Interviews

READY TO HIRE: Strategies to Land a Job

For all future music teachers everywhere, especially members of a PCMEA or NAfME collegiate chapter, we post these handouts from past NAfME and PMEA music teacher conference sessions, all moderated by Scott Sheehan, Immediate Past President of NAfME Eastern Division and Past State President of PMEA.

As a tradition at the annual state conference, the session “Ready to Hire: Interviewing Strategies to Land a Job” has offered “tried & true tips to assist promising music education majors with developing interviewing skills to successfully land their dream job.” One of the features of the clinic is the set-up of a “hot seat” where volunteer candidates are put through one or more questions in a “mock interview,” and then assessed on their “performance.” The guest panelists often distribute a “takeaway” with valuable tips on interview techniques and questions, and developing personal branding, networking, and marketing skills.

These suggestions are offered as a way to “practice” taking employment interviews.

Best wishes on your job search. Now go out there and “nail” the interview!

 

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NAfME Biennial Eastern Division/PMEA State Spring Conference

April 4-7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA

 

Sheehan: Interview Session Handout

Metelsky: Interview Worksheet

Pearlberg: Ready to Hire Interview Strategies

Fox: Job Interview Playbook

 

 

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Pennsylvania Music Education Association Annual Spring Conference

(various years)

 

Basalik: Ready-Set-Interview

Baxter: Music Interviews

Fox: A to Z Job Interview Checklist

Fox: Marketing Your Professionalism

 

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Additional Resources

PMEA Job Board

NAfME:

Sullivan Interview Strategies that Work

Older blog-posts at this site:

 

Acknowledgments:

  • Sue Basalik
  • Howard Baxter
  • Marc Greene
  • Susan Metelsky
  • Alicia Mueller
  • Henry Pearlberg
  • Kathy Sanz
  • Scott Sheehan
  • Jill Sullivan
  • Lucy White

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

All rights reserved by the individual authors of this material

inteREVIEWING the situation… and jobs

Senior Music Education Majors’ Employment Prep

Did you miss your state MEA conference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successful professionals stay up-to-date with their journals

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

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

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

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

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

What was YOUR score… out of 11?

Get to work… so you can get work!

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PKF

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

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Interview Questions Revisited

New Getting a Job Tips for Prospective Music Teachers

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, here are five more considerations for successful interviews:

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

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

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

Most Popular Interview Questions

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

Questions on Philosophy or Core Teaching Standards

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

Content-Specific Questions & Demonstration Lessons

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

 

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PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Overview – Strategies for Landing a Music Teacher Job

“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a challenging job market with limited openings for public/private school music educators in many geographical areas of the country, there is great competition in the screening and evaluation of the applicants. I am happy to offer some tips and techniques towards successful career preparation, employment searches, interviewing, and promotion of your image and record of past performance, experiences, achievements, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that are job-related.

The concept of marketing oneself for employment is based on several skill sets:

  • Knowing the territory
  • Making connections
  • Branding yourself
  • Storytelling about the challenges and triumphs you faced in life
  • Proving that you have “what it takes” and your skills/experiences would be a “good fit” to the needs, goals, and values of the institution, employer, and position to which you are applying
  • Being persistent and well-organized

Here is my outline of general targets for marketing professionalism and a successful job hunt. Many of these subjects have been/will be shared in current or future blogs on this site.

  1. Develop and model your skills as a “professional.” (Read my July 1, 2015 blog “The Meaning of Pro.”)
  2. Complete a self-assessment of your content knowledge, teaching skills, musicianship, and personality traits. (Prepare in advance so that you will be able to share your “best” attributes.) One model for evaluation of prospective and current educators is Charlotte Danielson’s “Four Domains” from The Framework for Teaching. (To research these, see http://danielsongroup.org/framework/).
    • Planning and Preparation
    • Classroom Environment
    • Instruction
    • Professional Responsibilities
  3. Seek out avenues (while in college or around your music education peers) to practice and improve your weakest skill areas (less familiar band/string instruments, improvement in piano accompaniment, jazz improvisation, or singing)
  4. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities, the precursor for the development of a comprehensive résumé and portfolio.
    • Bulleted list of specific academic and music accomplishments with dates
    • College assessments and transcripts
    • Scholarships and other awards
    • Education experiences (e.g. lists, photos, and/or audio/video recordings of student teaching, observations, and other field assignments, private teaching, substitute teaching, other employment in the private and public schools, conducting or performing in community ensembles, summer camps, sports, scouts, church programs, marching band sectionals or field assistance, choral accompaniment or vocal/drama/dance coachings, etc.)
    • Sample solo recital and chamber/large group concert programs
    • Sample lesson plans, learning targets, rubrics, and other student assessments
    • Original compositions and arrangements
    • Congratulatory notes and letters of reference
  5. Create a philosophy of music education. Be ready to answer the key essential questions “What is your personal mission?” and “What is the role of music in a child’s education?” (To define a broad-based vision for becoming the ultimate “total music educator,” avoiding any prejudice to, limitations in, and restrictions of a particular music specialty, see my July 4, 2015 blog “Marketing Yourself and Your K-12 Music Certification.”)
  6. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon, terminology, trends, and acronyms, possible topics administrators may check for understanding at a future interview. If you do not know the meaning of terms like The Common Core, formative/summative assessments, or 21st Century Learning Skills, look them up. (See my July 18, 2015 blog “The Alphabet Soup of Educational Acronyms.”)
  7. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes (see #2 above), artifacts (#4), and examples of your professionalism (#1) – the most important successes you have had in your education, career and personal life. Metaphors, analogies, and humorous anecdotes are the foundation for excellent storytelling at interviews. (See my August 2, 2015 blog “When It Comes to to Getting a Job, ‘S’ is for Successful Storytelling.”)
  8. Pre-interview preparation
    • Creation or revision of your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website
    • Practice and drill on answering common interview questions (including self-assessments of video samples) – see examples of interview questions from the 2013 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association In-Service Conference: http://www.uscsd.k12.pa.us/Page/6361
    • Research of the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations
    • Development of appropriate and meaningful questions to ask the interviewer
    • Trial run (know exactly where you are going, time needed, traffic patterns, etc.)
  9. Positive interview techniques (future blog)
  10. Post interview (debriefing yourself) and organization of the job search process (another future blog)

As they say in the theater, “break a leg” at your job interview!

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox