Tips on Student Teaching

Digest of Resources for Pre-Service Music Teachers

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Student Teaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Getting Your Feet Wet… Becoming an “Educator”

[Source: Chadwick and Vest]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PKF

 

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Bibliography

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

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

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

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

Intelligent Music Teaching, Robert Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Resolutions for Retirees

[Portions reprinted from the PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS, January 3, 2019]

 

Twas the morning after Christmas, and all through the house.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to make a New Year’s Resolution?

 

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Many do believe that ushering in the New Year is all about pursuing new directions, a sort of “rebirth,” analyzing and revising our personal goals/visions, and making promises for self-improvements… perhaps a little like the personal renaissance of retirement.

However, it is likely that after all the festive celebrations and squarely facing the first several weeks in January, if you had made New Year’s resolutions, you may have forgotten them or fell short of even starting your 2019 aspirations. My new approach is to examine and expand on what I was planning to do anyway… not to propose lofty ambitions like losing 30 pounds or exercising an hour a day (both not likely to ever happen, no matter my best intentions). What I have learned about setting personal goals (and I taught these concepts during student leadership training sessions) is that you need to “keep them simple,” “write them down,” “make them measurable,” “revisit and revise your plans often” and “publish or announce them” somehow. Tell your spouse, “This is what I am going to accomplish in the New Year.” A great place to post your “promises” for everyone to see is where you get up in the morning… perhaps on or near your bedroom or bathroom mirror.

The last time I wrote an article about New Year’s resolutions for retirees was back in December 2015. You can see it here (also printed in a Retired Member Network eNEWS): https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/random-acts-and-other-resolutions/

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Well, I suppose I better sketch out a “new plan!” Let’s see if any of these “strike a chord” with you… possible your own considerations for 2019? (I admit this is a little self-serving like the Peanuts cartoon character Lucy van Pelt dictating New Year’s resolutions for Charlie Brown. Well, as they say, if the shoe fits…)

  1. Read at least one new book each month.
  2. Take time for regular physical exercise.
  3. “Keep around young people and you will stay forever young!”
  4. Enjoy travel and “see the world,” and go on trips while the kids you used to teach are still in school.
  5. Do something creative every day: make/create music, art, dance, drama, photography, writing, etc.
  6. Complete one new “random act of kindness” every week (but don’t call attention or take any credit for it!).
  7. Continue to be an advocate for music education.* (see last link below)

The American Psychological Association at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution.aspx recommends these tips on “making your New Year’s resolution stick.”

  1. Start small.
  2. Change one behavior at a time.
  3. Talk about it.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Ask for support.

The online Self magazine has even more suggestions: https://www.self.com/story/new-year-resolution-handbook.

Some even say, skip the formal process of adopting a New Year’s resolution altogether: https://www.rd.com/advice/quitting-new-years-resolutions/ or https://www.pocketmindfulness.com/why-you-shouldnt-set-new-years-resolution/ or https://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/new-years-resolutions-dont-work-heres-why.html.

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Here are additional links to “inspire” your own “pursuit of self-reinvention,” that is, if you decide you are willing to truly commit the time and energy for a “growth-spurring” exercise. My apologies for the multiple references to the term “seniors” below. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider myself a senior until I hit a hundred years old!

The final bullet above is from Mike Blakeslee, our NAfME CEO/Executive Director. Even though most of us now have “less contact” with music students, his message is still timely and relevant. Many retired music teachers are still involved in supervising student teachers, conducting youth ensembles, performing in church or community groups, coaching sports, voice or instrumental sections, or teaching private lessons… so be an advocate and active supporter (leading by example) to help achieve diversity and inclusion in the profession… bringing quality music education for all!

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Best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous, meaningful, and musical New Year!

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “start-line” by mohamed_hassa, “hate” by cabrasjoan, “new-years-eve” by Gellinger, “idea” by geralt, and “doors” by qimono.

Summertime Prep for Music Ed Majors

Collegiates: You snooze, you lose!

After a well-deserved break from your academics and other college or work deadlines, music-2674872_1920_kevinbismnow would be the perfect time to explore supplemental resources and get a “head-start” on additional pre-service training for next fall. These tips are especially valuable to anyone entering his/her senior or final year as a music education major, finely honing in and marketing your skills as a professional in order to be prepared for finding and succeeding at your first job.

Actually I hate to admit it, I enjoy assigning college students a little “homework!” But, most of this you can do from the comfort of your patio, beach blanket, swimming pool lounge chair, or couch in the game room. With the exception of “getting your feet wet” and diving into enriching music teaching field experiences and a summer workshop or two, all you need is a pencil to take notes and a device with access to the Internet.

There’s a lot to-do right now, and you only have the rest of July and August. Please try to “keep your eyes on the target” and squeeze in a few of these self-improvement plans around your vacation trips (seven lessons – see sections below) :

  1. Summer practicum
  2. Conferences
  3. Online research
  4. Skill gap-filling
  5. Ethics training
  6. Digital archiving
  7. Interview prep

 

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1. Are you really ever “on vacation” from music education?

Most veteran music educators would respond with “NEVER!” We maintain our professionalism by participating in workshops, reading teacher journals and online articles, perusing lesson materials and new music, practicing and advancing our personal musicianship, undergoing technology “tune-ups,” and focusing on other career development. This is a 12-month, even 7-day process, and academic breaks when they appear on our calendar allow us to “double-down” in areas we need the most help.

“Hands-on” training not only “fills-up your resume” with primary employment/volunteer sources, but more importantly, exposes you to realistic opportunities to expand your skills and knowledge of the “best practices” in music education and leadership training, while building techniques for handling student motivation and discipline best learned from “the school of hard knocks.”music-3090204_1920_brendageisse

These placements don’t always come “knocking at your door.” Go out and seek a little adventure! For leads, talk to your high school band, string, or choir director. Your purpose is to find something that allows you some contact with children… free (usually) or paid, in or outside the field of music and the arts. Here are a few ideas:

  • Coach summer band sectionals, field rehearsals, marching or dance practices, etc.
  • “Put up your shingle” and teach private or small class music lessons.
  • Offer to arrange music or or provide choreography for local school drum-lines, marching bands and/or auxiliary units, or theater groups.
  • Sing in a community or church choir, and offer to help accompany, vocal coach, or conduct.
  • Sign-up to assist in local youth ballet, modern dance, or drama programs.
  • Sing, play, or teach solo or chamber music for summer religion or music camps, childcare facilities, hospitals, or senior citizen centers.
  • Volunteer (in almost any capacity) at a preschool or daycare center.

 

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2. The tools of the trade – CONFERENCES!

Summer is a GREAT time to grow your network of valuable opportunities for future collaboration, do a little goal setting, and “push the envelope” with professional development of the “latest and greatest” and “state of the art” music and methods.  The primary source for professional development is the education conference. There still may be time for you to find one close to you, perhaps in conjunction with a little sightseeing or visits with friends and relatives in the same city, like the following:

Thanks to www.takeflyte.com/reasons-to-attend-conferences, we know that attending workshop sessions are “good for you!” Participating in a conference helps you to…

  • Sharpen the saw (sharpen your skills – Stephen Covey’s seventh habit of highly effective people)
  • Meet experts and influencers face-to-face
  • pmeaMix and mingle to improve your networking opportunities
  • Find new tools and innovations
  • Learn in a New Space
  • Break out of your comfort zone
  • Be exposed to new tips and tactics
  • Relearn classic techniques with greater focus
  • Share experiences with like-minded individuals
  • Discover the value of the serendipity in a random workshop
  • Invest in yourself
  • Have fun!

If you really need any additional rationale for spending the money, click on the blog-post “Getting the Most Out of Music Conferences” at https://majoringinmusic.com/music-conferences/.

Finally, believe-it-or-not, you can bring the conferences to YOU! For the annual $20 subscription fee, you can view NAfME Academy professional development videos on almost any topic you can imagine. Check out the NAfME library of webinars: https://nafme.org/community/elearning/.

 

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3a. A winning website

The aforementioned Majoring in Music website is an excellent place to visit. It is amazingly extensive. You should read these articles for your “final year of prep.”

 

3b. These “awesome” resources are brought to you by NAfME

Besides the broad-based music subject matter and specific teaching skills, here’s some valuable advice, including how to “run a music program” (first link). I hope I am not stating the obvious: You should become a member of this national association for the advancement of music education.

 

Amplify

I also want to point you to the community discussion social media platform called Amplify, a benefit of NAfME membership. We are stockpiling a lot articles for college music education students, as well as sharing dialogue on everything from pedagogical issues to music equipment purchasing recommendations in both the collegiate member group and “music education central.” Go to https://nafme.org/introducing-amplify-largest-community-music-educators-country/.

 

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4. “Filling in the gaps”

Your music education methods courses and other college classes were never expected to provide 100% of the necessary tools to become a competent teacher in every setting. This spotlights the need for professionalism. Once you land a job, you will have to “catch-up” and seek additional training to improve those areas in which you feel inadequate or unfamiliar. You can begin NOW to explore a few of these areas while enjoying your less stressful off-campus schedule:

  • child-621915_1920_skeezeUnderstanding specific educational jargon and the latest approaches, applications, and technologies in the profession (e.g. Backwards Design, The Common Core, Whole Child Initiatives, Multiple Intelligences, Depth of Knowledge and Higher Order of Thinking Skills, Formative, Summative, Diagnostic, and Authentic Assessment, etc. – Do you know the meaning of these terms?)
  • Teaching outside your “major” area or specialty (e.g. instrumental music for voice students, etc.)
  • Comprehending behavior management techniques and suggestive preventive disciplinary procedures
  • Mastering the use of valid assessments (e.g. can you give specific examples of diagnostic, authentic, formative, and summative assessments?) as well as a variety of music rubrics and evaluative criteria
  • Knowing the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other confidentiality statutes, Individual Education Plans and service agreements, and accommodating students with disabilities

flute-2245032_1920_congerdesignYou need to ask yourself the question, “What are my greatest weaknesses in music education?” Or, to put it another way, “What school assignments would I feel the least confident to teach? After earning your state’s all-essential credential, your certificate will likely be general and only say “music Pre-K to Grade 12.” Administrators will expect you can “do it all” – introducing jazz improvisation at the middle school, accompany on the piano or guitar all of the songs in the grades 1-6 music textbook series, directing the marching band at the high school or the musical at the middle school, starting an elementary string program, etc.

Figure out and face your greatest fears or worse skill areas. Work on them now! Take a few lessons, join a new ensemble of the “uncomfortable specialty,” ask help from your peers, etc.

More about this was printed in a previous post: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/transitioning-from-collegiate-to-professional-part-ii/.

 

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5. The ABC’s of professional ethics

So far, have you been given any ethics training in college? Most pre-service educators only receive a cursory introduction to such things as codes of conduct, moral professionalism, guidelines to avoid conflicts in relationships with students, use of social media, confidentiality regulations, copyright infringement, pedagogical and economic decision-making, etc.

Now in my 46th year working in the field of music education (although retired from the public schools in 2013), I unblushingly admit I never had a full-blown course in ethics. Music colleagues have confirmed to me that it was barely (or not at all) touched-on in music methods classes, introduction to student teaching, school district orientation or induction sessions, or back-to-school in-service programs. choir-458173_1920-intmurrSince music teachers are all “fiduciaries” (do you know the meaning of the word?) and legally responsible for our “charges,” wouldn’t it be a good idea to review our state’s regulations and code of conduct, and hear about the challenges and pitfalls of ethical decision-making before we jump in and get “over our heads,” so-to-speak?

I can offer you two ways to immerse yourself into music education ethics. If you are a PCMEA or PMEA member and an “auditory learner,” you might prefer the FREE PMEA online webinar video (two-part) plus handouts at https://www.pmea.net/webinars/. Otherwise, visual learners and others may like this five-part blog series:

 

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6. “A picture says a thousand words” in marketing yourself

Have you been archiving your last several year’s of field assignments? Have you recorded numerous moments of teaching, music directing, performing, and working with students? Are you prepared for the coming year’s student teaching, getting ready to take still photos, audio samples, and video excerpts?

“We cannot emphasize the power of pictures enough when it comes to portfolios. During interviews, committee members are trying to get to know you and trying to envision you teaching. Don’t trust their imaginations to do so, give them pictures… photos or newspaper articles of you teaching students in the classroom, with students on field trips, learning excursions or outside class activities, with children while you are serving in adviser roles, with your students at musical or athletic events, coaching or working with children in a coaching capacity, as a leader and role model.” – http://www.theeduedge.com/top-five-must-haves-top-five-could-haves-your-teacher-interview-portfolio/

As I mentioned in a previous blog, be careful to obtain permission in advance to video record students for your e-portfolio. During your field experiences or student teaching, little-girl-3043324_1920_Atlantiosask your cooperating teacher (or his/her supervisor’s) permission. Some school districts have “do not photo” rosters. (However, in my district, only a few elementary students were “on the list” and most defaulted to a “permissible” status unless the parent opted out. The principal’s secretary had a record of all exceptions.) It is also suggested that you focus your camera mostly on YOU and not the students, from the back of the classroom or rehearsal facility (possibly from afar), so that the student faces are not clearly discernible. To respect their privacy, in the recorded excerpts, do not use any segment announcing the names of your students.

What would be ideal to place on/in your website/e-portfolio? Show a wide spectrum of experience and training: elementary and/or middle school general music, band, choral and string ensembles (all grades), marching band, musicals, dance, music technology, piano and guitar accompanying, Dalcroze eurhythmics, Orff instruments, etc. Competency, versatility, and being well-rounded are the keys here.

 

boy-273279_1920_Silberfuchs

 

7. Teacher interviews – “practice makes perfect”

I have written a lot on the subjects of assembling a collection of your teaching anecdotes and stories, marketing your “personal brand,” and preparing for the employment screening process. (Have you wandered through the comprehensive listing at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/becoming-a-music-educator/?)

However, I recently came upon several new-to-me online articles that summarize the basics. Please take a look at these:

After reading all of these (and compile your own list of interview questions), you should get together informally with your fellow juniors and seniors and hold mock interviews, record them, and jointly assess the “try out” of your interviewing skills to land a job.

Finally, have you recently updated your resume, and created (or revised) your professional business card, website, and e-portfolio?

children-2685070_1920_mochilazocultural

 

Okay, I admit it. I got a little carried away. You would need TEN SUMMERS to cover everything above. What’s that saying? “There’s never enough hours in a day…”

Hopefully these resources  and recommendations are helpful “food for thought!” You cannot accomplish anything by procrastination… or just “sleeping in!”

 

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a “calling.” Using your summer “free time” is all about “professional engagement.” One of my superintendents said he expected prospective new music teacher 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 whatever it takes” to make the students (and the educational program) successful. Regardless of the hyperbole, that’s engagement!

So, what are you waiting for? Pass the sunscreen and the ice tea. Then, after a quick swim, jog, round of golf, or game of tennis, get started on your summer assignments!

PKF

 

piano-78492_1920_nightowl

 

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “music” by ArtsyBee, “music” by KevinBism, “orchestra” by HeungSoon, “music” by brendageisse, “kids” by klimkin, “marching band” by sam99929, “guitar” by sunawang, “child” by skeeze, “flute” by congerdesign, “microphone” by klimkin, “choir” by intmurr, “band” by Pexels, “little girl” by Atlantios, “boy” by Silberfuchs, “children” by mochilazocultural, and “piano” by nightowl.

Social Media – Boon or Nemesis?

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.

 

social-media-3352921_1920_mohamed_hassan

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.

notes-3236566_1920_Alehandra13When 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:

  1. network-3354116_1920_geraltCommunicating digitally or electronically with students may lead to the blurring of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and create additional challenges to maintaining and protecting confidentiality.
  2. Texts, emails, and social media postings are not private, and may be seen by others, forwarded, and/or copied or printed.
  3. Out of context, they may be misinterpreted, appear to be inappropriate, and/or lead to a violation of “The Code.”
  4. 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:

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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.

Another impressive article, “How Music Teachers Can Use the Power of Social Media” by Amanda Green, focuses on using the Internet to send out practice reminders, encourage practice uploads, share amazing performances, and communicate tips and reminders.

“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:

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Finally, I urge you to review Chad Criswell’s submission, “Social Media and Communication in the Music Classroom,” which was published in the February 2012 NAfME Teaching Music.

 

Exercising Good Judgment and Professionalism Using Technology

Ethics are all about making good choices. Returning to “my state’s” excellent ethics tool kit, the following links were suggested for additional study:

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:

  1. Know your school district or state’s policies on social media.
  2. Never “friend” or “follow” students on your personal accounts.
  3. Keep your profile photos clean
  4. Do not affiliate yourself with your school on a personal profile.
  5. Do not geo-tag your connection-3330561_1920_TheDigitalArtistposts with your school’s location.
  6. “Snaps” are forever! Anyone can take a screen shot of your posts.
  7. Never mention your school or the names of staff or students in any post.
  8. Set your Instagram account to private.
  9. Never complain about your job online.
  10. 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!

PKF

MCEE Responsible Use of Technology

 

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.

 

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

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”).

 

skills-3262172_1920_diwou

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/.

 

music-1237358-2 ricardo vasquez

 

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!

classical-music-1838390_1920_Pexels

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.

On the Road Again…

PA_Turnpike_Commission_logo.svgI 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.

pmeaSoon 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 pmea conferenceprivilege 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.

For those of you who have never attended a PMEA spring conference, shame on you. The annual state-of-the-art music teacher clinics, music industry exhibits, keynote presenters, and “best in the state” performances are provided to inspire you and “recharge your batteries.” Take a few personal days and see what’s up. For Pennsylvania music educators during April 19-21, 2018, we are at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (For a schedule of sessions, concerts, and meetings, go to https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2018-Conf-Schedule-from-Spring-News-edit-3.26.pdf.) Next year, we will convene in my hometown, Pittsburgh, a combined in-service conference with the biennial NAfME Eastern Division.

Lancaster-City-Marriott

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:

Pittsburgh_skyline_panorama_at_night

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…

PKF

 

You are cordially invited to…

MM1

…a PMEA session for soon-to-retire and retired music teachers

MM2

 

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

How Retirement Has Changed Me… Revisited

Part II: The reinvention continues… new perspectives, recent renovations, fun pathways, and more technology

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Enjoy your time with your family and friends next week!

I feel very blessed and thankful for my health, happiness, economic stability, and relative comfort. My wife and I have “weathered” the so-called “passage to retirement” with success and grace, and continue to explore finding life’s meaning to fulfill the three most important things a job usually provides (according to best-selling author Ernie Zelinski): purpose, community, and structure.

Back in July 2015, I wrote the introduction to this “personal trek” of post-employment transitioning, coping with life-style changes/altered expectations, and personal metamorphosis to “living the dream!” (You can review all of these articles by clicking on the “For Retirees” above.) Specifically on “how retirement has changed me,” nine months ago, I wrote “Part I – One retiree’s quest for learning technology, science, and history” (https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/how-retirement-has-changed-me/), and can report “all is good” in progress on all of these fronts.

We all know personal growth is about curiosity, exploration and acceptance of change… so, now’s the time to report back. What have you been up to, Paul, since then?

 

WordPress

Writing, Collaborating, and Becoming a Better Techie

Here are a few quick check-marks to add to my post-employment technology portfolio:

  • I learned how to create a blog site and write blog articles
  • I learned how to use Zoom online and hold committee meetings on the web
  • I learned how to make a webinar video

To all current and future retirees, I strongly recommend venturing into the creative process of writing… and building a website to archive all of your “treasures.” Posting a blog is a perfect vehicle for getting something off your chest, promoting discussion on almost any topic, researching areas you always wanted to unearth, sharing your thoughts and experiences, and stating your opinion for the record using the Internet.

“The sky’s the limit” for the subjects you could present. What do you like to write about? It is probably easier to dive into the things that are closest to you, your “pet peeves” and passionate viewpoints, or perhaps drawing from the vast store of knowledge and competencies you developed in your music education career. My own “categories” on my website are “Becoming a Music Educator” (for pre-service and new music teachers), “Creativity,” “Ethics,” “Firesides” (epistles I have given to my students), and “For Retirees.”

Look into one of the free, “do-it-yourself” online sites like WordPress, Wix, Web, or Weebly.com. Unless you really want to, it is not necessary to pay for a domain name. However, if you want an easy-to-remember tagline (something everyone can remember), be creative with the title of a new Google email account (from which these web-creation services usually generate your website’s domain name). My professional email is paulkfox.usc@gmail.com, so WordPress removed the dot and created my website moniker as “paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com.”

My quest for further education in stimulating personal technological advances have included using services like “Doodle,” “Wufoo,” “Zoom” or “Go to Meeting” for collaborating with members of the Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention, and submission of several videos which have been archived in the NAfME Academy Professional Development library (of which I am most proud):

nafme

  • Marketing Your Professionalism for Collegiate Music Education Majors: Tips and Strategies to Prepare and Present Yourself for Interviewing and Landing That First Music Teacher Job (two-part video)
  • Preparing for a Smooth Transition to Retirement
  • Supercharge the School Musical

 

Non-Technological Developments

No, I’m not dead yet. Retirement has provided me many rich new set of pursuits and brain-stimulating activities. Some of these activities are intellectual, some physical, and some just wear out my wallet!

How to spend large amounts of our monthly pension? In other dimensions of personal development, my wife and I are slowly renovating our house, finally getting around to making decisions on colors, styles and its overall presentation. When I was a full-time music teacher, I didn’t spend a lot of time at my home. Now in retirement, I have discovered how much it costs to frame a picture, especially if the only criteria when choosing a frame is the beauty of the wood grain and how well you match the double matting to the lithograph. (Without asking the price, I bought a $800 frame for my $125 Charles Wysocki print!)  Taking the high road, we hired a professional to securely hang things on the wall, another very expensive process when your interior decorator ($75/hour) accompanies your installer ($50/hour) to do the job, but all is “perfect” and no marital disputes erupted! After refinishing the floors, installing new windows, painting all the walls, “staging” several rooms (new transformations), and finally finishing the wall-hangings, it looks like the Foxes have a “showcase” residence.

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Raising two cute dogs have become a centerpiece of my life. We need to walk them several times a day, something on which you can’t procrastinate. One would think this regular physical exercise is part of an aerobic routine that is keeping me super-fit!

I have learned so much from my day-to-day dealings with my pups Gracie and Brewster (see previous blog-post https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/what-i-have-learned-from-my-dogs-in-retirement/), although inspiring a few questions:

  1. How do they always know my mood and needs better than I?
  2. No matter when you glance at them, what moves them to show you unconditional “love at first sight,” instantly lowering your blood pressure, nurturing your peace-of-mind, and improving your disposition?
  3. Since dogs have no lips, how are they so aptly able to express a loving kiss with a simple lick of our hands?
  4. How is it that they are always available (24/7) to cuddle, play, sleep in your lap, explore the mysterious ends of their leashes, and follow you everywhere?
  5. Regardless of the mistakes you make, why are they the first to forgive you?

And all they ask in return is to “hang around with you!”

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Just for fun, check out illustrator Kelly Angel’s representation of “how your dog views you” at https://www.boredpanda.com/how-you-see-yourself-vs-how-your-dog-sees-you/.

Although I volunteer as the founding director of the South Hills Junior Orchestra and teach “kids of all ages” on Saturdays every week, one of my other volunteer pursuits centers around pushing wheelchairs at the local hospital. The good news? I see so many of my students and their families at St. Clair Hospital. My favorite trip is going to the family birth center and discharging a new mother and her baby… and with surprising frequency, reuniting a former student or colleague with their “old” school music teacher or community orchestra director. Any bad news? Well, I am still puzzled why I have lost a little of my stamina and endurance since retiring. After only a little more than 3 1/2 hours of pushing wheelchairs (some of whom contain very large patients), I notice I am ready for a power nap! This does not mesh well with my employment days when I was teaching full-time, arriving to school by 6:45 in the morning, and often did not make it home until 9 PM (after-school rehearsals, meetings and performances of the marching band, fall play, and spring musical. What’s up about that?

 

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Philosophy of Post-Employment Professional Engagement

“Ask not PMEA can do for you, but what you can do for PMEA.”

Where have you heard that before? Sounds like something from the soapbox of the PMEA Retired Member Coordinator? (Check out “PMEA in Retirement”).

The most important part of my long-term goals is to try to make a difference in other people’s lives… colleagues, collegiate or pre-service educators, and others.  As for PMEA, I’m throwing my hat in the ring as your Coordinator of Retired Members. In addition, I accidentally walked into a summer meeting a little more than a year ago and was voted in as chair of the Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention. This is an exciting time in during PMEA’s new governance and recently ratified five-year strategic plan. We have the opportunity of doing some real meaningful work for music education in the state of Pennsylvania.

I hope that you continue to participate in PMEA and NAfME yourself. Obviously, once we “Cross the Rubicon” into retirement, we need not to worry about the hectic day-to-day schedule, politics, and stress of a full-time teaching position. However, we can make a difference, acting less engaged but still on-board helping our professional associations and advocating for the success of music education. PA music teachers (the focus of many of these blogs), please consider keeping your membership up-to-date, joining the PMEA Retiree Resource Registry, volunteering for guest conducting, presenting sessions, doing other jobs for PMEA, an/or attending official events.

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In a recent Retired Member Network eNEWS, I mentioned that as unofficial mentors and sage advisers, there are many ways retired members can “return the favor” of a career full of wonderfully enriching professional development and music festival resources, simply by helping PMEA out a little:

  1. Review the five-year PMEA Strategic Plan – posted online at https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/PMEA-Strategic-Plan-2017-21-Final-1.pdf. Focus on possible things in which you may have the skills or interests to contribute to our profession, and propose something new “for the good of the order.” Here are sample objectives – any of these “strike a chord” with you?
    • 1E. Continue to improve and find new and innovative ways to engage PMEA members in advocacy efforts including Advocacy Day in Harrisburg and Music in Our Schools Month activities (“team-up” with retiree Chuck Neidhardt, PMEA State MIOSM Coordinator).
    • 2A. Explore topics of lifelong learning (music therapy, community music, service learning…)
    • 2E. Focus on topics of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access by providing space for dialogue, reaching more students beyond traditional ensembles, and identifying and promoting success stories and appropriate practices.
    • 3B. Investigate possibilities of various partnerships with other music associations.
    • 3E. Develop leadership (e.g. retreat and training sessions).
    • 4B. Promote and expand the Music Performance Assessment program (e.g. solo and chamber ensemble opportunities, virtual MPA’s, and traveling adjudicators).
  2. Still have your “conductor chops?” One way to encourage your colleagues to think of you in becoming a guest director or accompanist of a PMEA festival is to join the PMEA Retiree Resource Registry (see the retired member section of the website at https://www.pmea.net/retired-members/) and send an email sharing your interest and availability to the District President and the local Festival/Fest Coordinator.
  3. Did you know that anyone can suggest a session for a local workshop or PMEA spring and summer conference? (See the PMEA website.) What’s on your mind? What do you think is important to explore, collaborate, or exhibit? I know of few PMEA retired members who do not have a “special expertise” and passion about an area in music and education. Go ahead, “let the cat out of the bag” while it is still “fresh” in your mind!
  4. Submit articles or reviews to our PMEA News editorial committee chair Doug Bolasky (also a retiree) for publication consideration in our state journal. Like #3 above, this is an excellent outlet to “get something off your chest,” promote discussion on almost any topic, research areas you always wanted to unearth, share your thoughts and experiences, and state your opinion “for the record.”
  5. Offer to serve on a PMEA committee. For example, volunteer to serve on the listening or session evaluation committee. Prefer to stay “close to home?” Ask your District President if you can be appointed to (or be placed on the ballot for) one of the many leadership positions in need of caring, committed, and competent representatives. Also, PMEA always needs guest lecturers, panel discussion members, presiding chairs, and info booth volunteers for the spring conference.

 

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In short… we need you, your collective wisdom, experience, and the ability to dodge problems before they become big. Sure, relax a little, personally reflect, refocus, and revitalize your goals during your retirement, but don’t retreat from “doing your bit” for “making a difference” in music education.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits from Pixabay.com: “grandparents” by Marvin Roaw and “senior” by RitaE.

Pet Ownership & Retirement

pmeaReprinted from the Winter 2016 PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.

 

 

Many of us already know the immediate joys of dog or cat ownership – how much fun, affection, and meaning they can bring into our lives. According to HelpGuide.org International, a nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization of “digital mental health pioneers,” pets also provide numerous benefits for your health and well-being, and even your longevity. Quoting from their website (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/the-health-benefits-of-pets.htm):

doggies_ - 3“Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health.”

Studies have found that dogs improve our mood and health:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than adults without pets.
  • People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets
  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
  • Pets can help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease).
  • According to the American Heart Association, heart attack patients who have dogs survive longer than those without.
  • Pet caretakers over the age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

doggies_ - 5Once you reach full retirement, you may find yourself with a lot more “freedom” and time “at-home” to share with your spouse, other loved ones (babysitting grandchildren/ nieces?), friends, personal music-making, hobbies, and pets! Indeed, this may be the first chance you have to go out and rescue a dog from an animal shelter. Full-time music teachers with those incredibly packed schedules of after-school/evening marching band practices, choir, band, orchestra, jazz, musical, and/or dance rehearsals and performances, their own concert gigs, private lessons, etc. may not be able to properly care for a dog by themselves. The only reservation to bringing a new dog into your home is if you plan to take a lot of long trips in retirement. Perhaps then, you can revisit the option of animal adoption after taking several cruises, safaris, and cross-country road trips. Pets need your love and attention!

Having a dog or cat as a retiree will support many healthy lifestyle changes, such as (from HelpGuide.org):

  1. Increasing exercise
  2. Providing companionship
  3. Staying connected and meeting new people
  4. Reducing anxiety
  5. Adding structure and routine to your day
  6. Providing sensory stress relief
  7. Helping you find meaning and joy in life
  8. Boosting vitalitydoggies - 3

You need to read the entire HelpGuide.org blog-post and Harvard Health Publications for more information about dog ownership and issues dealing with heart-health, weight-loss, boosting your immune system, bipolar disorder, PTSD, Alzheimer’s patients, and children with learning disorders. They provide additional tips on choosing a pet, and the costs and commitment associated with them. Other excellent online resources include:

doggies_ - 4Several of my own experiences “learning and growing” with Brewster (a yorkie-poo) and Gracie (a bichon frise), “new children” added to my household immediately after retirement, are shared at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/what-i-have-learned-from-my-dogs-in-retirement/. Here are a few of the intangibles…  “rules for healthy living” our pets model and we realize by having them:

  1. Life is all about taking a long walk, smelling the roses (and everything else), bamboozling another treat from “daddy,” and getting your ears scratched or belly rubbed.
  2. Live enthusiastically in the “here and now.”
  3. Forgive unequivocally and immediately, and always run to greet loved ones when they come home.
  4. Whenever possible, fearlessly explore the fringe (almost beyond the reach of the leash).
  5. Relax and snuggle with someone you love as often as possible.

doggies_ - 7So fdoggies_ - 8or what are you waiting? Go out and find a dog or cat to rescue… or at least pet one! You’ll be glad you did!

PKF

 

© 2015, 2016 and 2017 Paul K. Fox

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This article is a complimentary re-issue to motivate retired music educators to join PMEA – their professional association. For more information, please go to the PMEA website http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/ and read the blog-post “PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?”

The PMEA State Conference Primer

Getting the Most Out of Music Conferences… Suggestions for First-Time Attendees or New Teachers

Music conferences offer students as well as seasoned musicians a wealth of professional opportunities. They are motivating and help recharge your battery. They even help set future goals. Consider music conferences an essential component of your training and career…

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE – The original release of this article is at http://majoringinmusic.com/music-conferences/

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. – Malcolm Forbes

The greatest benefits of attending an academic or professional conference are the opportunities to build your network and increase your awareness of new trends happening in your area of interest. – Emad Rahim http://www.coloradotech.edu/resources/blogs/june-2013/professional-conference

Networking with others in the field, getting new and innovative ideas, self-reflection and re-thinking of previous methods, and improving communication skills are just a few of the ways professionals can grow and develop.  – Conferences and Professional Development by the Grand Canyon University Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/presentationready/prof_develop

For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school administrators, HR managers and secretaries, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and you – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits. Paul K. Fox https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/

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Welcome to the annual state conference! For Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Education Association (PCMEA) members and soon-to-be-hired music educator prospects, this guide will help you get the most out of attending the 2017 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Spring Conference (and future professional development events).

Reasons to “drop everything” and attend an in-service conference:

  1. Conferences “grow” your professional network and opportunities for future collaboration.
  2. Conferences build your knowledge base: to hear about potential job openings, stay current in the field, learn new ideas, music literature, classroom materials, curriculum initiatives, research, technology, and unique approaches to problems, and to see “state-of-the-art” (“model”) performances of student and professional music ensembles.
  3. Conferences expand your resources.
  4. Conference motivate (a.k.a. “recharge batteries”) and help you plan future goals.

People in academics cultivate exceptional resources—and they’re excited to share them with like-minded colleagues. During the conference, I had an opportunity to test out new technology, review upcoming publications, share teaching tools and techniques and obtain samples of textbooks, software and mobile applications. Conferences are full of people promoting new ideas, vendors selling new products, and consultants teaching new methodologies. I always take advantage of this opportunity to fill up my academic tool-shed with new techniques and technology to improve my career. – Emad Rahim

bayfront1_highThe annual PMEA Spring Conference will be held on April 19-22, 2017 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center. These sessions may be “perfect for PCMEA!”

  • Opening General Session with Tim Lautzenheiser Thursday 8:30 a.m.
  • PCMEA meetings Thursday 10:30 a.m. and Friday 11:15 a.m.
  • Getting the Most Out of Your Student Teaching Experience Thursday 1:30 p.m.
  • Cracking the Graduate School Code: When, Where, Why, How, & How Much Thursday 3 p.m.
  • Starting with the End in Mind – or – You’ve Got Four Years, Use Them Wisely Thursday 4:30 p.m.
  • Music Education & Gaming: Interdisciplinary Connections for the Classroom Friday 8:15 a.m.
  • Ready for Hire! Interview Strategies to Land a Job Friday 9:45 a.m.
  • Planning Strategies to Develop a Responsive Teaching Mindset Friday 2:15 p.m.
  • Final General Session with NAfME Eastern Division President Scott Sheehan Friday 3:45 p.m.

For a complete conference schedule, consult PMEA News or this web-link: http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017-PMEA-Annual-Conference-Schedule-for-Winter-News.pdf.

pmeaFirst things first! Prepare yourself in advance. Grab your winter or spring issue of PMEA News. Review the program of sessions which is usually laid out in chronological order and also by content strands (e.g. advocacy, choral, classroom music, collegiate, curriculum development/assessment, higher education research, instrumental, music technology, World Music, and special interest topics), as well as the list of keynote speakers, guest clinicians, showcase (music industry) demonstrations, association meetings (like PCMEA), and performances. Using an “old-fashioned” 20th century tool, mark up the conference schedule with two different colors of highlighter marking pens, first targeting “high interest” areas in yellow, and then “must attend” events in hot pink or other favorite color.

Next, download the PMEA Conference App (usually from Core-Apps.com). This is the 21st Century technique for setting up your conference schedule (“where to go and what to do”), reading the bios of the presenters, locating the session rooms and exhibit booths, finding out who is attending, taking and storing your notes, and learning about last minute changes. Here is the picture of the 2016 PMEA app:

pmea-app

More DO’s and DON’Ts for effective conference attendance:

  1. DON’T remain in your “comfort zone” by sitting exclusively with your friends or college buddies at every session and concert. DO socialize with your peers at meals, and DO attend meetings of your PCMEA. However, if you are trying to take advantage of networking opportunities, to get to know other professionals, possible job screeners, administrators, etc., DON’T just sit with people you know at every other event.
  2. SONY DSCDON’T focus exclusively on attending sessions or concerts in your specialty or most proficient areas, such as band if you’re a woodwind, brass or percussion major, orchestra if you are a string player, general music/choral if you are a vocalist or pianist. DO go to sessions that are not directly related to your major. You might be surprised at the connections you discover or the new interests that arise. Imagine “they” want to hire you next year as the next middle school jazz coach, HS marching band show designer, choreographer for the elementary musical, conductor of the string orchestra, teacher of AP music theory, etc. Could you select music for an elementary band (or choral) concert, create a bulletin board display for a middle school general music unit, set-up a composition project, or lead folk dancing at the kindergarten level?
  3. DO stay at (or near to) the hotel where the conference is being held… to see and DO more!
  4. Learn and DO the best practices of networking, personal branding, business card creation and distribution, and record-keeping of conference notes, job openings, and contact information. DO read my blog-post on Networking Niceties: The “How to Schmooze Guide” for Prospective Music Teachers at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/.
  5. playing-harp-1563567DON’T be shy! A conference is no place for being timid or afraid to start up a discussion with a more experienced music teacher. PMEA is all about circulating and introducing yourself, exhibiting your “charming self,” exploring resources and who are the experts/leaders in music education, getting the “lay of the land,” and adding as many names and emails to your professional contact data base as possible. Of course, DO follow-up with anyone who suggests that there may be a future employment posting from their school district!
  6. DO attend both general sessions, one usually scheduled on Thursday morning and the other on Friday afternoon. These will feature the keynote speakers and a special performance or award presentation. Since it is free and another opportunity to network, DO attend the Saturday morning awards breakfast and general membership meeting.
  7. DON’T be the first person to leave a session, and definitely DON’T “hop around” from one clinic or concert to another. Many attendees consider leaving early disruptive and rude, and it does not allow you to get the “whole picture” of the presentation. DON’T run in and grab the handouts… they will not have much meaning unless you attend the entire one-hour workshop. DO interact with the clinicians and conductors. If someone gave a talk, introduce yourspiano-and-laptop-1508835elf and ask a thoughtful question on some issue about which you are curious or found interesting.
  8. DO attend (and participate in) at least one panel discussion, music reading workshop, and technology session. DO search for special sessions held for college students on interviewing and landing a job. DO visit the displays of the PMEA Research Forums and the Exhibits.
  9. DON’T expect to get a lot of sleep at the conference. DON’T miss the interesting concerts to attend at night as well as early morning breakfast meetings and evening receptions. But, whatever you do, DO have FUN at your first music teacher conference!

Actually, PMEA represents only one of a series of outstanding music education conferences offered to school music teachers. In addition, you should look at:nafme

Hopefully, these tips on networking and taking advantage of the many professional benefits for attending an in-service conference will assist your successful pursuit for “landing” a job, discovering your own “calling” in the field of music education, and contributing a lifetime of meaningful work to our profession. See you in Erie!

Suggested Additional Readings:

  • Caffarella, R. S., & Zinn, L. F. (1999). Professional development for faculty: A conceptual framework of barriers and supports. Innovative Higher Education, 23(4), 241-254.
  • Guskey, T. R., & Huberman, M. (1995). Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices. Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027 (paperback: ISBN-0-8077-3425-X; clothbound: ISBN-0-8077-3426-8).
  • Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Corwin Press.
  • Snow-Gerono, J. L. (2005). Professional development in a culture of inquiry: PDS teachers identify the benefits of professional learning communities. Teaching and teacher education, 21(3), 241-256.
  • Sunal, D. W., Hodges, J., Sunal, C. S., Whitaker, K. W., Freeman, L. M., Edwards, L., … & Odell, M. (2001). Teaching science in higher education: Faculty professional development and barriers to change. School Science and Mathematics, 101(5), 246-257.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits: saxophone 24youphotography, harpist Gerrit Prenger, and computer/music keyboard LeslieR at FreeImages.com

“Act Well Your Part; There the Honor Lies…”

Amateur/Community Theater Groups in PA

pmeaReprinted from the Fall 2016 PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association

 

Opportunities abound for “hands-on” participation in community theater, volunteering as an actor, singer, dancer, musician, props or scenery painter, make-up artist, costume seamstress, stage technician, usher, box office sales or marketing staff, etc. As you can see at the PMEA link below, there are numerous amateur groups throughout the state.

The payback of theater involvement (for all ages, full and part-time workers, soon-to-retire, and retired members) is well-documented. For example, according to the www.openartsalliance.com, “Theatre is one of the oldest and most influential art forms. It combines interpersonal skills with intrapersonal awareness. Just think about ALL the benefits that theatre can offer artists young and old alike!”

  1. Self-confidence and risk taking
  2. Imagination and creative self-expression
  3. Empathy and tolerance
  4. Cooperation and collaboration
  5. Concentration
  6. Communication skills
  7. Emotional outlet
  8. Problem solving
  9. Fun and relaxation
  10. Self-discipline
  11. Trust
  12. Memory
  13. Social awareness
  14. Aesthetic appreciation
  15. Physical fitness

drama-1436610-1With the help of PMEA State Director of Member Engagement Joshua Gibson, PMEA retired members researched and compiled a PA community theater directory, to join the listings of bands, orchestras, and choruses posted on the PMEA retired members’ website.

This project was daunting! Just because a group advertises as serving as a local “civic theater,” it does not mean there are “open” auditions for non-Equity actors, or volunteers can lend a hand in making the sets/costumes or running the stage tech (although everyone usually asks for money or unpaid ushers!). It was found that some semi-professional companies act very “community” oriented, while others are really “closed shops!” Even if it was hard to discern their “amateur” status or opportunities for nonprofessionals, most PA organizations and contact information were included… to allow PMEA members to find out for themselves if the association would accept non-union actors, etc.

Another problem was that many small theater groups do not maintain a web-page. We had trouble confirming they were active (names or locations changed a lot, too). Scores of amateur drama companies are likely missing. Please consider this a “first draft” and send all corrections to paulkfox.usc@gmail.com.

For retiring and retired PMEA members, good advice comes from Ernie J. Zelinski, author of the book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.

Zelinski“Two essentials for successful retirement are sufficient funds to live on and sufficient things to live for. You may have the funds and a list of interests, hobbies, and leisure activities that will keep you busy. Nonetheless, if you want your retirement to be satisfying, these activities may not be enough. You may need an overriding purpose.

“While describing retirement, George Bernard Shaw concluded, ‘A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.’ Shaw was right in that retirement can be hell for those who don’t put any purpose into it. On the other hand, for people who have some major purpose to their lives, retirement can be heaven.”

You have heard it before… For a happy, healthy, and meaningful retirement, revisit your “creative roots,” the reason you went into music in the first place. Have you always wanted to explore or nurture the “thespian” in you? Here’s your resource to get started today! Get out there! “Bring down the house.” “Break a leg!”

Additional sources of information:

To download the updated PMEA Amateur/Community Theater Company listings for Pennsylvania, please click on the link at http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

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This article is a complimentary re-issue to motivate retired music educators to join their professional association. For more information, please go to PMEA website http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/ and read the blog-post “PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?”

 

(Photo credits: Loretta Humble and Shamseer Sureash Kumar at FreeImages.com)