I found myself this past Monday morning with a few extra minutes checking my almost empty “to-do” list and, with the exception of planning to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers football game and the endless chore of raking leaves in my yard (I immediately rejected the latter), I discovered I had very few professional or personal priorities to focus on this week! Wow! Some additional “free time!” Shh… don’t tell anyone!
Down time? As I mentioned in a previous blog-post, since the summer, things had been a little hectic for “this retiree.” When I accepted the position of “admin” to the marching band of the school from where I retired, I discovered how fast we can fill up our schedules with meetings, rehearsals, and performances… to the point that it is hard to imagine how I could possibly have done all of this unless I retired from the regular job! My wife jokingly said, “Those were the days!” (perhaps a little unsympathetically?) as she watched me takeoff for band camp, parent salute nights, late night away football games, etc., while she remained cozy at home. “Been there. Done that! Not anymore!”
Only one professional association got me through more than five decades in music education and 35+ years of full-time directing, equipping me to handle the twists and turns of an ever-changing career (e.g., becoming a choral director even though I had never sang in a high school or college choir), and even attending music festivals as a viola and tuba student for four years in the Penn Hills school district. Who do I credit for giving me this “life force,” “teacher chops,” and music mastery? PMEA. We are so fortunate to have this priceless “collaboration of our colleagues,” numerous resources for the benefit of our own professional development, and services we provide to our music students. Cut me and I bleed PMEA blue!
How Are YOU Feeling?
This blog’s “call to action” is necessary because of the turmoil the pandemic has left the arts education community, new school health and safety mandates, re-prioritization of district resources (in some places away from the arts in spite of the need for more not less social emotional learning), reports of the drop in music participant enrollments, decrease in membership renewals, and teacher shortages.
The crush of COVID-19 and all of the program delays, suspensions, (and hopefully not) permanent losses have made this one of the most challenging times I can ever recall. The only way we can get through this is “together…” and frankly, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!” This is NO TIME to let your membership and involvement lapse! PMEA and other professional music education organizations (like NAfME, ACDA, ASTA) need your “dedication to the cause,” willingness to help “the team” and one other, and active participation.
Collegiate members, full active members, and retired members – all of us joining forces – can truly “make a difference!” No matter how busy or stressed you are and how much you feel you are “slugging it out in the trenches” alone, we all need to become partners and devote time for and dedication to the associations we are blessed to have right now that support music educators in the Commonwealth, the nation, and the profession.
The Essential Role of Associations
It does not matter which profession you have chosen! You NEED an ASSOCIATION!
The architects may have defined “this essential bond” best:
Membership in the relevant professional organization is one of the things that separates a profession from a conventional job. It is a key element that defines a professional. Membership in one’s professional organization is expected of all professionals. It is important to support the advancement of one’s profession, and becoming a member of the professional organization is a part of that advancement.
Involvement with a professional society will afford the participant an opportunity to network with other colleagues in industry and practice. Making connections with others who have similar interests reinforces why one has chosen this career. It enables new professionals to associate with senior members of the profession and learn from them. Joining a professional organization is critical in keeping abreast of the latest knowledge and practices locally, regionally, and globally. It helps the professional to stay abreast of current issues and opportunities and will also assist in personal advancement for the member who becomes involved.
Many professional organizations offer continuing education, seminars, and lectures along with other opportunities for learning. An active participant will have the opportunity to serve in professional development. Working with people outside of one’s own firm and volunteering will build leadership skills. Opportunities for working with the community for the betterment of society and the local economy will be available. There will be possibilities for making real contributions to the human condition through projects the professional organization may take on as a part of giving back to the community. There are events that will call for public speaking skills and professional visibility which will assist in moving one’s career to another level by connecting with other professions and local leaders in the area. The profession will benefit from members’ service and the members will be rewarded in return by such things as personal fulfillment, professional enrichment, and building a stronger resume as a result.
Further definition of the professional responsibilities and ethical practices will come in part from the professional organization. It is a central core for regulation, education, revitalization, networking and service. Joining a professional organization provides occasions and experiences to renew one’s enthusiasm for the practice of interior design. The interaction can be both inspirational and enlightening. Being a member of a professional organization is a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the member that will benefit them both.
My “top-ten” benefits for membership in a professional association like PMEA are:
Development and sharing of the standards and best practices of the profession
Student festivals and music performance assessments
Professional development and career advancement opportunities: workshops, conferences, and publications
Collaborative projects such as health and wellness seminars, ethics training, library of online resources, etc.
Models and resources for curriculum writing
Coaching and mentoring resources
Resources in job hunting and interviewing techniques
Advocacy of music education and “a voice” (more political “clout”) in defining future government public policy
So, What’s in it for Me?
Review a few of the synonyms of “association” mentioned above: “alliance,” “consortium,” “coalition,” “connection,” etc. I am sure you’ve heard the saying: “TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More.” Or, to quote the philosopher Aristotle: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The easiest way for me to show the value of joining PMEA and becoming more active, engaged, and successful in your teaching assignment (no matter what the primary specialty – general music, vocal, band, strings, jazz, music theory, technology, etc) is to take a snapshot of the benefits displayed on the www.pmea.net website. Why try to reinvent the wheel? You might be surprised the extent of the HELP that is available just around the corner! Go ahead… click away! Take a peek at what you may be missing!
On a personal note, PMEA has provided me the insight, inspiration, and opportunities for substantial career growth, “places to go and people to meet” to fill-in-the-gaps of the skill training I may have felt were missing, for example methods and media for teaching a high school choral program for more than 16 years and directing/producing 37+ musicals. In addition, PMEA and NAfME have been the sole institutions that I have turned to for more than 50 years for their sponsorship of choral and orchestral music festivals and other enrichment that have provided my students new and highly motivating musical challenges and countless state-of-the-art once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
So now, reflect on the title of this blog! It is essential to give back to our association – to help it achieve its mission: “to advance comprehensive and innovative music education for all students through quality teaching, rigorous learning, and meaningful music engagement.” We’re all in this together, and together we can make it better! Slide #6 at the bottom of the retired members’ webpage proposes what PMEA needs from all members (not just retirees):
The number one thing you can do for ANY association is to pay your annual dues, attend its meetings, be active and HELP OUT! In return, PMEA can assist you in finding and sustaining your passions! What are you waiting for? If you have not renewed for the 2021-2022 year, please visit this PMEA membership webpage.
Teachers make as many as 1,500 decisions a day for their classes and students… that’s as many as four educational choices per minute for the average teacher given six hours of class time. Surprised? (Not if you are an educator!) Check out this corroborating research:
Of course it can be exhausting… and as fast as “things” happen, even mind-numbing at times!
What do educators rely on for guidance, a sort of internal “ethical compass” for making these decisions, many of which are snap judgments?
Teacher “chops” (professional experience)
Peer and administrative support
Personal moral code (derived from one’s life experiences and upbringing)
Aspirations, values, and beliefs generally agreed upon by educational practitioners
State’s code of conduct and other regulations, statutes, policies, and case law
Or all of the above?
At this juncture during my workshops on ethics, I usually quote Dr. Oliver Dreon, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Digital Learning Studio at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and one of the authors of the Educator Ethics and Conduct Tool Kit of the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission:
“From a decision-making standpoint, I tend to look at it from the perspective of Ethical Equilibrium (work by Troy Hutchings). Teachers weigh the moral (personal) dimensions with regulatory ones (the law) with the ethics of the profession… While focusing on consequences is important, I worry that teachers may interpret this to mean that as long as they don’t break the law, they can still be unprofessional and immoral.”
– Dr. Oliver Dreon
From college students participating in their first field observations to rookie teachers (and even veterans in the field), I recommend searching the term “ethics” on the website of your State Board of Education. In Pennsylvania, checkout the following:
Now enters probably the single most valuable document of our time, an all-encompassing philosophy for embracing the highest standards of what it means to be an ethical educator: the Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE), developed under the leadership of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). With the collaboration of numerous development partners including the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, and American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education – to name a few – MCEE is comprised of five core principles (like spokes in a wheel – all with equal emphasis), 18 sections, and 86 standards.
“The purpose of the Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE) is to serve as a shared ethical guide for future and current educators faced with the complexities of P-12 education. The code establishes principles for ethical best practice, mindfulness, self-reflection and decision-making, setting the groundwork for self-regulation and self-accountability. The establishment of this professional code of ethics by educators for educators honors the public trust and upholds the dignity of the profession.”
Although pre- and in-service training on both are essential, the differences between a “code of conduct” and a “code of ethics” are vast. Codes of conduct like the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Pennsylvania teachers are specific mandates and prohibitions that govern educator actions. A code of ethics is a set of principles that guide professional decision making, not necessarily issues of “right or wrong” (more shades of grey) nor defined in exact terms of law or policies. Codes of ethics are more open-ended, a selection of possible choices, usually depended on the context or circumstances of the situation.
“The interpretability of The Model Code of Ethics for Educators allows for robust professional discussions and targeted applications that are unique to every schooling community.”
The music teacher and administrator colleagues with whom I have been privileged to work for more than 40 years are highly dedicated and competent visionaries who focus on “making a difference” in the lives of their students, modeling “moral professionalism” and the highest ethical standards for their classes, schools, and communities, in support of maintaining the overall integrity of the profession.
However, let’s unpack some of “the wisdom” of MCEE as it addresses the rare “nay-sayers” and entrenched teacher attitudes, failing to understand “the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do…” (Potter Stewart) or “doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal” (Aldo Leopold).
Here are sample negative responses, MCEE “exemplars,” and proposed assimilations for thoughtful and interactive peer discussion. Bring these to your next staff meeting or workshop, and apply them to a few mock scenarios (like these from my past blog ).
Principle I: Responsibility to the Profession
The professional educator is aware that trust in the profession depends upon a level of professional conduct and responsibility that may be higher than required by law. This entails holding one and other educators to the same ethical standards.
“I didn’t know it was wrong…”
Section I, A, 1: Acknowledging that lack of awareness, knowledge, or understanding of the Code is not, in itself, a defense to a charge of unethical conduct;
My comment: The old adage, “ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
“What’s the problem? I didn’t break the law!
MCEE Section I, A, 5: Refraining from professional or personal activity that may lead to reducing one’s effectiveness within the school community;
My comment: Any on or off-duty conduct or inappropriate language that undermines a teacher’s efficacy in the classroom, damages his/her position as a “moral exemplar” in the community, or demeans the employing school entity may result in loss of job, suspension or revocation of license, and/or other disciplinary sanctions.
“I’m not a rat fink…”
MCEE Section I, B, 2: Maintaining fidelity to the Code by taking proactive steps when having reason to believe that another educator may be approaching or involved in an unethical compromising situation;
My comment: As a professional with “fiduciary” responsibilities, we must look out for the welfare of our students, proactively protecting them from harm by embracing all provisions of “mandatory reporting.”
“What’s in it for me?”
MCEE Section I, C, 3: Enhancing one’s professional effectiveness by staying current with ethical principles and decisions from relevant sources including professional organizations;
MCEE Section I, C, 4: Actively participating in educational and professional organizations and associations;
Principle II: Responsibility for Professional Competence
The professional educator is committed to the highest levels of professional and ethical practice, including demonstration of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for professional competence.
“What’s the big deal about standards?”
Section II, A, 1: Incorporating into one’s practice state and national standards, including those specific to one’s discipline;
“Not another ‘flavor-of-the-month’ in-service program!”
Section II, A, 5: Reflecting upon and assessing one’s professional skills, content knowledge, and competency on an ongoing basis;
Section II, A, 6: Committing to ongoing professional development
My comment: Always “raising the bar,” being a member of a “profession” (like medical personnel, counselors, attorneys, etc.) requires the loftiest benchmarks of self-regulation and assessment, ongoing training, retooling, and self-improvement plans, revision and enforcement of “best practices,” and application of 21st Century learning skills.
“I needed to give him credit?”
MCEE Section II, B, 1: Appropriately recognizing others’ work by citing data or materials from published, unpublished, or electronic sources when disseminating information;
My comment: Especially during this period of online/virtual/remote education brought on by COVID-19, we must reference the owners of intellectual property (including sheet music) that we use and abide by all copyright regulations. In general, it is always “best practice” to cite research or authorship “giving credit where credit is due!”
“I’m just a music teacher! Don’t ask me to do anything else!”
MCEE Section II, C, 2: Working to engage the school community to close achievement, opportunity, and attainment gaps;
My comment: We teach “the whole child,” not a specialty or specific content area! I believe our ultimate mission is to facilitate our students’ capacity and desire to learn, inspire self-direction and self-confidence, and foster future success in life.
Principle III: Responsibility to Students
The professional educator has a primary obligation to treat students with dignity and respect. The professional educator promotes the health, safety, and well being of students by establishing and maintaining appropriate verbal, physical, emotional, and social boundaries.
“It’s just a gift…”
MCEE Section III, A, 5: Considering the implication of accepting gifts from or giving gifts to students;
My comment: It is not appropriate to give a gift to a student lacking an educational purpose. In some cases, this may be defined as a “sexual misconduct.” It begs the larger question: “Do you ensure that all of your interactions with students serve an educational purpose and occur in a setting consistent with that purpose?” Also from the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission: “Teachers should refrain from accepting gifts or favors that might impair or appear to impair professional judgment.”
“You should never touch a student!”
MCEE Section III, A, 6: Engaging in physical contact with students only when there is a clearly defined purpose that benefits the student and continually keeps the safety and well-being of the student in mind;
My comment: We were told this warning in methods classes. However, as I mentioned in a previous blog here, this “rule” has little support in research or common “best practices.” It has been my experience that on occasion, most elementary instrumental teachers assist their students in acquiring the correct playing posture and hand positions by using some (limited) physical contact. Consoling an upset student with a pat on the shoulder is not out-of-line either. The factors that may contribute to the moment being judged “okay” vs. “inappropriate” boil down to:
Length of time
Frequency or patterns of repetition
Comfort level of the student
Age level of the student
Happening in public
Who started it?
“My students are my friends!”
MCEE Section III, A, 7: Avoiding multiple relationships with students which might impair objectivity and increase the risk of harm to student learning or well-being or decrease educator effectiveness;
My comment: You cannot be their “friend.” You are their teacher, an authority figure that is looking out for them and doing what is necessary (“fiduciary” responsibilities) for their health and welfare… perhaps at times things they do not want you to do. Crossing the teacher/student boundary with familiarity, informality, and being their “confidant” or “friend” are more than just unprofessional acts – they can foster a dual relationship where roles are less defined, an ambiguity that may lead to additional inappropriate actions and educator misconduct.
“He’s weird…” or “He’s not one of us!”
MCEE Section III, B, 2: Respecting the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual student including, but not limited to, actual and perceived gender, gender expression, gender identity, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and culture;
My comment: Check your prejudices and personal biases at the door. Being a teacher is all about sensitivity and caring of all individuals – students, parents, staff, etc. Embracing today’s focus on reprogramming community attitudes on “diversity,” an educator daily models the values of empathy, compassion, acceptance, and appreciation, not just settling with the “lower bar” of tolerance, allowance, and compliance!
“Wait ’til you hear what happened in class today!”
MCEE Section III, C, 1: Respecting the privacy of students and the need to hold in confidence certain forms of student communications, documents, or information obtained in the course of practice;
My comments: Gossiping about and “carrying tales” home or in the teachers’ room are serious breaches of the care and trust as well as your fiduciary responsibilities assigned to you on behalf of your students. As for “regulations,” your indiscretion may be a violation of your students’ confidentiality rights (“a federal crime” according to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Grassley Amendment, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). You are only permitted to share information about a student with another teacher, counselor, or administrator who is on a “needs-to-know” basis or is actively engaged in helping this student.
Principle IV: Responsibility to the School Community
The professional educator promotes positive relationships and effective interactions with members of the school community while maintaining professional boundaries.
“Don’t tell my parents!”
MCEE Section IV, A, 1: Communicating with parents/guardians in a timely and respectful manner that represents the students’ best interests;
My comment: I wish I had a nickel every time a student plead with me, “Don’t call my mom!” It is part of “moral professionalism,” your “code,” and good ethical standards to originate meaningful two-way dialogue, and if necessary, confront the parents of underachieving children. I also believe it goes on long way to nurture your relationships in the community if you notify parents when their kid has done something remarkable… “I caught him being good” or “The improvement has been extraordinary!”
“Did you hear what a staff member said about you… in front of the kids?”
MCEE Section IV, B, 1: Respecting colleagues as fellow professionals and maintaining civility when differences arise;
MCEE Section IV, B, 2: Resolving conflicts, whenever possible, privately and respectfully, and in accordance with district policy;
My comment: Before you bring up the matter with your supervisor or building administrator (which you have the right and even responsibility to do, especially if the students hear any improper speech first-hand or that the incidents rise to the level of bullying or aggressive behavior), first confirm the story. Talk to the unhappy team member one-on-one. Be calm and sensitive, but hold your ground: you must assert that his/her behavior/language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the future.
“Not another TEAM meeting?”
MCEE Section IV, B, 4: Collaborating with colleagues in a manner that supports academic achievement and related goals that promote the best interests of students;
My comment: We work together to insure that all educational goals are met. Open and interactive peer partnerships are helpful in the review, design, and application of new lessons, methods, media, and music.
“I was just teasing her…”
MCEE Section IV, B, 8: Working to ensure a workplace environment that is free from harassment.
My comment: Be extremely careful in the practice of any behavior or language of a kidding, sarcastic, cynical, or joking manner. It can be misinterpreted regardless of your intentions… and it can hurt someone’s feelings. And it is never appropriate or “professional” to “put down” another person.
“Don’t ask for permission… beg for forgiveness.”
MCEE Section IV, C, 3: Maintaining the highest professional standards of accuracy, honesty, and appropriate disclosure of information when representing the school or district within the community and in public communications;
My comment: Yes, I have heard this “view” a lot, advocates of whom will tell you to go ahead and stick your neck out to do something “for the good of the order,” and if needed later, “beg for forgiveness” if you decision is met with disapproval from administration. My advice? Less experienced teachers, run everything through your fellow colleagues (informally) and principal (formally). Don’t fall back on the lame “oops” and “beg for forgiveness.” I may have felt differently when I had three times as many years of experience under my belt than the supervisors who were assigned to “manage” me… but, even then, “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/welfare of the students. Besides, why not take advantage of the legal and political backup of your bosses if they are kept “in the loop?”
“He’s our preferred dealer and always takes care of us.”
MCEE Section IV, D, 4: Considering the implications of offering or accepting gifts and/or preferential treatment by vendors or an individual in a position of professional influence or power;
My comment: Formerly called “sweetheart deals” with music companies, you are on “shaky” ethical ground (and may also have “crossed the line” violating state laws/statutes) if you negotiate the rights of exclusive access to your school’s or booster’s purchasing. If you have any questions about your school’s policy on outside vendors, seek advice from your district’s business manager.
Principle V: Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology
The professional educator considers the impact of consuming, creating, distributing, and communicating information through all technologies. The ethical educator is vigilant to ensure appropriate boundaries of time, place, and role are maintained when using electronic communication.
“Isn’t use of social media forbidden?”
MCEE Section V, A, 1: Using social media responsibly, transparently, and primarily for purposes of teaching and learning per school and district policy. The professional educator considers the ramifications pf using social media and direct communications via technology on one’s interactions with students, colleagues, and the general public.
My comment: Professional educators’ use of a dedicated website or other social network application enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc. and “learn” together. However, using social media for sharing social interactions and personal relationships with your students, parents, and staff is unethical and dangerous. As they say, “a post (or snap) is forever.” Communicating digitally or electronically with students may lead to the blurring of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and create additional challenges to maintaining and protecting confidentiality.
The Final Word
In Pennsylvania (as well as the rest of the country), the statistics on school staff misconduct reports are rising alarmingly. Your own state’s “code of conduct” and the MCEE should help to clarify misunderstandings, but it has been my experience that the majority of educators do not receive regular collegiate, induction, or in-service training on educator ethics or moral professionalism. Luckily, we are fortunate to have access to many mock scenarios (see below) from state departments of education to review/discuss among ourselves common ethical conflicts and “conundrums” dealing with pedagogy, enforcement, resource allocation, relationships, and diversity. We all need to “refresh” our understanding of these issues from time to time and revisit “our codes” frequently to help “demagnetize” (and re-adjust) our decision-making compass.
Please peruse the ethics category of this blog-site for other articles and sample references below.
This is an expanded version of an excerpt from my August 30, 2017 blog-post multi-part series entitled “Ethics for Music Educators II,” crossing over to multiple categories and perspectives for veteran music teachers, new or pre-service educators, and retirees, and touching on the timely issues of ethics, student/teacher safety, professional development, and personal branding.
The Paradox: Online Technology Pitfalls vs. Innovations in Education
This may be hard to believe, but when I started teaching in 1978, “social media” did not exist. If you can imagine this, there was no Internet yet, and most of us did not have computers. Flip or smart phones and tablets were only the subject of science fiction or Star Trek episodes. Guidelines for use or to avoid abuse of social media were not even a “seed” in our imaginations.
When MySpace and Facebook came upon the scene in 2003 and 2004, most school administrators recommended “stay away from these.” The online sharing and archiving of photos initiated the adoption of many other social media apps (Flickr and later Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc), which provoked new challenges in maintaining privacy, appropriateness, and professionalism. Danger, danger, danger!
However, very soon after, school leaders starting rolling out revolutionary “technology” such as “teacher pages” and school webpages, online bulletin board services, interactive forums, virtual learning environments like Blackboard and Blended Schools, and other educational tools which encouraged two-way communications among students in the class and the teacher. All of this is here to stay… so how should we use technology safely?
Cons – Negatives – Warnings
Paraphrasing current and past postings from the Pennsylvania Department of Education Professional Standards and Practices Commission Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit,social media and other digital communications may perpetuate the following problems:
Communicating digitally or electronically with students may lead to the blurring of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and create additional challenges to maintaining and protecting confidentiality.
Texts, emails, and social media postings are not private, and may be seen by others, forwarded, and/or copied or printed.
Out of context, they may be misinterpreted, appear to be inappropriate, and/or lead to a violation of “The Code.”
It is the responsibility of the teacher to control his or her “public brand,” how he or she wants to be perceived by students, parents, colleagues, and the public. One’s public brand can and does impact perceptions, which in turn can impinge upon effectiveness.
“Let’s debunk the free speech myth: Many teachers believe they have the absolute First Amendment right to post anything they want on social networking sites, including party pix and diatribes about the boss. After all, they’re on their own time and using their own resources. Sadly, the courts say otherwise.”
– National Education Association
There are a lot of pretty scary scenarios out there modeling “real” ethical dilemmas for teachers in the use of emerging technology and social media. If you can, take the time to preview a few of these case studies and videos:
Many have said that Facebook and educators, in particular, should never mix. Although not entirely accurate or perhaps fair to the social media “giant” (you can carefully set-up private, content-specific Facebook groups with restricted access and limited privileges), this seems to be supported by one news story about a Math teacher who loss her job because she failed to notice changes in her Facebook privacy settings, and the other, a clever Facebook vs. teacher presentation by R. Osterman. In my opinion, both of these should be “required viewing” by all college music education majors and current educators in all subject areas.
Pros – Positives – Recommendations
By no means are we implying that all forms of technology are “bad” or “dangerous” for music teachers. For example, some of us have explored the valuable web-based music education platforms of SmartMusic (MakeMusic, Inc.) and MusicFirst, and I can give you a handful of fantastic (free) links to online resources for the teaching of music theory, ear-training, and even sight-singing:
One of my favorite music educator blog-sites is Mrs. Miracle’s Music Room. Her March 2017 post, “Social Media for Music Teachers,” provides excellent insights into the safe and philosophically-sound use of Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. I cannot recall how many times I visited YouTube’s exhaustive library of recordings, sharing with my students both good and bad examples of the orchestral literature we were studying.
“Some people mistakenly assume that social media doesn’t apply to them. Take music teachers. Their work is done in person, one student at a time, right? Not at all. If you’re a music teacher and you don’t already have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a Tumblr blog set up for your music studio, you’re not taking advantage of all of the ways that social media can help your students. As the TakeLessons team notes: the Internet has enabled students to learn music from anywhere, often from teachers who are Skyping halfway across the country.” – Amanda Green
Here are several supplemental resources provided in NAfME Music in a Minuet:
Guiding questions about the above links from the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission:
“After examining these resource guides for emerging technology, did any of the guidelines surprise you?”
“Do you envision any problem for you personally in adhering to these guidelines?”
During my sessions on ethics in music education, I quote these ten rules from the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence:
Know your school district or state’s policies on social media.
Never “friend” or “follow” students on your personal accounts.
Keep your profile photos clean
Do not affiliate yourself with your school on a personal profile.
Do not geo-tag your posts with your school’s location.
“Snaps” are forever! Anyone can take a screen shot of your posts.
Never mention your school or the names of staff or students in any post.
Set your Instagram account to private.
Never complain about your job online.
Never post photos of your students on social media
The final word, the most eloquent and comprehensive guide for all of us to use in our daily decision-making in the profession is the Model Code of Ethics for Educators, created by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).
“The Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE) serves as a guide for future and current educators faced with the complexities of P-12 education. The code establishes principles for ethical best practice, mindfulness, self-reflection, and decision-making, setting the groundwork for self-regulation and self-accountability. The establishment of this professional code of ethics by educators for educators honors the public trust and upholds the dignity of the profession.” – NASDTEC
Here is the specific section applicable to social media and other technology. I cannot imagine that, after all of this, there is anything else left to say!
Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “Internet” by TheDigitalArtist, “notes” by Alehandra, “social-media” by mohamed_hassan, “network” by geralt, “Facebook” by Simon, “Internet” (2) by TheDigitalArtist, “portrait” by Karla_Campos, “woman” by shy_kurji, “smartphone” by TeroVesalainen, and “connection” by TheDigitalArtist.
I hate the Pennsylvania Turnpike… but I’ll get over it!
Over the 43+ years that I’ve been involved in music education conferences starting in college and attending our annual events in Lancaster, Hershey, Valley Forge, and everywhere else, I have used this “blessed” road.
Oh, it’s much better now. There are more stretches of 70 mph speed limits, and even the rest stops and restaurants are improved than they were 10 and 20 years ago. However, the twisting-twining roads, usual “bad weather” (why does it always rain or snow during the state conference?), need to jockey for position with all those large tractor-trailer trucks, etc. always challenge my nerves and patience.
Hey, it’s what we do. And I’ll never give it up.
The annual trek for acquisition of professional development remain such a critical element for self-improvement, program assessment, and personal enrichment. The annual spring and summer conferences of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association offer an incredible depth of new materials, methods, and perspective, not to mention the all-so-essential networking, “catch-up with colleagues,” and collaboration of ideas.
As they say in the movie Shawshank Redemption (1994), “get busy living or get busy dying.” In this business, we have to look forward, seek innovation and reinvention, “build a better mouse trap,“ and absorb advice from “the latest and greatest” clinicians and “people on the move.” That’s how you GROW!
For more than four decades, I have never attended a day of professional development or a conference that I didn’t learn a myriad of new things, feel refreshed and recharged, and return to “make a difference” in my classroom, my school, and my program.
Soon I will be attending my 51st PMEA conference (counting springs and summers). I always feel a little nostalgic this time a year when I recollect all of those PMEA District, Region State, and All-State festivals, the latter held in conjunction with the music educators conference. I’m also remembering all the times I took my students to these events, capturing memories of specific individuals, singing in their choral parts in the car, swapping old stories about previous orchestras, choirs, and conductors, and providing a few last-minute tips on how to take auditions.
Now that I’m retired, my time is more devoted in making presentations and sharing a portion of what is now a vast vault of hard-won knowledge, skills, and experiences in order to help my colleagues with their unique situations and problems. They say that “work” provides us with the three essential elements of purpose, structure, and community. Even in retirement, participating in PMEA provides me all these things and the chance to continue to interact with like-minded and committed music educators, literally for the good of the profession.
In my capacity as PMEA state retired member coordinator, I sponsor a breakfast meeting prior to the Friday morning sessions at the annual spring conference, and I have the privilege of keeping “in tune” with fellow retirees, active practitioners, and even members of our PCMEA pre-service music teachers. This has stimulated my mind, kept me current, made me a better listener, and fostered a lot of moments of satisfaction knowing that I can still help dedicated professionals in the career that I devoted most of my life.
Finally, for those of you who have retired from day-to -day teaching of music classes, going to PMEA spring and summer conferences also offers you the opportunity to explore our fine state, visit historical sites, taste the cuisine, soak up the landscapes, and see the unique attractions in each city. Lancaster is a great place to take excursions. Did anyone suggest “road trip” for the grandchildren? Here are a few of the local (family-friendly) attractions you could “squeeze around” the official PMEA-scheduled events:
When you plan to come to Pittsburgh during the first week of April 2019, I want you to take an extra day if you can and enjoy our cultural attractions, sports events in one of the three stadiums, landmarks like the Blockhouse, Fort Duquesne, Point State Park, and the three rivers themselves, and go to places like the Carnegie Science Center, Andy Warhol Museum, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, etc.
So much to do and so little time…
You are cordially invited to…
…a PMEA session for soon-to-retire and retired music teachers
Are you retired, retiring this year or next, or thinking about “Crossing the Rubicon” to post-employment bliss over the next three or more years?
According to Ken Dychtwald, psychologist, gerontologist, and CEO of Age Wave, research on aging, health, and work issues defines five stages of retirement:
Stage 1: Imagination (5 to 15 years before retirement)
Stage 2: Anticipation (1 to 5 years before retirement)
Stage 3: Liberation (first year of retirement)
Stage 4: Re-engagement (1 to 15 years after retirement)
Stage 5: Reconciliation (ages late 70s and early 80s)
As reported by USA TODAY at https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/10/12/five-stages-of-retirement/16975707/, these first three stages provide opportunities to rethink, recharge, reinvent, and even retool new ways to redefine one’s life-purpose and meaning, become productive, and begin that new chapter in their lives. The studies emphasize the need for the famous Boy Scouts’ motto – “be prepared” – and you should start reflecting on “what you are going to be when you grow up” at least three years prior to “the big day!”
Many people want to continue to work. In fact, 72% of pre-retirees, age 50 and older, say they want to keep working after they retire, according to a recent survey sponsored by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave. Almost half (47%) of current retirees either are working, have worked, or plan to work in retirement, the survey found.
Many people also want to devote more time to their family and friends. Some want to continue to learn, and others want to enjoy their favorite hobbies and develop new ones…
— Ken Dychtwald
The bottom line is, as suggested in “Retire Happy – What You Can Do Now to Guarantee a Great Retirement” in the USA TODAY/Nolo Series by Ralph Warner and Richard Stim, prior to leaving the work force, you should make a concerted effort to anticipate “life after work,” including:
Cultivate interests outside work
Lead a healthier lifestyle
Revitalize family relationships
Spend more time with spouse
Embrace spirituality or meditation
Nurture friendships and make new friends.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
So, are YOU ready to retire from full-time music teaching? Are you sure?
For me, I cry out HURRAY for the FREEDOM, and enthusiastically take on exploring raising puppies, home improvements, more personal music making, conducting, writing, photography, community service, and volunteer work. And, as you can imagine, my calendar is as full as it has ever been!
However, not all of our newly retired colleagues feel the same way… at least, not at first. It should be said that not everyone may be ready to retire. Often heard employment complaints aside, “be careful for what you wish!” In general, few are ambivalent about this transition… leaving the day-to-day highly pressured, detailed, “rat-race” most music teachers embrace to jumping into the wide-open horizons of new vision, focus, and directions. Recent retirees either love or hate this “passage.”
Have you seen this quote by Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne from his book Retiring Mind (Fairview Imprints, 2010), which provides statistics that are actually a little alarming?
50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.
The transition from a structured to an unstructured lifestyle can be unnerving if you are not prepared. When our clients retire, they often feel as if they are on vacation for the first month or so. After that, the realization that they are not returning to work starts to sink in. This is when anxiety can creep in. However, the process of adjusting can be far less stressful if you establish a plan well in advance.
— Maureen E. Hansen
She emphasizes that both financial and non-financial aspects of retirement need to be addressed. “Long before your going-away party at the office, you need to decide what you want for your retirement—leisure time, volunteer work, establishing a legacy?” Here are her several key issues to consider:
Purchase a book or two by the “masters” of retirement transitioning (check out these authors and others from the sources above: David Borchard, Julie Cameron, Robert Delmontagne, Dave Hughes, Steven Price, Kenneth Shultz, Hyrum Smith, Verne Wilson, and Ernie Zelinski).
Family Meeting: If you are married, sit down with your spouse (with no distractions) and map out the essential “who, what, when, where, and how” of retirement. Are you both ready to venture into your “golden years?” Are you and your wife/husband on the same page?
PSERS (PA pension fund) Planning: 12 months or more away from your projected retirement date, attend a “Foundations for Your Future” program (even attend it more than once), and request a retirement estimate (form PSRS-151), after which you will need to schedule the all-important “Exit Counseling Session.”
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, PSERS reports, social security, annuities, and insurance documents. You may need help in determining which PSERS “plan” to adopt. While you’re at it, update your will and other legal documents.
To stay “connected” with your professional associations (e.g. Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and National Association for Music Education), be sure to update your personal profile at “headquarters” with your personal (not school) email address. Continue to participate in music and education, and reap the benefits of significantly discounted retired membership dues and conference registration fees. See the blog-post “PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/pmea-in-retirement-whats-in-it-for-me/.
Finally, if you have not done so, I encourage you to revisit my last retirement blog-post (https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/new-dreams-and-horizons/). Review those six essential things to do when you are a couple years “out” from making that “great leap to freedom,” solid advice from TIPS – Retirement for Music Educators book by Verne A. Wilson (MENC 1989), and to learn more about “nipping in the bud” those pesky retirement conundrums:
Self-Identity and Change
Energy and Fortitude
Losing Control and Perpetual Care
Yes, planning ahead makes all the difference. On this topic, our last inspiration also comes from TIPS – Retirement for Music Educators.
If you were planning to spend the rest of your life in another country, you would want to learn as much about it as possible. You would read books about the climate, people, history, and architecture. You would talk to people who had lived there. You might even learn a bit of its language. Old age is like another country. You’ll enjoy it more if you have prepared yourself before you go.
Photo credits from FreeImages.com (in order): “Happy Days” by Crissy Pauley, “Senior with Red Wine” by Walter Groesel, “Hour-Glass” by Aleksandra P., “Old Couple” by Ricardo Santengini, and “Senior Portraits 2” by Loretta Humble, “Senior Portraits 1” by Loretta Humble, “Dad 1” by Tommi Gronlund, and “Senior Portraits 4” by Loretta Humble.
Three of the most important recommendations for PCMEA members and other new or prospective music teachers wanting to develop a “personal brand” and presence on the job market are:
Being an active member of your national (NAfME), state (PMEA), and local (college chapter) professional music teacher associations,
Attending every possible music education meeting, workshop and conference, and
Reading everything you can get your hands on from the first two resources above, modeling well-practiced habits of professionalism and networking skills, and getting yourself focused, organized, and prepared for the upcoming interviews.
That’s how you will get land your first employment as a full-time music educator.
If you live or go to school in PA, you should have attended the PMEA Spring Conference in Erie, PA last week. Just to “rub it in” a little, here are a few of the excellent sessions you missed that were especially geared for collegiate pre-service music teachers:
Getting the Most Out of Your Student Teaching Experience
Cracking the Graduate School Code: When, Where, Why, How, & How Much
Starting with the End in Mind – or – You’ve Got 4 Years, Use Them Wisely
Music Education & Gaming: Interdisciplinary Connections for the Classroom
Ready for Hire! Interview Strategies to Land a Job
Planning Strategies to Develop a Responsive Teaching Mindset
More importantly, if you are in your 4th year and were a no-show to your state conference this year, you missed out the chance to do a little networking, to “put your ear to the ground” listening for market trends and possible position openings for next year. You could have rubbed elbows at a bar (drinking a diet coke) or clinic or concert with a music supervisor, department chair, administrator, or high school band/choir director who knows who is taking a sabbatical or retiring from his/her school upon completion of the current semester.
Successful professionals stay up-to-date with their journals
As a “professional,” you have an open, inquisitive mind, constantly strive for self-improvement, continuing education, and retooling, embrace change and better ways of doing something, and “practice” your craft. This means you read your educational publications from cover to cover. For example, these were a few of the tips in a recent PMEA News article, “I’ve Got an Interview, Now What?” shared by Dr. Kathleen Melago, PCMEA State Advisor and Associate Professor of Music Education at Slippery Rock University, and Doug Bolasky, retired band and orchestra teacher and former Department Chair of the Southern Lehigh School District:
“The interview process at each school district is likely as unique as the district itself, and while there is no foolproof way to know in advance what questions will be asked of you, it helps to give some thought to what questions may come your way.”
“It’s easy to tell someone what you would like to do; more valuable to the interviewers is what you DID do. Be ready to cite instances from your student teaching and even field experiences.”
“Think about items you could place into your portfolio that would help you answer the questions. For example, if you are answering a question about an idea you implemented that was creative, consider including an artifact in your portfolio that provides credibility to your answer. Avoid simply passing around your portfolio during the interview. Instead, use it as a visual aid…”
“Enlist the aid of a friend and use a webcam to record yourself answering the questions as in a mock interview. Look for distracting mannerisms like playing with your hair, saying ‘um’ or ‘like,’ and so forth.
Are you ready? Assess yourself! Then, DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW!
For those who are nearing completion of their coursework for a teaching certificate, the season of professional school interviews is coming… At this point, you should be familiar with assessment rubrics and other evaluative tools used in education. Right NOW how well do you stack up in prepping for employment screenings? Complete this checklist as honestly as possible. I am citing and “reviewing” past articles I have written at this blog-site… a perfect opportunity for you to “fill in the missing gaps” and get started on this process of finding the perfect job!
[ ] I have developed a comprehensive unified philosophy of music education that spotlights my abilities from the perspective of a generalist not a specialist. I can model competency and experience in general music, piano playing, vocal and instrumental (band, strings, and guitar) music, Classical, jazz, pop, and folk music styles, improvisation, composition and music theory, and technology teaching grades Pre-K to 12. DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/.
[ ] I am comfortable with today’s jargon, current trends, and key “buzz words” in general education. This includes everything from “The Common Core” to “The Four C’s” of 21st Century learning, and all of those constantly changing acronyms like HOTS, DOK, RTI, and UBD. These terms may come up at interviews, so I have at least a precursory understanding about them, and if I am “stumped” with a particular question, I will admit needing clarification (and I will look it up when I get home). DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/the-alphabet-soup-of-educational-acronyms/.
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days…
Glory days, well they’ll pass you by —Bruce Springsteen
Okay, admittedly, this blog may be a little on the “dark side” – so before and after you read this, be sure to go out and take a long walk, hug your spouse or your grandchild or a dog, find something fun to do, indulge in some ice cream – anything to recharge, bolster your mood, and “come back to life!”
Reconciling with and Redefining Retirement
According to Merriam Webster, the full definition of “reconcile” is the following:
“…to restore to friendship or harmony, settle, resolve, make consistent or congruous, cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant…”
Also referring to online dictionaries like Webster, the terms retiring and retirement mean “seclusion from the world, privacy, withdrawal, the act of going away, retreating, or disappearing.”
Nope. I cannot accept these archaic definitions! My translation for what it means to face this life-style shift of changing perspectives and expectations, “Crossing the Rubicon” into retirement, is finding alternative but purposeful pursuits, fulfilling “bucket lists,” and reshaping fresh new goals leading to creative ways to self-reinvent and thrive.
The Stages and Emotions of Retirement
In the July 25, 2016 PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS, I reflected on a few of the ups-and-downs of post-employment transitioning and the emotional journey of re-adjustment, “reinventing” yourself, or as Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz advise in their book (by the same name), “Refire! Don’t Retire!”
In which “stage of retirement” do you find yourself? Are you resting and taking an extended vacation, or currently mapping out your post-employment “plans,” or already diving into your “golden years” with a full schedule of activities, or seeking new goals and your “life’s purpose,” or retreating from everything just to “get your head together?” —Paul Fox
I think every retired person should read these, figure out on which step they are, diagnose their feelings, and “move on” toward the final stage of reconciliation.
“Thanks to the ever-increasing longevity, many of us will have decades to learn, teach, play, work and re-invent ourselves again and again after our core career has ended. Perhaps it’s time to retire retirement.” —Ken Dychtwald
However, I hear from many retirees that, at some point, they experience a period of depression or sadness after they retire, even a profound sense of loss or grief. There are hosts of articles about this phenomenon:
It boils down to coping with a few of these emotional “bumps” along the way:
Loss of professional identity
Loss of goals, daily routine, and purposeful activity
Loss of social network and interaction with co-workers
In my article, “Surviving Retirement: Avoiding Turmoil, Traumas, Tantrums, and Other Transitional Problems” in the Winter 2015 issue of PMEA News, I mentioned how quickly we retired teachers seemingly become forgotten and obscure.
Someone wise once told me not to be alarmed when even your own music students forget you after two or three years. Not having you in class, nor hearing your name on the public address, nor seeing you in the halls, nor watching you direct an assembly, ensemble or musical, it is perfectly natural that your identity will likely fade away as the “graduates” leave and the new enrollees enter the building.
However, since I was still working with the marching band (and had been involved in so many other extra-curricular activities), I figured I might have a year or two before disappearing into obscurity. Surprise! One month from stepping down, I was walking my dogs at the high school and came upon a junior girl and her mother in a “driving training session.” I shouted out “hello” (my Yorkie-poo didn’t even bark), and the girl immediately rolled up her windows and moved away… “Stranger danger?” A few minutes later, when the opportunity presented itself (mom and driver switched seats), I introduced myself and received a blank look when I reassured them, “I just retired from this school. Surely you remember Mr. Fox?” Nope. Don’t expect it. Anyway, there are advantages to losing the spotlight and becoming totally anonymous. —Paul Fox
This is normal. “Type-A” personalities and “peak performers” must make a concerted effort to limit linking the majority of their self-worth and identity to their employment! Echoed by author Sydney Lagier in “Seven Secrets to a Happy Retirement” at US News and World Report(http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2010/07/20/7-secrets-to-a-happy-retirement), we should not be addicted to achievement. “The more you are defined by your job, the harder it will be to adjust to life without.”
Where once they hung in glorious array Golden tinged, copper swirled Russet swatches Now trodden and dampened; What a sad display!
Where once waving and twirling In crisp autumn days Clinging to the ground Plastered on soles of shoes Forever appear to be bound,
Ah, but a few stalwart leaves hang Grasping on for life Another gust, a downpour or two They also shall join those trampled leaves askew,
So bid farewell, oh hearty ones Another season shall again pass You shall have your days in the sun,
Your brilliance shall never slip away For always shall be remembered Your autumn glory days.
—Nancy Ellen Crossland 11/04/2010
In addition, I noticed feeling these “retirement blues” when I attended the viewing of the late PA music educator Andrew Ruzzini. To be honest, at every funeral, the concept of facing our own mortality becomes more and more difficult. But, even worse, very few people attended Andy’s service, most of his students were unaware of his passing, and my heart ached witnessing the dismal response to the death of one of the most influential band directors in the early years of my former school district! We will all be forgotten?
The Legacy of Heroes and Mentors
The movie Mr. Holland’s Opus lays out a beautiful theme for music teacher retirees: that last scene and the speech of his former student, a clarinet player who struggled to get a good sound, now the governor of the state, was so moving.
Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you.There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. —Adult Gertrude Lang, character in the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus
My own idol (ensemble director and violin/viola instructor), the “father of strings in the East Hills of Western Pennsylvania,” Eugene Reichenfeld lived to a ripe old age of 103 years. In spite of a few health issues, he was still teaching privately up to two weeks before he passed on. He was a tireless, very physical, extremely active, fully engaged man. One example, he transformed his backyard by moving a truckload of large rocks around his garden when he was 80 years old. I attended his 100th birthday party where he played an hour-plus recital with three generations of the Reichenfelds. He always told prospective teachers, “Surround yourself with young people and you’ll never grow old.” The comment I wrote in memory of Eugene Reichenfeld in the online guest book (legacy.com) came from the heart: “With our mentor’s passing, orchestra music and education in our area will never be the same. However, thankfully, Maestro Reichenfeld’s legacy is that he ‘passed on the baton’ and inspired so many future teachers to follow in his footsteps… sharing his love of and skill in strings for eternity! The music lives on!”
And, thank you, Corita Kent, for summing up the prescription to a happy, healthy, rewarding, and meaningful life… before, during, and after employment!
If you look too far ahead, living only for dreams, or too far back, living only to repeat the past, you will miss the fullness of the present. This is a lesson for both your professional life and your personal life. It is important to have balance in one’s life, so find the time to do the things that you enjoy — athletic or physical activities, the beautiful outdoors, visiting with friends, reading books, volunteering in your community. May you find the satisfaction of living a well-balanced and healthy life. —Corita Kent