Retirees: It’s Not YOUR Sandbox!

It's Not Your Sandbox!

It is time that this saying should be made into a bumper sticker, added to a t-shirt design, or automatically displayed on the home page (or screen-saver) of all retired music teachers’ smartphones, tablets, and computers.

I first mentioned this notion as “surrendering your urge to be an agent of change” in a previous blog, entitled “Retiree Concepts.”

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As observed in many unhappy incidents involving fellow retirees, this deserves a repeat mention here with much greater emphasis.

[Teachers] consistently seek ways to reform “the system,” much like efficiency experts. In other words, ‘break it if it needs fixed,’ or seek new practices or approaches to solve problems or improve the student learning. This means we seldom accept the status quo or “that’s the way it’s always have been done.”

I found that in my volunteer work, when I come up to a challenge like a policy that isn’t working, I look for better ways of doing it. Teachers always self-assess and seek changes for “the good of the order,” but these “systems” are not our classrooms. Educators were expected to “modify and adjust,” revise our lesson targets, rip down old bulletin boards and put up new with more exciting media, re-write curriculum, etc., always with the mission to “build a better mouse trap” for the more efficient delivery of instruction to all.

In retirement, this can be frustrating. You can’t tell somebody else how to run their operation. Some people do not want to hear criticism, nor do they care what your opinion is, nor do they want to change their traditions or fine-tuned (?) step-by-step procedures. You on the other hand want things to improve, e.g. better training, more consistent application of the rules, etc., and therefore you feel “unrequited” stress.

Throughout my whole “professional life,” I never looked the other way. I try to fix things. But that’s not everybody’s inclination, and the world is not going to come to end if someone doesn’t take your advice. As retirees, remove the unnecessary hassle. You have two choices. Resign from the activity, or step back from being its self-appointed critic, accept the situation, and let everyone go back to playing their own way in their sandbox. — Paul Fox in “Retiree Concepts”

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My own personal hands-on experience with this has to do with volunteering to push wheelchairs at a local hospital. Taking it very seriously, I was thoroughly trained on all aspects of the transport of patients, including the mandated safety rules for locking both wheels on the wheelchair, going down backwards on ramps and into elevators, and the avoidance of hazards like discharging someone to their car “over a curb” or other obstacles. We knew the hospital policies for contact precautions (isolation), carrying oxygen tanks, and moving overweight patients.

But, almost daily, we watch other medical personnel pushing wheelchairs failing to adhere to these “basics” – resulting in safety infractions too numerous to count!

Yep, it’s not our sandbox!

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Retiring professionals have to learn to de-stress and take ourselves “out of the loop” for every organizational decision, training program, and generation/enforcement of an practices, policies, and regulations of an institution. The reason we retired in the first place was to enjoy the privilege of leaving all of this behind.

As teachers, we embraced “moral professionalism.” That meant, according to E.A. Wynne in “The Moral Dimension of Teaching (Teaching: Theory into Practice, 1995), we were charged with the responsibility to “follow to the letter” school policies and procedures, and if we saw somebody who wasn’t compliant or “on board,” we were supposed to instruct or intervene. (As “fiduciaries” looking out for the students’ best interests and welfare, we were required by law to report serious misconducts.)

Wynne also confirmed that, when a rule was simply not working, we were also obligated to firmly but tactfully suggest a better way of do something.

Past tense! Now that we’re retired, we no longer need to solve these kinds of problems – they belong to the head-honchos. The people who have the privilege (or curse) of “running the show” may not appreciate hearing from us. What was that saying by Robert Heinlein? “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

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More importantly, stressing over someone else’s poorly run “sandbox” will cause you to waste energy, become irritated and short tempered, lower your mood, raise your blood pressure, withdraw from socialization and the things you like doing, or begin to hate with whom you are interacting. No, it’s not worth trying to teach that pig to sing!

Finally, here’s a little more sage advice from “the experts” on stress and retirement. Please pardon any of their references to the term “senior.” GOOD LUCK!

PKF

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “sandbox” by RAMillu, “children” by qimono, “doctor” by geralt, “children” by Ben_Kerckx, “young” by vinsky2002, and “wooden-train-toys-train-first-class” by Couleur.

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Summertime Prep for Music Ed Majors

Collegiates: You snooze, you lose!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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2. The tools of the trade – CONFERENCES!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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3a. A winning website

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

 

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

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

 

Amplify

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

 

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4. “Filling in the gaps”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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5. The ABC’s of professional ethics

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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7. Teacher interviews – “practice makes perfect”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a “calling.” Using your summer “free time” is all about “professional engagement.” One of my superintendents said he expected prospective new music teacher recruits to show high energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and dedication during the interview… even a supposed willingness to “lay down in front of a school bus” or “do whatever it takes” to make the students (and the educational program) successful. Regardless of the hyperbole, that’s engagement!

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

PKF

 

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© 2018 Paul K. Fox

 

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

Transitioning from Collegiate to Professional – Part III

The Final Leap from Pre-Service to In-Service:

The Metamorphosis and Integration of Philosophy, Maturity, and Teacher Preparation

trumpet-1495108_1920_congerdesignTo “wrap-up” our final segment, we will review the development of a professional “marketing plan.” This is blog #3 out of 3. (Be sure to also check out #1 and #2, too.)

These are three critical skills you need to foster in the search for a school music position, marketing yourself, interviewing, and landing a “good” job:

  • Personal branding (who are you, what makes you unique, and what do you have to offer?)
  • Story telling (anecdotes) of your positive attributes and personal brand, including a record of your habits of “engagement” in music education, and
  • Networking (associating with other professionals and getting your positive stories “out there”).

 

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branding

Personal Branding

“Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging… Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.”

– Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_branding

What is the difference between marketing and branding? According to some, “marketing is what you do, branding is what you are.” (www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/)

phone-2840244_1920_RobinWiggins13Shama Hyder posted “7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand” at http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/, including the following outlined summary:

  1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand
  2. Audit your online presence
  3. Secure a personal website
  4. Find ways to produce value
  5. Be purposeful in what you share
  6. Associate with other strong brands
  7. Reinvent

During these waning months for college music education seniors, now is the time to finalize the preparations for personal branding and beginning the employment search! Personal branding is critical to help you “stand above the rest,” showing that you have what it takes and would be a major asset to a prospective employer, and defining and marketing your own unique qualities that would make you “a good fit” for the specific job openings.

Steps to Personal BrandingThe branding process involves first developing your philosophy of music education, archiving your awards and accomplishments, documenting your grades and ok-3061659_1920_RobinHiggins12experiences, and collecting stories/personal anecdotes of your strengths. The next steps include the creation of a written and electronic portfolio, business card, resume, and website. Finally, you must compile/assemble everything together and practice (and self-assess) your “story-telling skills” to answer those important questions at well-rehearsed “mock interviews.”

You will likely not have enough time to complete all of these tasks during methods classes or student teaching seminars. That’s okay. If you are serious about prepping yourself to find a great music teaching job, the valuable links (see below) and articles are out there… just manage your time and start reading.

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networking

Networking

According to the article “Network Your Way to Secure a Teaching Job” at https://resumes-for-teachers.com/job-search-help/teacher-network/, many people are unaware of the basics of networking and how to use them it to their advantage in securing a job:

“Networking simply refers to finding job-related contacts. Most teachers who are just beginning their careers may feel that they have few, if any, networking contacts in the teaching field. It is important to consider the many different areas of networking as you create your own group of networking contacts to help you secure a teaching job. It is interesting to note that many of the teaching positions that are filled each year are filled by those who came to the attention of personnel managers by recommendation.”

“Always think about adding to your teaching network. When meeting new people, be certain to add them to your network. Talk to them about your skills, education, experience, and learn about their jobs. Make sure that you always ask for a business card.”

Do you have a business card? Is your résumé updated and available online on your professional website?

young-3061653_1920As I laid out in a previous blog “Networking Niceties: The ‘How-To Schmooze’ Guide for Prospective Music Teachers” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/, the concept of networking is two-way communications. Just like collective sets of nerve synapses, two-way connections are expected to fire repeatedly in all directions. That’s actually the science behind memory. For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school HR managers and secretaries, administrators, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and YOU – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits.

pcmeaThe above blog-post also explores setting up a good organizational system to manage your professional contacts.

If you are a Pennsylvania collegiate member (PCMEA), I heartily recommend the article “Networking 101” by Dr. Kathleen Melago, PCMEA State Advisor and Associate Professor of Music Education at Slippery Rock University, published in the Summer 2017 issue of the state journal PMEA News (pages 40-42). Here are several quotes from her work:

“One of the most common ways music educators can plan to network is at conventions. First, try to avoid interacting only with people from your school or people you already know from other schools. Go to sessions that interest you and look for opportunities to meet people there. Before the session starts, introduce yourself to people sitting around you. Use your social skills to assess whether they seem like they want to engage in a conversation or not. After the session, go up and meet the presenter.”

“Of course, social media is another great way to build your network. Networking with professionals already in the field can help you see what they are doing and help you build ideas of what you would like to do in your program someday.”

“Sometimes, you might find yourself networking unexpectedly. For example, you might go into school to work with their clarinet section during band camp and just happened to meet the choir teacher. That is networking!”

“To help your networking be most effective you need to have good communication skills. When interacting with others in a networking situation, be sure to focus on the person with whom you are speaking. Avoid looking off into the distance as if you were to anticipating someone else more important coming by. But your cell phone away and be present to the conversation.”

“Be yourself in your networking interactions. If you pretend that you are someone you are not, you will either end up unhappy or you’ll be discovered is someone who is not genuine.”

Dr. Melago goes on to provide a myriad of excellent examples of networking skills and opportunities.

Another resource specifically for networking at music teachers conferences is posted at https://nafme.org/getting-music-conferences/.

 

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engagement

Engagement

Here is an excellent definition of “professional engagement” from “Domains of Teaching” of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership at https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/understand-the-teacher-standards/domains-of-teaching.

Teachers model effective learning. They identify their own learning needs and analyze, evaluate and expand their professional learning, both collegially and individually.

Teachers demonstrate respect and professionalism in all their interactions with students, colleagues, parents/carers and the community. They are sensitive to the needs of parents/carers and can communicate effectively with them about their children’s learning.

Teachers value opportunities to engage with their school communities within and beyond the classroom to enrich the educational context for students. They understand the links between school, home and community in the social and intellectual development of their students.

Engagement for prospective music teacher may include synonyms like “participate,” “enroll,” “join,” “be active,” “volunteer,” “seek experience,” and “make a difference!”

Are you a member of your professional music education associations?

  • NAfME National Association for Music Education
  • PCMEA Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association, or another state’s local NAfME collegiate chapter
  • pmeaPMEA Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, or another state’s NAfME-affiliated MEA
  • ACDA American Choral Directors Association
  • ASTA American String Teachers Association
  • NBA National Band Association

Did (or will) you attend your state music teachers’ conference and local workshops on music education and professional development?

To prove you are “professionally engaged,” I would expect to see a consistent record of modeling in the following areas:

  1. excited-3126449_1920_RobinHiggins9Self-reflection of the professional’s teaching practices and modification of these as needed to match changes in the environment and circumstances
  2. Self-assessment of the professional’s methods and approaches, as well as the progress of the students’ learning, using both formative and summative methods for constant and ongoing improvement
  3. Identification and planning of professional learning needs.
  4. Unsupervised (or unplanned by school administration) goal-setting and self-guided implementation of opportunities for professional development
  5. Association with professional learning communities, school and community meetings, and other collaborative projects
  6. Volunteer service in music and music education
  7. Membership and subscription to music education journals and participation in online professional community discussion groups

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a calling. One school superintendent I know said he expected prospective new recruits to show high energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and dedication during the interview… even a supposed willingness to “lay down in front of a school bus” or “do what ever it takes” to make the students (and the educational program) successful. That’s engagement!

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In summary, becoming a music educator is about finding your inner confidence, a mindset that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re ready for that real world experience. You’ve learned those essential skills in conducting, piano accompaniment, arranging, student behavior modification and discipline, music diagnosis and remediation, and even how to market your professionalism. Now… drum roll, please! Here’s… a master music teacher!

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In closing, here are supplementary materials to help you to “get your feet wet,” all free and available online. The following lists, although not comprehensive, are a good place to start (courtesy of https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Collegiate-Communique-No11-022218-2.pdf):

Good luck!

 

Personal Branding, Marketing, and Networking

Business Cards

Résumés

Portfolios and Websites

Interview Questions, Techniques, and Skills of “Story-Telling”

 

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “tutor” by nrjfalcon1, “trumpet” by congerdesign, “skills” by diwou, “phone” by Robin-Higgins, “OK” by Robin-Higgins, “feedback” by geralt, “young” by Robin-Higgins, “music” by ricardo-vasquez, “excited” by Robin-Higgins, and “classical-music” by pexels.

How Retirement Has Changed Me… Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

 

WordPress

Writing, Collaborating, and Becoming a Better Techie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Non-Technological Developments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Philosophy of Post-Employment Professional Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

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

Post-Employment Prep – New Places to Go

Follow the Wonderful “Gold Brick Road” to More Retirement Resources

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This blog-site will continuously explore new/better research on and suggestions for a happy, healthy, and meaningful transition to retirement. This month, it seems we hit the mother-lobe of recent discoveries for this journey… four more for the road! (To catch-up reading all the blogs for retirees, click on the category link “Retirement Resources” at the right.)

Jean Potuchek

Probably one of the most insightful and expansive treasures of online articles on retirement is Stepping Into the Future – A Retirement Journal by Jean Potuchek, who defines herself as “a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching.” She succinctly states her purpose: “This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.”

enjoying-retirement-1358850-1Take a deep breath, find an easy chair, ignore your cell phone’s texts/calls, and plunge into her full website: https://stepintofuture.wordpress.com/category/retirement-transition/. Or, if you prefer, set aside 30 minutes and read a few of her individual posts (below). I have just begun to “crack this nut” – her blog-site is more extensive than anything else I have found!

choir-1438273As a music educator, this last title peaked my interest. We urge every retiree to revisit their creativity roots and seek renewed opportunities to enjoy music as a lifelong pursuit. (We have already posted reprints of several of my articles on this subject from PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, including Sing Your Heart Out, Now and in Retirement and It’s Time to “Dust off Your Chops” (join a community band/orchestra).

Potuchek relates her rationale for a quest in more spontaneity in her retired life and participating in a “creative aging singing workshop” sponsored by the Portland Public Library:

I am never going to be a totally spontaneous free spirit; it’s just not in my character. I like structure, and I don’t see myself giving up scheduling as a way to structure my days and weeks. But as I get weekly practice in spontaneity, I am learning to loosen up and be more flexible with my schedules. My first spontaneous jump into a new activity has brought the joys of choral singing back into my life, introduced me to some new friends, and helped me to recover long-forgotten skills (like reading music). Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? For this old dog, retirement is proving to be a time of growth and learning. – Jean Potuchek

Top 55 Retirement Planning Websites

the-end-of-the-road-1207268-1Generally, I am not much in favor of perusing commercial websites on planning for retirement, especially those by investment counselors, but Ernie Zelinski (author of bestsellers like How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free) sent me this link: http://goldretiree.com/retirement-planning. Zelinski’s own “Retirement Cafe” (http://www.retirement-cafe.com/) is the second website listed, and seems to archive the foundations of much of his subsequent writings. Here is his “10 Dumbest Retirement Moves.”

  1. Purchasing a larger home than you need or than you can afford
  2. Watching a lot of TV — more than an hour and a half a day is excessive!
  3. Gambling
  4. Spending a lot of time shopping
  5. Complaining about life
  6. Being afraid to spend the kid’s inheritance
  7. Being a miser with your money
  8. Planning to work forever — something NOT advocated in The World’s Best Retirement Book.
  9. Neglecting your health by not indulging in vigorous physical exercise every day
  10. Not making new friendships and neglecting old friends

If you are concerned about your personal finances, investment, life styles, travel, or other issues in planning for your “golden years,” goldretiree.com may be valuable. Besides Zelinski’s site, I was taken with the following writers:

aarpThe final entry at goldretiree.com, AARP is worth mentioning here (http://www.aarp.org/). I was one of those 40-something spouses who automatically became a member when his wife turned 50 and she joined; I was neither ready nor expecting it. However, the AARP magazine and online materials are excellent, and span topics about travel, health care and coping with aging, finance, dining and cooking, etc. plus special discounts and benefits.

If you like, the entire listing of retirement websites is provided at this link: GoldRetiree.com

Stephen Price

In my last blog-post on retirement, “Three Exit Lanes to Retirement Self-Helhowtosurviveretirement_pricep Guides,” I briefly mentioned Stephen Price’s book “How to Survive Retirement: Reinventing Yourself for the Life You’ve Always Wanted.” No one resource has everything… but this book comes closest to covering the greatest variety of subjects, exploring such possibly mundane (?) topics of financial planning, making your home elder-friendly, and social security information, to riding the up-and-down emotions of “change” and retirement. The book’s table of contents is eclectic:

  1. Entering Retirement
  2. Discovering the New You
  3. The New Realities of Money
  4. Making a Move: Post-Retirement Relocating
  5. Do Unto Others: Opportunities to Volunteer
  6. Travel
  7. Encore Employment, or Returning to Work
  8. Planning for a Healthy Retirement

Volunteer Gardener

Of special merit, Price shares 14 pages of ideas on volunteering, with a gang of valuable websites on which to follow-up… everything from animal shelters, museums, zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups to business mentoring, foster grand-parenting, senior companions, and child advocates.

The last full chapter, written by Laurence Burd, MD, starts with a quote by the late PA Senator Arlen Specter: “There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset,” and dives into the effects of aging and how to maintain good health throughout “our maturing years” (or second childhood?).  I have never seen a manual for retirees that goes into such detail on these issues:

  • Decline of Organ Performance and Function
  • Wrinkles and Dry Skin
  • Gray Hair
  • Balding
  • Hearing Loss
  • Decreased Vision
  • Dental Problems
  • Skeletal System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)medicine-1419753
  • Swelling of Ankles and Feet
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Urination Irregularities
  • Decreased Sex Drive
  • Memory Loss
  • Help, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and Anxiety

This is definitely a book worth buying, reading, and keeping!

Although a life of ease may have been your dream, retirement brings with it a host of questions, problems, and responsibilities that never occurred to you and may now seem insurmountable. How to Survive Retirement will help you plan for most any eventuality during the golden years. – Steven Price/back cover

Finally… The Ultimate Resource Guide/Bibliography

I tried to revise, assemble, and share in one place all of the retirement resources I have found. Click on this link to download the ultimate retiree resource guide 072216. You do not have to be a former music educator to use this reference list to gain a perspective on research and assistance to preparing and managing the life-changing adventure of retirement.

This document is my present to you. It cannot get much more comprehensive or convenient to find/use this collection of “sound advice” from advisors who themselves have successfully found happiness, good health, and real purpose in retirement life.

pmeaUpdates to my presentation “Surviving and Reveling in Retirement” for the PMEA Summer 2016 Conference are posted on the PMEA retired members website:  http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/. If you are music teacher retiree and taught or live in the state of Pennsylvania, we recommend joining PMEA to enjoy the numerous benefits of networking with fellow colleagues, reading publications, supporting music advocacy efforts, realizing ongoing professional and leadership development, and other programs. One advantage of being “senior citizens” is that our dues and conference registration fees are significantly reduced! For more information, please go to the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/.

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PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox