Leadership Lessons

Summertime Reading Suggestions for Music Directors

3 leadership books

What do authors C.S. Forester, Simon Sinek, Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin have in common?

They offer a fresh perspective on leadership principles, reflections perfectly applicable for the skill-set development of music teachers who desire to better “lead” their music programs, students, and parent boosters.

It was no accident that I chose these books to help explore the truths of inspiring confidence and leading groups of people like we do daily in our classrooms, rehearsal halls, and on the stages or marching band fields. Their use of military (as well as company or government management) anecdotes defines and re-enacts the very essence of leaders, leadership concepts, goals, and public service.

“These [military group] organizations have strong cultures and shared values, understand the importance of teamwork, create trust among their members, maintain focus, and, most important, understand the importance of people and relationships to their mission success.”

— From the Foreword of Leaders Eat First

Why do we admire music teacher “heroes” and most sought-after conference keynoters in our profession such as “Dr. Tim” Lautzenheiser, Peter Boonshaft, Scott Edgar*, and Bob Morrison* (*the latter two to be featured in the PMEA Summer Virtual Conference on July 20-24, 2020). They inspire us. They recharge us and pick up our spirits. They serve as models of visionaries and coaches. They challenge the status quo and help us to grow!

I believe these books will do the same, assist in your career development to morph into an even better leader and teacher. Since many of us are “stuck at home” during the pandemic for awhile, here is a new “reading list” for personal self-improvement.

EPISODE 1-MUTINY
ITV/Rex Archive: Ioan Gruffudd in “Hornblower” 2001 TV series

Who is Horatio Hornblower?

To start with, how about a series of historical fiction from the Napoleonic-Wars era?

Hornblower is a courteous, intelligent, and skilled seaman, and perhaps one of my favorite examples of an adaptable “leader.” Although burdened by his (almost shy) reserve, introspection, and self-doubt (he is described as “unhappy and lonely”), the Forester collection illustrates numerous stories of his personal feats of extraordinary cunning, on-the-spot problem solving, and bravery. The first book spotlights an unpromising seasick midshipman who grows into a highly acclaimed, productive, and ethical officer of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, gaining promotion steadily as a result of his skill and daring, despite his initial poverty and lack of influential friends. And yet, the common thread throughout is that he belittles his achievements by numerous rationalizations, remembering only his fears.

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74-gun Royal Navy Ship-of-the-line ~1794

“Hornblower’s leadership is thoroughly self-conscious: what makes him a great leader, morally, is that he assumes as a matter course that he must lead rather than he can lead; Hornblower’s pervasive sense of responsibility would be diminished if it all came to him naturally and that he acts therefore as each situation demands. He can be self-effacing or fierce, or obsequious, all depending on what is necessary to get the job done. As it happens, Hornblower‘s many other gifts, including a formidable diligence, always beyond the call of duty, and a supple intelligence, make him a man others trust and lean on; but for the reader, especially young reader, it’s his moral qualities that are most engaging, it is instructive.”

by Igor Webb, Hudson Review

This set is a wonderful “chestnut” to acquire, sit back in your leather recliner, and devour over the coming months. Even though it may take you some significant time to finish Forester’s eleven novels (one unfinished) and five short stories, I promise you, it will all be worth it!

[If you like the Hornblower assortment, also checkout the works by Alexander Kent and Dudley Pope, all drawing parallels to the exploits of real naval officers of the time: Sir George Cockburn, Lord Cochran, Sir Edward Pellew, Jeremiah Coghlan, Sir James Gordon, and Sir William Hoste.]

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Now, how can you personally glean new leadership habits from this treasure chest? Coincidental to doing some research for this blog, I bumped into the article on LinkedIn “Leadership Lessons Learned from Horatio Hornblower.” My sincere thanks and “attaboy” go to Amro Masaad, Education and STEM Leader at Middlesex County Academies, who gave me permission to share his documentation and insightful interpretation of the following leadership tips learned from Hornblower that we can all employ as “best practices” in the education profession:

  1. Don’t be afraid to stand up to a bully.
  2. Don’t insist that all of your successes be praised.
  3. Don’t let employees sabotage your mission.
  4. If you want excellence, you can’t look the other way.
  5. Prove yourself when the situation demands it.
  6. Take one for the team.
  7. Show sacrifice and honor, even with your enemies.

I have always been inspired by the adventures of Hornblower, mostly because of his displays of humanity at a time in history when things were inhumane and primitive. Hornblower consistently modeled his intentions for the care and success of his subordinates while other officers “stepped on them” to get advancement, his unimpeachable moral code that guided his every action, and “taking it on the chin” when necessary for his shipmates and the good of “god and country.”

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Leaders Eat Last

I was struck by this quote by Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action, who posted a popular TedTalk lecture of the same name:

“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold the position of power or authority, but those who lead, inspire us. Whether they are individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And, it’s those who start with ‘the why’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others to inspire them.”

TEDxPugetSound

silent-drill-platoon-1398509_1920_skeezeHis latest book, Leaders Eat Last, brings up the rationale of mutual collaboration and prioritizing the mission and the needs of your team members. Sinek observed that some teams were able to trust each other 100%, so much so that they would be willing to put their lives on the line for each other, while other groups, no matter what enticements or special incentives were offered, were “doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure.” Why was this true?

“The answer became clear during our conversation with the Marine Corps general. ‘Officers eat last,’ he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: great leaders sacrifice their own comfort – even their own survival – for the good of those in their care.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Throughout his book of vivid narratives from armed conflicts to business “revolutions” of take-overs or new CEO transformations, Sinek dives into the precepts of what constitutes “great” leadership:

  • The value of empathy should not be underestimated.
  • Trust and loyalty exist on a two-way street – to earn them, leaders must first extent them to their team members.
  • The role of leadership is to look out for (and take care of) those inside their “circle of safety.”
  • For the success of the team, goals must be tangible, visible, collaborative, and written down.
  • Leaders know: There is power in “paying it forward.” It feels good to help people, or when someone does something nice to us, or even when we witness someone else doing something good.
  • It’s also a big deal when leaders express that final personal touch and shake hands.
  • Leadership is all about service… to the “real, living, normal human beings with whom we work every day.”

I have never found a better source for defining the four “chemical incentives” in our bodies (also known as hormones) and numerous actual examples of their daily use (and misuse): endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

UnSelfieAlso intriguing is an expanded Chapter 24 and Appendix section in the book called “A Practical Guide to Leading Millennials.” Similar to another suggestion for summer perusal, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D (Simon & Schuster, 2017) which focuses more on our current young “charges,” Sinek’s differentiation is provided to inspire and educate the ultimate multitaskers of the “distracted generation.”

“This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.”

“The biology is clear: When it matters most, leaders who are willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance their leaders vision and their organization’s interests. It’s amazing how well it works.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

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Extreme Ownership

This next leadership philosophy, the core premise of the book Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, will not surprise anyone who has ever taken on the inherently risky task of programming a student concert, marching field show, dance recital, or musical/play: the music director assumes full responsibility for the failures and faux pas that may occur during the performance, but instrumentalists, singers, actors, and/or dancers should get all the credit for a successful production.

“Combat, the most intense and dynamic environment imaginable, teaches the toughest leadership lessons with absolutely everything at stake. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin learned this reality firsthand on the most violent and dangerous battlefields in Iraqi. As leaders of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, their mission was one many thought impossible: help US forces secure Ramada, a violent, insurgent-held city deemed “all but lost.“ In gripping, firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories, they learned that leadership – at every level – is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.”

Front panel of the hardback Extreme Ownership

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This is a comprehensive textbook on Leadership 101. Admittedly, the rehash of their battle scenes are scary. This is a world so far apart from anything I have ever experienced. We do owe all our veterans a massive depth of gratitude to face such dangers to defend our freedoms and way of life. (As an inexperienced teacher, the worst fear I ever had to face was a homeroom of 99 excitable and talkative Freshman girls in my first year as the high school choral director.)

When possible, I try to share the Contents (chapter titles) of my book recommendations, giving you a broad glimpse of the outline of their publication:

  1. Extreme Ownership
  2. US Navy SEAL Team Three [ST3][Patch][1.5]No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders
  3. Believe
  4. Check the Ego
  5. Cover and Move
  6. Simple
  7. Prioritize and Execute
  8. Decentralized Command
  9. Plan
  10. Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command
  11. Decisiveness Amid Uncertainty
  12. Discipline Equals Freedom – the Dichotomy of Leadership

From these sections, we can explore these fundamental building-blocks and mindsets necessary to lead and win.

Part I: Winning the War Within (Chapters 1-4)

  • Leaders must own everything in the world. There is no one else to blame.
  • A leader must be a true believer in the mission.
  • Even more important then “the how” and “the what” is “the why” of any plan. Not knowing the rationale of a decision or goal is a recipe for failure. It is a leader’s job to understand the mission and communicate it to his/her team members.*
  • During situations lacking clarity, leaders ask questions.
  • Leaders temper overconfidence by instilling culture within the team to never be satisfied and to push themselves harder to continuously improve performance.
  • Leaders know that over-inflated egos cloud judgment and disrupt everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to except constructive criticism.

* Who said “great minds think alike?” (Answer: Carl Theodor von Unlanski.) The concept of “the why” is also described in great detail in the aforementioned TedTalk by Simon Sinek.

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Part II: Laws of Combat (Chapters 5-8)

  • Elements within the “greater team” are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose.
  • In life, there are inherent complexities. It is critical to keep plans and communication simple. Complex goals and plans add to confusion which can compound into disaster.
  • Competent leaders can utilize their own version of the SEAL’s prioritize and execute. It is simple as, “relax, look around, and make a call.” Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. Don’t try to do everything at once or you won’t be successful.
  • Leaders delegate responsibility, trust and empower junior leaders to make decisions on their own as they become proactive to achieve the overall goal or task.

Part III: Sustaining Victory (Chapters 9-12)

  • Effective planning begins with an analysis of the mission’s purpose, definition of the goals, and communication of clear directives for the team.
  • Effective leaders keep the planning focused, simple, and understandable to all of the team members and stakeholders.
  • Leadership doesn’t just go down the chain of command, but up as well. Communication to your supervisors is also key.
  • Leaders must be decisive, comfortable under pressure, and act on logic, not emotion.
  • In challenging situations, there is no 100% right solution, and the picture is never complete.
  • Leaders have self-control and “intrinsic self-discipline,” a matter of personal will. They “make time” by getting up early.
  • Self-discipline makes you more flexible, adaptable, and efficient, and allows leaders and team members alike to be creative.
  • A leader must lead, but also be ready to follow.

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A Leadership Recap for Music Teachers

I am probably not doing justice to these incredible resources. They offer an exhaustive body of knowledge and examples on leadership ideology as well as a dazzling array of practical advice on what habits/skills are essential to become an effective leader. You need to sit back and devour these books one-by-one, apply their relevance to your situation, and come to your own conclusions about prioritizing the needs for your own personal leadership development.

To sum up a few of the theories from all this literature, we could revisit page 277 in Extreme Ownership and quote “The Dichotomy of Leadership” by Jocko Willnick.

“A good leader must be:

  • confident but not cocky;
  • courageous but not foolhardy;
  • competitive but a gracious loser;
  • attentive to details but not obsessed by them;
  • strong but have endurance;
  • a leader and follower;
  • humble not passive;
  • aggressive not overbearing;
  • quiet not silent;
  • calm but not robotic;
  • logical but not devoid of emotions;
  • close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team; not so close that they forget who is in charge;
  • able to execute Extreme Ownership while exercising Decentralized Command.”

“A good leader has nothing to prove but everything to prove!”

—  Extreme Ownership

Many years ago, my wife and I were fortunate to participate in almost all of those early PMEA Summer Conferences that were basically leadership training workshops. Initiated and inspired by our first guest clinician Michael Kumer (who was then “modeling leadership” first-hand as Dean of Music for Duquesne University), we were exposed to a rich curriculum of “the greats” on leadership, team building, time management, and professional development. If you have not consumed them yourself, a few of these resources from the first couple years should be added to your reading list:

  • 7 HabitsOne Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
  • First Things First and other sections from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People series by Stephen Covey
  • A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior to Be More Creative and A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger Von Oech

As a part of fulfilling “total ensemble experience” and to make the learning meaningful, I have always “taught” leadership to my students. The settings may have varied, whether it was as a part of the longstanding tradition of training marching band leaders, student conductors or principals’ who ran sectionals, our spring musical “leadership team” of directors, producers, and crew heads, elected high school choir officers, participants (grades 6-12) in a six-day string camp seminar, or even booster parents in a “chaperone orientation.” Many of my own often-repeated leadership quotes were passed down:

  • “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey
  • “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “The very essence of leadership is you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
  • “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen R. Covey

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Finally, to close this seemingly-endless essay, I would share one of my regular but more unique lessons: “leaders flush.” We advise our plebe leaders-in-training that when anyone on the team sees an opportunity to take care of something that’s not right, or someone who needs help, or a problem that can be resolved on their own, they should take it upon themselves to do what is necessary for the greater good. We cite the example that, if you visit a restroom and discover someone before you did not flush the toilet, you do what’s right. Leaders flush.

PKF

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

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Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com

Living Your Legacy

Teacher Retirees: Not to be morose, but have you undergone a little soul-searching and introspection into how you want to leave your mark on this world? Since you’ve departed from your full-time career, do you feel your past/current goals and pursuits will make a difference?

How will you be remembered once you’re gone?

If someone else was to “put me on the spot” and ask me this, my quick rejoinder would be, “Music and education are my life!”

How about you?

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Let’s start with a review of the broad definition from Merriam-Webster:

legacy

noun: 1. a gift by will especially of money or other personal property, 2. something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

adjective: of, relating to, associated with, or carried over from an earlier time, technology, business, etc.

synonyms: bequest, birthright, heritage, inheritance, patrimony

Legacy is [how] most people… want to be remembered, loved, and revered.

A legacy is not something that we have complete control over. After all, we cannot control how other people perceive us, we can only control our own actions.

So how can we leave the world with a legacy of our choosing?

What we must do is inspire through our own actions. If you go back through time and analyze the most influential legacies, you’ll see that they all inspired action through their own action. They didn’t just think about doing things, or tell others to do them; they went out and got things done on their own!

These legacies began while they were still alive, except I’m sure they weren’t thinking about them in those terms. Their ACCOMPLISHED GOALS became their legacy, which lives on today.

— Amy Clover in Strong Inside Out

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It may boil down to two thought-provoking inquiries posed in “What Will Be Your Legacy?” What do you want to leave for the world that will affect it when you are gone? AND How do you want to change the future?

Thanks to blogger Marelisa Fabrega, here’s more food for thought and self-examination:

  1. What do you want your life to stand for?
  2. How do you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
  3. What will those beyond your circle of family friends remember you for?
  4. What kind of impact do you want to have on your community?
  5. How will the world be a better place because you were in it?
  6. What contributions do you want to make to your field?
  7. Whose lives will you have touched?
  8. What lessons would you like to pass on to future generations?
  9. What do you want to leave behind?
  10. How can you serve?

 

Dead Poets Society-bardfilm.blogspot.com

In her article “How to Leave a Lasting Legacy,” Fabrega also shares several activities for the creation of a personal legacy, everything from the Stephen Covey exercise on writing your own obituary or designing the words you want etched on your tombstone to adding your own “meaning of life” verse to the Walt Whitman poem Oh Me Oh Life as English teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams) taught in the film Dead Poets Society.

Your legacy is putting your stamp on the future. It’s a way to make some meaning of your existence: “Yes, world of the future, I was here. Here’s my contribution, here’s why I hope my life mattered.”

— Bart Astor in Forbes

 

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Getting Your Affairs in Order

A legacy is more than a large donation to your favorite church, foundation, or charity. Of course, this process should begin with self-reflection, advance planning, hiring an attorney, and making your financial intentions and final instructions clear in writing.

Do you have a legal will, ethical will, living trust, Power of Attorney, and advance directive? Have you updated your important documents to take care of the needs of your family? Have you notified your spouse, adult children, and other relatives where they can find these legal papers, passwords, and other digital files? If not, please review my blog “Estate Planning.”

But, legacy is so much more, including strategies for passing on your values and goals after you are no longer here!

Ethical Wills.png13 years ago, I first learned about an ancient tradition for passing on personal values, beliefs, blessings, and advice to future generations called an “ethical will.” At a subconscious level, I must remember the custom, because when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1990, I asked him to write a letter about the things that he valued. About a month before he died, my dad gave me two hand-written pages in which he spoke about the importance of being honest, getting a good education, helping people in need, and always remaining loyal to family. That letter – his ethical will – meant more to me than any material possession he could have bequeathed.

— Barry K. Baines in Ethical Wills

As we have also noted in a previous blog-post, you should reflect on what you would say to those nearest and dearest to you if you couldn’t (or didn’t) tell them in person. Consider writing individual letters to your partner, children, or other family members “as a way of leaving a few last words.” Check out Frish Brandt’s “Last[ing] Letters.”

 

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Your Contributions “In Memoriam”

The idea of leaving a legacy is the need or the desire to be remembered for what you have contributed to the world. In some cases, that contribution can be so special that the universe is unalterably changed. However, for most of us mere mortals walking this earth, we will leave a more modest legacy that doesn’t necessarily change the world but does leave a lasting footprint that will be remembered by those whose lives you touched.

You hope your life matters in some way. I know I do. I’ve been teaching since the age of 22 and teaching is my legacy, my contribution that hopefully enlightened the lives of my students whether they became actors, scientists, doctors, mothers or yogis. My teaching is a gift that keeps on giving because it leads me to other learning and knowing experiences that I share with others.

— Joan Moran in HUFFPOST

(I bolded “teaching is my legacy” in the above quote because I hope that will be considered as my own preeminent legacy.)

To borrow from the inspiration and expertise of others, I found this insightful and stimulating self-help article offering “Five Ways to Leave a Great Legacy” by Joan Moran.

Moran describes in detail these tips:

  1. ornament-1899065_1920_2_xsonicchaosSupport the people and causes that are important to you.
  2. Reflect and decide what is most important to you in your life.
  3. Share your blessings with others.
  4. Be a mentor to others.
  5. Pursue your passions because they are infectious.

She sums it up succinctly: “Leaving a legacy is an important part of your life’s work. A legacy develops from a life dedicated to self-reflection and purpose. What will be revealed and what will endure is a truthful and value driven body of living.”

The straightforward way to live a life of significance is simply to share your three t’s: time, talent, and treasure. Our lives are meant to give away – to significant causes, to loving families, to friends in need, to lasting relationships. Find a way that your gifts can serve others. Your time, energy, and money are precious resources – they are limited, and you are the sole owner. If you spend them in one area you can’t spend them in another. When we say “yes” to one thing, by default we saying “no” to something else. The key to winning is to say “yes” to the significant things in your life.

— Lee Colan in Inc.

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Giving Back… Getting Personal

eleemosynary

adjective: of, relating to, or supported by charity

synonyms: altruistic, beneficent, benevolent, charitable, do-good, good, humanitarian, philanthropic

Fancy SAT vocabulary term! No, we do not need a visit from Charles Dickens’ three ghosts to learn altruism! Everyone should want to be remembered as eleemosynary or generous souls! Especially during my retirement years (2013 to the present), I want to model volunteerism:

  • Fox_Paul_SHJODirecting the South Hills Junior Orchestra (non-salaried sharing of my teaching)
  • Serving as a volunteer escort for the St. Clair Memorial Hospital (three days/week)
  • Promoting communications and marketing strategies of the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair
  • Supporting the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association in various projects including teacher training, recruitment, retention, and retirement prep.
  • Writing articles and presenting workshops/webinars that help other teachers

These wishes will need to be updated from time to time, just like revising mission/vision statements, goals and objectives.

In addition, future monetary bequeaths from “what’s left” of our remaining assets will serve as “random acts of kindness from the grave” in support our current values, funding hereafter projects and pursuits (subscribing Moran’s tips #1-3 above) that matter to us.

How to Make an Educator Smile

My wife and I never had kids, so admittedly we live vicariously when we “bump into” our former students and revel in their major life-passages and accomplishments. It warms a retired music teacher’s heart to “catch-up” with a combined 53+-year history of past pupils from our music classes, choirs, bands, orchestras, and musical/play productions, and learn that they are happy, healthy, prosperous, and thriving. It gives us a special thrill to hear they are still “making music” and/or passing on their love of the arts to their own kids. That is indeed part of every teacher’s wish for a lasting legacy.

During our retirement, we continue to attend many concerts, recitals, weddings, receptions, Eagle Scout ceremonies, etc. of our former “charges.” We feel blessed to be invited to participate in these special occasions to share in their joy, love, and success.

In some small way, we fervently hope our efforts to bring creative self-expression and the appreciation of the arts have made a difference to our students’ lives and their development into caring, responsible, and “artistic” adults.

In Conclusion: The Fox Vision and Values — “These Things I Believe”

  1. Equal-access to high quality and meaningful music education programs is an essential part to the intellectual, emotional, and artistic development of all children.
  2. The primary goal of an education in the arts is to nurture creative self-expression.
  3. Regardless of talent or privilege, every individual on earth can find inspiration and success in some form of music or the arts.
  4. Our life purpose involves relationships. It is more about people than about things.
  5. We were put on this planet to understand and help others, to foster more than a mere tolerance for diverse individuals and perspectives, rather to emphasize the values and practices of acceptance, respect, empathy, and collaboration.
  6. Our primary goal is to empower volunteerism, to make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate or experienced, and to give freely of our time, talents, passions, and resources.

PKF

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com

 

Photo of Robin Williams portraying John Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society was by bardfilm.blogspot.com

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

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?

 

hate-1216881_1280_cabrasjoan

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