Becoming a School Music Educator

[A quick summary, portions reprinted from the April 17, 2019 posting on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/becoming-school-music-teacher-paul-fox/]

One of my goals after retiring from 35 years as an educator and administrator in the public schools was to reach-out to college music education majors and offer some tips and techniques for preparing for this honorable career.

I have assembled a library of blog-posts on a variety of topics at my website (https://paulfox.blog/), and invite you to peruse the section “Becoming a Music Educator” at https://paulfox.blog/becoming-a-music-educator/.

If you are a junior or senior in college, assigned to field experiences or student teaching, or a recent graduate or transfer looking for a job or otherwise unemployed, I hope I can help you!

Please review the following categorized outlines of links to articles and other resources.

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Student Teaching

First stop: Tips on Student Teaching.

Also check out these past issues of PMEA Collegiate Communique:

 

“Secrets” for that First Year

  1. maestro-3020019_1920_mohamed_hassanDiscounted NAfME + PMEA first-year membership: only $90. (If you are a recent college graduate in your first year of teaching, or if you are the spouse of a current or retired NAfME member, contact NAfME at 800-336-3768 or email memberservices@nafme.org) to find out if you qualify for a reduced rate.
  2. PMEA Mentor or other state’s MEA support program for new teachers.
  3. R3 = Retiree Resource Registry for PA music teachers.
  4. PMEA Webinars.
  5. NAfME Academy of numerous videos (only a $20 annual subscription).
  6. Professional development credits just for reading an article in NAfME Music Educators Journal
  7. Model Curriculum Framework (Have to be a PMEA member)
  8. What a deal! PMEA summer conference  as little as $30/person. Check out your own state’s MEA discounts and offers for collegiate members and new teachers!
  9. Numerous helpful blog posts from NAfME Music in a Minuet and paulfox.blog.

 

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Everything… Including the Kitchen Sink

Check out the online resources on the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention website, free/open to all music teachers. Especially take note of the supplemental links on a variety of topics posted here.

 

Job Seekers

A summary of my re-occurring themes on marketing your professionalism and a few “pet peeves” include the following:

  1. Create a multi-media digital portfolio, video recording excerpts of your memorable solo, chamber, and ensemble performances, teaching experiences, and other opportunities you have had in working with children of all ages. To the interviews, bring both a printed version and jump drive (the latter to leave with the screening committee) of these artifacts and a list of your other activities, awards, accomplishments, mission/vision, transcripts, music education and class management philosophies, recommendations, etc.
  2. Take the time to assemble “the stories of your life, work, and teaching experiences” (both successes and the “glitches” or “snags” along the way which you had to resolve) that demonstrate your competencies, relationships with students, personality traits, acquired skills, problem-solving, and maturity.
  3. woman-613309_1920_jsotoBring to any employment screening your resume, business card, and an e-portfolio referencing a professional website which archives everything in #1 and #2 above.
  4. Avoid one-word responses or short answers to most interview questions. Instead, seek ways to incorporate the anecdotes you have made ready at your fingertips (#1 above) that model those characteristics a prospective employer is seeking in a music teacher.
  5. If you want to be the one “in control” of the possible jobs that may come your way, avoid marketing your skills as a “music specialist” (e.g. band director or elementary music teacher). Most degree programs prepare the students for teaching certification in “Music Grades Pre-K to 12.” If you are looking to expand your opportunities, don’t limit your capabilities or options upfront. You CAN teach all forms and levels of music!
  6. music-818459_1920-thedanwClean-up and curate your social media sites, treating your Facebook pages as another “personal branding resource.” Experts recommend that “your profile information should reflect integrity and responsibility… You should expand or add content that projects a professional image, shows a friendly, positive personality, demonstrates that you are well-rounded with wide range of interests, and models… great communication skills.” Source: https://paulfox.blog/2019/03/01/collegiates-clean-up-your-social-media/.
  7. How to your get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! How do you ace your interview? Practice, practice, practice! Put yourself through “mock interviews” and record and later assess your “performance.” Sample questions are posted at my blog-site.

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 Collegiates, welcome to the profession!

“Break a leg” at your employment interviews!

PKF

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com:

 

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© 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.

Tips on Personal Branding

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Prospective Music Teachers: Why Personal Branding Might Help You Land a Job!

“A brand is anything—a symbol, design, name, sound, reputation, emotion, employees, tone, and much more—that separates one thing from another.”

– Neil Patel and Aaron Agius

optimism-1241418Quick – Who are you? Define yourself in three words!

This is one of the most common job interview questions. In my past blogs on the subject of getting a music teaching job (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/), we explored preparing for interviews, planning portfolios, developing stories/personal anecdotes of your strengths, defining criteria for the ideal music teacher candidate, and understanding the term “professionalism” as it applies to music education. Now to wrap-up your “marketing plan,” it is time to dive into “personal branding” as it is presented by quite a few experts in the field.

business-card-1238267What is Personal Branding? Google defines it as “essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization.”

Branding is critical to help you “stand above the rest,” showing you have what it takes and would be a major asset to a prospective employer, and marketing your own unique qualities that would make you “a good fit” for the specific job opening. But you don’t have to take my word on this… a quick search on the Internet yields numerous articles on branding and marketing yourself.

The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but whether you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined (or assumed) by others on your behalf.

According to Shama Hyder, bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, “The term branding has long been relegated to companies, but today almost every individual has a personal brand. Not many of us have consciously cultivated these brands, but they exist nonetheless. A digital footprint in the sands of time and space crowd sourced by friends, colleagues, and bosses. According to an AVG study, 92 percent of children under the age of two already have a digital footprint.”

At http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/, Hyder posted “7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand,” including the following outlined summary. (Take a look – you won’t be sorry!)
  1. A young caucasian woman outdoors in a meadow, working on her computerStart 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

You can learn something about branding from an accountant. In “Five Tips on Branding Yourself” (by the American Institute of CPAs) at http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/YoungCPANetwork/Resources/Career/Pages/FiveTipsToBrandingYourself.aspx, steps are offered to help build a positive image and promote your professionalism. Branding helps “to remain current in your field, opens doors for you, and creates a lasting impression…”

  1. Define your brand and become an expert.
  2. Establish a presence.
  3. Generate brand awareness through networking.
  4. Remember the 3 Cs of brandingclarity, consistency, constancy.
  5. Get feedback from those who know you best—at work, at home, anywhere.

marching-band-1440110-1For #1 above, hopefully you have already read my epistle (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/) on not limiting your options or selling yourself short as a music specialist (e.g. band director or elementary vocal teacher). If you want a job with a Pennsylvania Music K-12 Instructional certificate or equivalent, you have to be “expert” on all types and grade levels of public school music.

The music curriculum leader/department chair/lead teacher involved in the employment screening will want to know your mastery of creating lessons in everything from the foundations of “steady beat” and “matching pitch” to developing advanced technique and musicianship in any/all instrumental and vocal ensembles, including jazz improvisation, a cappella singing, and string chamber music.

However, principals, HR staff, and other administrators will likely care more about your classroom management skills, ability to communicate and work with others, personal initiative and willingness to work after school and in the evenings, record of consistent attendance (low incidence of absenteeism or tardiness re: college classes and other work history), and other personality characteristics. Believe it or not, at more than one interview, I was asked, “Since you call yourself trained as a musician, are you temperamental?”

The single most comprehensive publication on branding (and it looks like it is provided as a free service!) is The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius” at https://www.quicksprout.com/the-complete-guide-to-building-your-personal-brand/.

According to them, the greatest rationale for building your personal brand is that it opens up more professional opportunities. “Creating a vision for your future and implementing that vision can lead to a better job…” You should take time to read the guide’s chapters in detail:
  • your-brand-new-website-1-1058679How to Create Your Personal Brand Vision
  • How to Define Your Target Audience
  • How to Build Up Your Online and Offline Assets
  • How to Build Your Brand Through Outreach
  • How to Get Free Press Coverage
  • How to Connect with Mentors
  • How to Monitor your Brand
  • Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken

After you peruse all of the above material on personal branding, here are my top ten “takeaways” specific to every budding music teacher.

  1. Your personal brand is everything about you – your values, attitudes, integrity, initiative, work ethic, skills, and personality traits.
  2. Remember, a career in public/private school education is based on very conservative values. Be cognizant of what you say, how you look and act, and the overall image you portray. “Everything you say and do (or have ever said or done) may be used against you…”
  3. In this profession, there’s no place for too much levity or a lack of respect for conformity, longstanding traditions, and the orthodox. At my first job interview, I carelessly made a crack about signing an outdated “loyalty” oath (“I promise I am not a communist and will not try to overthrow the government…”), the result of which the superintendent gave me a major tongue-lashing and a 20-minute lecture on patriotism (but, somehow I still got the job!).
  4. shame-1431469Clean up your social media sites (Facebook, etc.). A photo of you and your college buddies drinking “adult beverages” in bathing suits at a beach may be misinterpreted. Google your name to see what comes up. How would you define the content you see of yourself online?
  5. Create a personal website to warehouse the elements of your “professional brand,” including your philosophy of music education, mission, goals, and a digital resume of your education,  experience, and accomplishments. If your college/university does not set you up with a free online site, explore “doing-it-yourself” with WordPress, Wix, or Weebly.com.
  6. The only social medium I can recommend without reservation is LinkedIn. Create and optimize your professional identity on LinkedIn, everything from getting an excellent photo of yourself to providing copious samples of your references, writing, hands-on teaching experiences, etc.
  7. If you have personal essays on your educational philosophy and vision, share your priorities as they relate to music curriculum, lesson targets, concert programming, assertive discipline, collaborative projects, and professional development, and always be ready for the most commonly asked interview questions (beat them to the punch by posting in writing your thoughts): Why is music essential to a child’s education? Why did you choose to become a music educator? Who had the greatest influence on you and why? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses in this field?
  8. PaulFox_LogoIf you have time, design a personal logo, a symbol of you wherever you go on websites, e-mail footer, digital and printed portfolios, business cards, etc. Although I retired in 2013, I created the illustration at the above right. It implies that I am “a happy fox” (my last name), involved in music, and especially love a certain Beethoven symphony, reinforcing that I am an orchestral musician.
  9. Better than providing quick one or two-sentence answers to the interviewers’ questions, try to assemble a collection of personal anecdotes that dramatically illustrate your musical and teaching skills, critical thinking and problem solving, personality traits like patience, compassion, self-control, and thoughtfulness, and past successes. (For more information on developing story-telling skills, go to https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/).
  10. Whenever possible, archive your student teaching and other field experiences. “A picture says a thousands words!” Post short online video, audio, and photo examples of your positive interactions in music and with students in all kinds of settings.

One final thought. The best advice I have learned about branding is that it is all about “work in progress.” According to Adii Pienaar in “How to Build Your Personal Brand: The Next Step to Anything” (http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2013/08/18/your-personal-brand-the-next-step-to-anything/), “Your brand is a living organism just like you are as a human and it needs to mirror the same kind of progression, evolution and maturation that you experience in your own mac-stuff-4-1500018life. Whilst legacy is important (as it gives context to your brand), continuous improvement and change should be part of how you shape your brand over time.”

He adds, “Your brand should make mistakes and you should have the opportunity to learn from them.” Just like a model college-entrance essay relating how you have persevered and adapted to life’s challenges and solved problems, your online presence should reveal your dedication to and steps towards self-improvement.

Finally, I echo Pienaar’s conclusion that there is no time like the present to get to work on personal branding: “Start today and brand shamelessly.”

 

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox