goals to being employed at the school district, “support skills sets with problem solving examples” (see #4 above), and “proofread, proofread, proofread” for accuracy and to enhance your image. Sloppy resumes with typos or misspellings project the wrong message to prospective employers.

So, take the time, and “do it right!” Peruse numerous online samples and anything given to you by your university’s career center or music department. Share a draft of your resume with family members, college roommates, and/or trusted music ed buddies. (Accept their constructive criticism.) Be ready to adapt/update your document for a particular job.

Final piece of advice? Read these and other web resources for building/maintaining your resume. Good luck, and “happy hunting!”

PKF

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© 2016 Paul K. Fox