Transitioning from Collegiate to Professional – Part II

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

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

This segment, Part 2 of the series, and will continue with an examination of ongoing music teacher preparation (much of it “direct instruction”) and mentoring programs.



Moving from “Book Learning” to “Practical Application”

It is a challenge to squeeze everything necessary into a college curriculum for music education certification: mastery of your major instrument/voice, music theory, music history, sight-singing/ear-training, conducting, piano proficiency, instrumental and vocal methods, etc. The school from which I matriculated (Carnegie-Mellon University) had a five-year-plus program guiding me towards the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music and Masters of Fine Arts in Music Education. Even with the extra year of classes, time over the summers, and practical “on-the-job training,” many things were overlooked.

NOW IS THE TIME to fill in these gaps!

First off, how well do you know common educational jargon? Prior to your interviews, it would be good to review the terms (and even abbreviations) in frequent use. My music education methods courses never got around to detailed definitions and applications of…

  • woman-3061656_1920_RobinHigginsThe Common Core
  • Whole Child Initiatives
  • 21st Century Learning Skills
  • Flipped Classrooms and Blended Schools
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Depth of Knowledge (DOK) and/or Higher Order of Thinking Skills (HOTS)
  • Customization, Differentiation, and Individualization
  • Formative, Summative, Diagnostic, and Authentic Assessments

Just for fun (a crossword puzzle), how many of these acronyms can you identify?

One of the tasks in “year one” of my first position was to write a course of study for junior high school music appreciation. I had received no training in writing curriculum. The “hurry-up” self-tutoring was stressful, and occupied many long nights and weekends. However, by December, I had satisfied my principal’s instructions and then began preparation to teach that course over winter recess for the coming second semester.

Since then, I have written dozens of course curriculum. Most of them required familiarity with the national and state standards in music, and a backwards-design approach introduced by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (UbD) in the planning of curriculum “maps,” setting goals before choosing instructional methods and forms of assessment, and formulating essential questions (EQ), enduring understandings (EU), etc. (See:

Bottom line: Start now and assume the role and responsibilities of a professional music educator. Begin researching (even practicing) writing lesson targets, lesson plans, and even curriculum. Seek resources like the PMEA Model Curriculum Framework:

Other areas on which you may need to “catch-up” are:

  • microphone-1804148_1920_klimkinBehavior management, disciplinary procedures (especially preventive practices) and posting class or ensemble rules
  • Valid assessments, scoring/rubrics, and use of the school’s grading system
  • Provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other confidentiality policies
  • Individual education plans (IEP) and accommodating students with disabilities
  • Management of a proverbial “sea of paper” required of all music educators: purchase and repair requisitions, absences reports, student attendance records, conference requests, induction/in-service program assignments, etc.
  • Public relations and communications with parents and the community

It would not hurt to purchase and read cover-to-cover at least one book like The Everything New Teacher Book by Melissa Kelly (Adams Media, 2004) or The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide: Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools and Activities for Meeting the Challenges of Each School Day by Julia G. Thompson (John Wiley & Sons, 2013).

In addition, take advantage of the outstanding free resources on the NAfME “Music in a Minuet” blog-site, like the following articles:


Artist vs. Teacher

The transition from a collegiate musician and pre-service educator to becoming an in-service “master teacher” involves the balance of two distinct skill sets: depth of knowledge vs. methodology. Both are absolutely essential!

In the first several years of classes like music theory, solfeggio, eurhythmics, and lessons on your major instrument or voice, most college programs focus on developing your own deep understanding and musicianship.

No one should become a music teacher who has not previously achieved a near-virtuoso level of playing/singing on their own part. The profession demands a high degree of technical mastery and artistry… which you will need when you stand in front of a school choir, band, or orchestra to prepare repertoire rated above a level 3 or 4.

excited-3126449_1920_RobinHiggins9However, in the methods classes that come later (perhaps in the second through fourth year?), the basics of “how-to teach” will come. Of course, as you sit in a class teaching you to “cross the break” on a clarinet or play a scale on the flute with good tone, you must also absorb (and remember) the finite steps required in the lesson to pass on this knowledge and skill, not just honk or squeak a few times to master the proficiency exam for yourself.

In addition, your studio teacher may also help you to grasp additional pedagogical concepts of these abstract but important foundations:

  • Application of brain theory to “making connections” in planning lessons
  • Assessment of student needs and diagnosis of problems and solutions to learning
  • “Scaffolding of learning” techniques (interrelated “building blocks” of curriculum)
  • Creation of stories and analogies to introduce specific learning objectives such as the principles of breathing, embouchure, pitch, steady beat and rhythm, bowing or moving with a natural and efficient follow-through, etc.
  • Team building and collaborative learning
  • Leadership and the cornerstone of trust

One of the best courses I took at Carnegie-Mellon University was “repertoire class,” offered for no credit and no grade, but required by my string professor. We sat in a circle Monday afternoon for two hours and played solo selections assigned by our studio teacher, after which one-by-one we commented on each other’s performance. We learned the art of listening, prioritizing areas for improvement, and how to give constructive criticism and positive remediation without “crushing” the feelings of the player… probably among the most valuable lessons I later carried with me to my job as full-time string teacher in grades 5-12.

boy-273279_1920_SilberfuchsYou will be required to seek additional research, study, and at times “re-tool” outside what was presented in your methods courses. Some of these new “best practices” will be presented by the induction or in-service training of your school district. When I was hired by the Upper St. Clair School District, a big three+ year professional development program was the Madeline Hunter Model of Mastery Learning. Grudgingly (at first I did not see the purpose), I came to realize that labeling and defining the “eight steps of effective lesson plan design” improved my overall skills as an educator, especially in many of her strategies of “anticipatory set,” “modeling,” “checking for understanding,” and “guided practice…” none of which were ever mentioned even briefly in my five-and-a-half years in college. (For more info, read

Finally, I have said this before in past blogs: “You may be the best musician this side of the Mississippi, someone who has perfect pitch, can conduct Orff’s Carmina Burana or Shostakovich‘s Festive Overture blindfolded, play an extremely fast and even paradiddle on the snare drum, and sing a high “A” with perfect intonation and tone, but if you cannot inspire students, work with coworkers, and communicate effectively with the parents, your chances for success in the public schools is doomed from the start.


Generalist vs. Specialist

Whenever presenting at college chapters of NAfME or music education methods classes, I always try to ask the students several things on a one-on-one basis:

  • What is your focus or main subject area?
  • What would be your ideal job?
  • Do you see yourself as a band maestro… choral director… string teacher… jazzer… general music instructor… or early-childhood specialist?

thinking-3079060_1920_RobinHiggins11Of course, these are “trick questions.” The answer should be “I want to teach music,” or even better, “I want to teach children.” In most of the school districts across the country (with a few exceptions in the Midwest and places that accept teaching specialty certification by grade level or subject area), you are licensed to teach music in grades Pre-K to 12. At no point in any conversation with a potential administrator (or colleague who may become a member of the screening committee for a music opening) do you want to be “pigeon-holed,” or give the impression “I can only teach_____.”

It is important to “apply your skills” and become a well-rounded “generalist,” while embracing the concept of unity in education, which includes the following philosophy (shared at college seminars):

  • The needs of “The Whole Child” are a priority.
  • All course offerings are equal in importance.
  • Most school districts do not design and administer their curriculum solely on one approach like Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze, or Suzuki.
  • Avoid being labeled and “branded” to an exclusive subject area or grade level.
  • Multiple certifications and skills may be helpful to land a job (although later they may become liabilities if you never teach them).
  • Utilize your college resources now to “broaden your training” and lessen your insecurities.
  • Figure out your worse area – work on it now! (Get lessons, join ensembles, ask help from your peers, etc.)
  • Develop resources – people and programs to get and keep your job!

I ask, what would be your worse assignment?

  • Coach a primary student to match pitch or play a steady beat.
  • Teach beginning or advanced guitar.
  • Introduce jazz improvisation for the first time to middle school instrumentalists.
  • Start a string program.
  • Accompany the chorus (any grade level) and be able to play all the vocal parts in rehearsal (demonstrate altos and tenors only, soprano 2-alto 1-bass 1, etc.).
  • piano-2564908_1920StockSnapAccompany, direct/teach the drama, and choreograph the middle school musical.
  • Adjudicate and coach a high school instrumental ensemble.
  • Set-up a keyboard lab and instruct students in composition and A.P. Music Theory.
  • Arrange the music and chart the halftime show for the high school marching band.

If you think you are a “miserable” pianist, take a few extra lessons. Or conquer your other “fears” such as learning to sing better, playing a new string instrument, crossing the break once again on the clarinet, practicing jazz , etc.



Cultivating a Mentor or Two

board-784349_1920_geraltEgo and arrogance has no place in the teaching profession. Where did I hear this saying? “The more you think you know, the less you actually know.” Joining a mentoring program or finding a formal or informal veteran teacher “buddy” will go far to insuring your professional success and dodging those first-year teacher “pot holes” (dumb but common blunders) and “rookie blues.”

Your state MEA may have a mentoring program. Go to their website. A quick (non-comprehensive) Google scan of music teacher mentors fetched links for the following:

A well-defined description for the benefits of first-year teacher orientation and connection and assignment to a “senior advisor” comes from TMEA:

TMEA mentoring1

TMEA mentoring2



These blog-posts are also excellent resources:

r3_logoRetired music teachers are another excellent resource. For example, if you live or work in Pennsylvania, many post-employed PMEA members have placed their name and contact information on the Retiree Resource Registry to serve as willing, capable, and informal consultants for pre-service, novice, or other members recently transferred into a non-major specialty “outside their comfort zone.”

R3 documents the amazing record of contributions of some of the still most active albeit retired PMEA members while it allows needy members access to “expert advice” on a number of essential topics:


Although it is free, the advice and experience of these retirees may be considered “priceless.” In addition, retired music teachers may have more time available to confer in person or by phone, respond to your concerns more quickly, and have a few “quick fixes” or share their “bag of tricks” to solve the problems of “newbie teachers.” It’s all about, “been there, done that!”

All you have to do? Just ask for a little help! You won’t be sorry.


listen-2840235_1920_Robin_Higgins12Please feel free to comment on this blog-post. What are your thoughts?

The “finale” (Part 3) is coming soon and will devote discussion on these concepts, significant issues about marketing your abilities and getting a job as a music teacher:

  • Personal Branding
  • Networking
  • Engagement



© 2018 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order) from “tutor” by nrjfalcon1, “woman” by RobinHiggins, “microphone” by KimKin, “excited” by RobinHiggins, “boy” by Silverfuchs, “thinking” by RobinHiggins, “board” by geralt, “birds” by Dieter_G, and “listen” by RobinHiggins.



Transitioning from Collegiate to Professional – Part I

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

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

Are you ready to assume the role of a music teacher? Besides the completion of your coursework and field experiences, have you acquired the necessary attitude and personal skills? Do you “have what it takes” to become an ethical role-model, leader, and “fiduciary” responsible for the welfare and special needs of your students?

music-3090204_1920_brendageisseBefore long, you will shed the label and function of a “college student” (although still remaining a life-long learner… and never stop the quest for new knowledge and self-improvement!). The focus will shift from YOU to YOUR STUDENTS. The prerequisites for a career in education are unique and do not resemble the same challenges as success in business, manufacturing, retail, service industry, or becoming an entrepreneur, blue-collar worker, or even a composer or professional musician. The sooner you realize these are world’s apart, the better, and now is the time to finish your major and life-changing transformation to… a professional music educator.

This series for college music education majors will explore perspectives and definitions involving the evolution and (dare we say?) “modulation” to a productive and successful career in music teaching.




What does a “professional educator” look like? Do you belong as a member of this group?

  • Succeeded in and continues to embrace “higher education”
  • idea-3082824_1920Updates self with “constant education” and retooling
  • Seeks change and finding better ways of doing something
  • Like lawyers/doctors, “practices” the job; uses different techniques for different situations
  • Accepts criticism (tries to self-improve)
  • Proposes new and better things “for the good of the order”
  • Can seemingly work unlimited hours (24 hours a day, 7 days per week?)
  • Is salaried (does not think in terms of hourly compensation, nor expects pay for everything)
  • Is responsible for self and many others
  • Allows others to reap the benefits and receive credit for something he/she does
  • Has obligations for communications, attending meetings, and fulfilling deadlines
  • Values accountability, teamwork, compromise, group goals, vision, support, creativity, perseverance, honesty/integrity, fairness, and timeliness/promptness
  • Accepts and models a very high standard of behavior, etiquette, appearance, language, and ethics.

In addition to mastery of their subject matter, skills in collaboration, communication, critical thinking (problem solving), and creativity (also known as “the four C’s”), according to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, effective teachers regularly demonstrate these traits:

  • Accepting
  • Adult involvement
  • Attending
  • Consistency of message
  • Conviviality
  • woman-3061656_1920_RobinHigginsCooperation
  • Engagement of students
  • Knowledge of subject
  • Monitoring learning
  • Optimism
  • Pacing
  • Promoting self-sufficiency
  • Spontaneity
  • Structuring

However, effective teachers DO NOT score high on the negative attributes of abruptness, belittling, clock punching or counting hours, defiance, illogical views or statements, mood swings, oneness (treating the whole group as “one”), or self-recognition. Human resource personnel and administrators look for candidates who model (and can confirm their history of) the habits of the first group, with no evidence of the latter behaviors.

The bar is raised even further. In addition to holding oneself up to the highest standards of the education profession, teachers also exemplify “moral professionalism” in their daily work. As cited in the chapter “The Moral Dimension of Teaching” in Teaching: Theory Into Practice by E.A. Wynne, teachers must

  • Come to work regularly and on time;
  • Be well informed about their students and subject content-matter;
  • Plan and conduct classes with care;
  • Regularly review and update instructional practices;
  • Cooperate with, or if necessary, confronting parents of underachieving students;
  • Cooperate with colleagues and observe school policies so the whole institution works effectively;
  • Tactfully but firmly criticize unsatisfactory school policies and propose constructive improvement.





Have you viewed your state’s teacher expectations, code of ethics, and code of conduct? It may surprise you that a number of seasoned professionals have never seen these documents. You may be ahead of the game if educator ethics were even mentioned briefly in a methods class, as indoctrination to student teaching, or orientation within the induction program of your first job.

The “code” defines the interactions between the individual educator, students, schools, and other professionals, what you can and cannot do or say, and the explicit values of the education profession.

No excuses! Better go look this stuff up. If you reside in Pennsylvania and plan to become employed there, go immediately to If your state does not have a code of ethics or state-specific conduct standards, download and consume this excellent reference: The young-3061652_1920_RobinHiggins2National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification proposes these principles:

  • Responsibility to the Profession
  • Responsibility for Professional Competence
  • Responsibility to Students
  • Responsibility to the School Community
  • Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology

After reading all of this, what would be on proverbial “ethics test?” Well, can you answer questions like these?

  • How do ethics inform a teacher’s personal and professional actions?
  • What does it mean to be a “moral exemplar” or “role model” in the community?
  • What are the professional expectations for working with diverse populations of students, parents, and colleagues?
  • How should teachers handle social media and other electronic interactions with students?
  • Do you see yourself as a potential “friend” or “confident” of the music students in your classes?
  • Is it okay to accept personal gifts from students, their parents, or music vendors who do business with your school… or to give presents to students for no educational reasons?

For the last two questions, the response should be a resounding NO!


fiduciaryHere’s another query. What five groups of people are both “professionals” and “fiduciaries…” and have a legal responsibility to serve the best interests of their “clients?” The answer is… doctors/nurses, lawyers, counselors (both mental health and investment), the clergy, and… teachers.

singer-84874_1920_BEPAlthough teachers seem to be the only one of these who DO NOT have formal pre- or in-service ethics training, and our “charges” represent a “captive audience,” our duty is clear: to act as a fiduciary for our students’ best interest, and to create and maintain a safe environment for them at all times.

The keystone of “right or wrong” and what your mother always said was “behaving appropriately when no one is watching you” are all about professional ethical standards that guide decision-making. The work of Troy Hutchings (among other leaders in this field) helps to further clarify these sometimes-blurred definitions:

Personal Morality: “Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may/may not align with community mores.”
Regulations of Law: “Policies, statues, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes.”
Professional Ethics: “Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situation and systemic contexts in choosing the best course-of-action.”
Professional Dispositions: “Agreed-upon professional attitudes, values, and beliefs to be held by educational practitioners.”

For a comprehensive review on “Ethics for Music Educators,” please visit these links:

All of these are available at

At this point, if most of this makes you feel uneasy or uncertain, then perhaps it is time to switch majors and look into pursuing another line of work!



Have you written your personal philosophy of music education?

Regina Zona wrote in her article, “For Teachers: Writing a Music Teaching Philosophy Statement” that a music education philosophy statement is “a way to connect on a personal level to your students (current and potential) by stating who you are as a teacher (your beliefs and ideals), how you do what you do, and how that positively impacts the study of music.” If you have not completed your philosophy, here are her essential questions to guide your thoughts:

  • music-2323517_1920_davorkrajinovicWhat do you believe about teaching?
  • What do you believe about learning? Why?
  • How is that played out in your studio/class?
  • How does student identity and background make a difference in how you teach?
  • What do you still struggle with in terms of teaching and student learning?

She adds, “If you are having a hard time answering these questions, maybe because you haven’t been teaching very long, think on a teacher who made an impact on you (positive or negative), your education, your life. How did they communicate? Did they have passion for their work and if so, how did they express that passion? What were their methods of imparting the information?”

Read Zona’s entire blog-post at

Borrowed from the esteemed colleague and CEO of MusicFirst, Jim Frankel, is the introduction to many of his music education technology sessions, the foundation for teaching music in the schools:

  • What is your personal mission? Why?
  • What is the role of music in a child’s education?
  • Are we creating performers, theorists, teachers… or lifelong music lovers?

If you are looking for sample philosophical statements, there are many “out there” on the Web. Here are several of my favorites:

isolated-3061649_1920Take time to peruse these and others. Most of these sites also offer excellent examples of personal branding and marketing of the prospective job hunters’ experiences, skills, and achievements… material for our next blog on this topic.

Future blogs in this series will continue with a focus on these concepts:

  • Moving from “Book Learning” to “Practical Application”
  • Cultivating a Mentor or Two
  • Personal Branding
  • Engagement
  • Networking




© 2018 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order) from “tutor” by nrjfalcon1, “music” by brendageisse, “idea” by RobinHiggins, “woman” by RobinHiggins, “young” by RobinHiggins, “singer” by BEP, “ying-yang” by Printoid, “music” by davorkrajinovic, “isolated” by RobinHiggins, and “orchestra” by ernestoeslava.


The Professional Website

Pre-Service Music Educators Looking for Employment: Build a Web Platform to Promote Your “Brand”


According to Wikipedia, “an electronic portfolio (also known as an eportfolio, e-portfolio, digital portfolio, or online portfolio) is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. Such electronic evidence may include input text, electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. E-portfolios are both demonstrations of the user’s abilities and platforms for self-expression. If they are online, users can maintain them dynamically over time. One can regard an e-portfolio as a type of learning record that provides actual evidence of achievement…”

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog about the “perfect portfolio” for getting a job at As a review, these elements were endorsed for inclusion in an e-portfolio:

  • Educational philosophy
  • Résumé or Curriculum Vitaeinternet-1181586_1920_the digitalartist
  • Letters of recommendation
  • College transcripts
  • Praxis® exam results
  • Copy of teaching certificate(s)
  • Artifacts of student work
  • Classroom observation documents/evaluations
  • Statement about class management theory (discipline) and the steps that you would take inside your classroom to create a safe and orderly environment
  • Letters from parents commending the work you did with their children
  • Samples of student assessments/rubrics
  • Excerpts (short video or audio recordings) of you performing on your major instrument/voice, solo and chamber recitals, piano accompanying, playing in college ensembles, and especially teaching in as many settings as possible: small and large group instrumental (band and strings), choral ensembles, elementary classroom lessons, extracurricular activities like marching band and musical, private lessons, etc.
  • Pictures (quote from “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 business-15822_1920_PublicDomainPicturesmusical or athletic events, coaching or working with children in a coaching capacity, as a leader and role model.”

As I said in my article, all of this is “perfect fodder for marketing yourself” at future employment interviews. Do you have “what it takes” to be a professional music teacher?” In your opinion, what makes you qualified (“a good fit”) for a position in our institution?”

I also recommend you revisiting my blog-post “Tips on Personal Branding” at for steps on warehousing the elements of your “professional brand.”

If your college does not set you up with a free online site, consider a “do-it-yourself” website creator from one of these, and read the rest of this blog-post:


WordPress is a popular “open source” solution. This means you will need to independently set up a server, download a third party template, manage updates, set up a domain name, and configure everything on your own. This is what I did for this paulkfoxusc blog-site, and I paid zero for a domain name… but more on that later.




The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Website

One of my favorite online “instruction manuals” for building a website comes from Christopher Heng’s “How to Start / Create a Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide” at Their steps:

  1. Get Your Domain Name.
  2. Choose a Web Host and Sign Up for an Account.
  3. Designing your Web Pages.
  4. Testing Your Website.
  5. Collecting Credit Card Information, Making Money (not needed for us?).
  6. Getting Your Site Noticed.

This should be required reading… but take it slow, and click on all of the secondary links.

Some website builders and managers offer e-commerce and other special features. For a professional website to post your experience and accomplishments, you can avoid the extra cost of these nonessential additional web tools.

web-1738168_1920_CyberRabbitIf you can afford it, purchasing a simple domain name like your first and last name (something easy to remember) would be a great idea. Prospective employers will not have to write down a bunch of numbers, know your birthday, learn your nickname, etc. to find your e-portfolio. If you have an unique middle name or surname, you might luck out and be able to snag (and register) the perfect domain name. This was not possible for me! Do you know how many Paul Fox’s (even Paul K. Fox) are “out there” already taken?

In the process of obtaining an available email label, if needed, try rearranging your name (e.g. listing the last name first?), placing dots between the first and last name, etc.


Strategies for Saving Money and Seeking Tech Help

If you are like me, lacking a little confidence about advanced online technology or mastering a complicated website building program, read the following article for a general review of the process and terminology. Take the afternoon off (order a pizza, too) and totally consume it and “A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a WordPress Website” at

I suppose it would be fair to say that college students are not “made out of money,” so going to a professional website designer is probably “out of the picture,” even though this is one of your most essential tools for successfully communicating your brand! Are you going to lay out some big bucks for an impressive looking resume and business card?

However, have you considered the alternative of asking for help from your roommate, class buddy, or other student acquaintance who is majoring in communications? (Would “free pizza” be enough incentive for someone to sit down with you and get you started?)

The most cost-effective approach may be to sign-up for their FREE plan and self-hosting within the environment. (I am still amazed that this entire blog-site of mine, now archiving more than 73 articles, has been 100% free!)

If you desire more features, a free domain name, and no advertising on your site, you can upgrade to a monthly plan for WordPress (or any of the above providers). plans


For me, WordPress was/is an easy application to use. You do not have to learn a programming language or fancy commands to format your menus and text. There are a lot of samples you can (almost literally) copy. The hard part is just… GETTING STARTED!

One of the first decisions you have to make is to establish a domain name. If you decide to be “cheap” (like me), just create a Google email account with a suitably professional name. If it is available, you set-up one like “first name” + “middle name” + “last name” + “music educator” or something else appropriate. Dots can be inserted as dividers in an email address. Shortly before I retired (and would lose my school email account), I found that was available. (USC is where I taught and continue to live.)

It should be noted here that “partying tuba player” and “crazy singer” are probably not good “professional names.” If you need help, just ask your grandmother what she thinks is appropriate. Remember: teaching is one of the most conservative of professions!

WordPressTo create your web site’s identity, WordPress will remove the dots and add their company’s moniker “” at the end of your email name. That is how was born!

Your next choice will be the theme, style, and features of your website… probably challenging because there are so many free templates available. Check these out:

As an example, for this site, I use the FREE “Nucleare” theme by CrestaProject. Their description is the following: “Nucleare is a classic blog theme with a crisp, elegant design and plenty of handy features. A built-in search box, links to your favorite social networks, four widget areas, and beautifully styled post formats make this an ideal theme for your personal blog.” Nucleare also supports the following features:

  • Site logo
  • Social Links Menu
  • Post Formats
  • Custom Menus
  • Widgets
  • Custom Header
  • Custom Background
  • Full-Width Page Template




A Model Music Teacher Website

Educators love it when one of their students leave their classroom and choose to become a significant contributing member to our “exalted” profession! I felt blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity of teaching David Dockan, a trumpet player in both our Upper St. Clair High School orchestra and marching band. He validated some of my advice for marketing himself to land a job, and has created a super website. Go to and use the password “Music” to view his e-portfolio.

His menu sections:

  • Home (Introduction)
  • Teaching (General, Choral, Instrumental, assigned schools, Private Lessons)
  • Philosophy
  • Musicianship (Performance, Conducting)
  • Resume
  • Contact

A trumpet teacher colleague of mine, Ryan Wolf, messaged me on Facebook after he read the initial posting of this blog. He said he had great success hosting his professional website on, but he maintains his e-portfolio on his Google Drive to make it easy to share.

In conclusion, I offer a few more recommendations for your consideration:

  1. Proofread your online presence very carefully… misspellings, bad punctuation, grammar mistakes, or poorly formatted displays would be negative PR and a detriment to your marketing plan.
  2. Websites require frequent updates. Keep yours up-to-date at all times!
  3. Print the link to your professional website on your business card and resume.
  4. Consider placing a Q-Code on your business card that, if scanned on a smartphone, would redirect your contact or prospective employer to your website.
  5. Be careful to obtain permission in advance to video record students for your e-portfolio. During your field experiences or student teaching, ask your cooperating teacher (or his/her supervisor’s) permission. Some schools 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.
  6. maintenance-2422172_1920_geraltShowing your versatility, try to assemble a collection of still photos, audio examples, and videos that ideally represent all specialties in music education: choral, dance, general music, concert band and string instrumental, marching band, jazz, theater, etc., and demonstrate your proficiency in multiple settings at all grade levels.
  7. There are many blog-sites with tips on “curb appeal” – layout and design, style, overall impact, style, user-friendliness, etc. Since this involves a cross between artistry and efficiency, these advisors may not agree (one says use large images, another suggests smaller pictures mean faster loading speeds). A few samples:

If you were introducing a new “widget” to the market or promoting a sales campaign, you would spend a lot of time (and money) on advertising. A website and e-portfolio are a job hunter’s advertisement tool. Take advantage of any chance you have to present your personal brand, “sell yourself,” and connect with colleagues in the field of education. Archive your training, successes, and goals. Show off your professionalism, proficiency, and personality to prospective HR people and the decision-makers that hire future staff. Be sure to provide “live demos” of your traits of artistry, collaboration, commitment, discipline, even-temperament, initiative, leadership, mastery of music and education, organization, positive outlook, style, tact, and teamwork.

Good luck!!


© 2018 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order) from “men” by photoshootings, “beautiful” by PublicDomainPictures, “internet” by thedigitalartist, “business” by PublicDomainPictures, “turn-on” by geralt, “web” by CyberRabbit, “iPad” by fancycrave1, “maintenance” by geralt, and “people” by Akshay93.

Help! How Does One Keep Up?

Time, Task, & Media Management for Pre-Service/New Music Educators


This article is in memory of the late Thomas Labanc (October 1946 – November 2017), my friend, colleague, Upper St. Clair School District social studies teacher, curriculum leader, and assistant to the superintendent, school historian, brilliant visionary and fellow risk-taker, who taught me the basics of Priority Management and collaborated on many of our school district’s communications and public relations projects, including the establishment of the highly successful community publication UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY magazine. PKF




Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400.
It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.
What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!!!
Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft.
Each day it opens a new account for you.
Each night it burns the remains of the day.
If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.
There is no going back. There is no drawing against the “tomorrow.”
You must live in the present on today’s deposits.
Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success!
The clock is running. Make the most of today.
To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
Treasure every moment that you have! And reassure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time.
Remember that time waits for no one.
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift.
That’s why it’s called the present! – Pratheek Naidu


Philosophies of Time Management

stopwatch-2061848_1920-geraltEven though it is from a book on post-employment transitioning (Purposeful Retirement: How to Bring Happiness and Meaning to Your Retirement), the author Hyrum W. Smith suggests several thought-provoking questions on prioritizing time:
  1. Does your management of time reflect your governing values?
  2. Are you giving the most time to that which matters most?
  3. What can you do tomorrow to ensure your time aligns with your priorities?

A similar perspective but providing much more detail, I recommend consuming from cover-to-cover First Things First by Stephen R. Covey, who succinctly defines this conundrum about using time wisely.

“For many of us, there’s a gap between the compass and the clock – between what’s deeply important to us and the way we spend our time. And this gap is not closed by the traditional “time management” approach of doing things faster. In fact, many of us find that increasing our speed only makes things worse.” – Stephen Covey

The four sections of Covey’s book dive into these concepts:

  • The Clock and the Compass
  • The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
  • The Synergy of Interdependence
  • The Power of and Peace of Principle-Centered Living

In addition, I found additional insight and inspiration in the philosophy of managing time from these links:

For those of you who have already begun your career in music education or even working as a day-to-day music sub, try these classroom and time management tips (thanks to NAfME):




The 4 D’s

Have you ever heard of a system called Priority Management (PM)? PM proposes methodology and business tools to immediately route every piece of paper and your daily “to-do tasks” that come into your life to one of the four D’s:

  • Do it! (now)
  • Date it! (assign it to the future)
  • Delegate it! (give it to someone else to do) or
  • Dump it! (into the trash)

PM’s “WorkingSm@rt method” promises to help you “gain control over your day, find balance, prioritize your work, and reach your goals,” giving you time to focus on the tasks that are important to you. The bottom line – every digital or printed post-it-note, piece of mail, receipt, publication, email or other communication – must be “put in its place” on the spot – either completed instantly, deferred to another time, given to someone else to do, or THROWN OUT!

time-management-2323612_1920-mohamed1982egYours truly, a “late baby boomer,” never enjoyed that prophesied and romanticized revolution of a “paperless society.” Did you? PM recommends the creation of a “future reading” file, a subcategory of “date it.” Experts on Google Mail will extol the merits of creating a folder and categorizing/storing messages such as emailed issues of MEJ, Kappan, SB&O, and other digital editions of professional newsletters. I have found that this doesn’t work very well, even in retirement. The file folder just fills up, and I never seem to get around to reviewing the things I thought were so important to save. Nor did the practice of our grandmothers’ generation clipping articles (and coupons) out of newspapers. You would think you could solve this media overload by just printing a small excerpt of what you want to peruse later and putting it in a letter tray near your desk? Nope. It just piles up! However, probably the ideal solution would be to designate a specific 15 minutes or more every day for something they used to give to the middle school students I taught: “silent and sustained reading.”



“Pros” Wrestle Control of Their “Free Time!” You Can Do That, Too!

“When you get right down to it, intentional living is about living your best story.”

time-481444_1920-geraltHow many times have you heard it? Make your plans and goals “intentional!” Besides all of the upcoming deadlines and appointments to which you are committed, include in your daily and weekly schedule opportunities for individual reflection and growth.

Plan 30-60 minutes of professional enrichment every day, throughout the year. The list below is based on an hour, but when time is really at a premium, just divide everything in half.

  • Read an article in a professional journal or digital newsletter (15 minutes)
  • “Keep up your chops” in ear training, sight-reading, and score reading. Have you ever used something like Elementary Training for Musicians by Hindenmith and practiced exercises that make you sing in syllables, tap a different rhythm independently with your left hand, conduct the beat pattern with your right hand, and beat your foot to the pulse? Revisit your college solfeggio assignments, and of course, sight-singing anything is also most beneficial. (10 minutes)
  • Perform on the piano, rotating weekly to different styles and forms of music. If you’re not a piano major or an accomplished choral  accompanist, include playing at sight several different voice parts simultaneously from choral octavos. (10 minutes)
  • Research and add professionals to update your contact file. Did you run into any new music teachers or school administrators this week? Search school district websites for the names of music department chairs and supervisors. (5 minutes)
  • Practice your story-telling skills (organized and “polished” telling of anecdotes about your achievements, teaching experience, “personality pluses,” and problem solving. Role play answering job-screening questions in video-recorded mock interviews, and allow time to assess your “performance.” (10 minutes)
  • Work on personal branding and marketing projects: making, refining, and customizing your e-portfolio, business card, professional website, and resume. (10 minutes)

The last three bullets above are covered extensively within this blog. Try these links:

If you “think” you are ready for the job search process, complete the self-assessment at



What about vacations or academic breaks when it seems there’s more time to spare? With some repetition to the above, in the December 2017 issue of Collegiate Communique, a digital publication of the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention (in support of the Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association and Society for Music Teacher Education), these recommendations were offered for college music majors who are leaving school for their winter or summer recesses.

“After you finish your semester finals, juries, concerts, writing assignments, and other projects, you may have several weeks before you have to return to full-time classes at the university. Besides catching up on your sleep and visiting your family and friends, how many of these enrichment activities can you accomplish?”

  1. Share your musical gifts.
  2. Sit in with a church or community choir, orchestra, or band.
  3. Learn something new about music… even outside your specialty.
  4. Spend a lot of time sight-reading.
  5. Improve your score reading and analysis.
  6. Volunteer to coach/conduct music rehearsals at the local public school.
  7. Attend as many concerts as you can.
  8. Compose a short seasonal, folk, jazz, or classical piece.
  9. Record video/audio excerpts of your major instrument/voice in preparation for placement in your e-portfolio.
  10. For upcoming employment prep and practice of mock interviews, review the marketing professionalism articles at

– Collegiate Communique #8

Of course, from a 35-year veteran teacher now retired, a snide remarkbusinessman-2929721_1920-Fotomek in response to feeling a little “stressed over the schedule” could be to “get used to the 24/7 nature of the job.” A music teacher works from sun-up (and before) to sun-down (and after), and constantly has to juggle multi-tasking on a wide variety of to-do’s, all landing at the same time: writing lesson plans, arranging music or drills, preparing scores or accompaniments, planning and rehearsing ensembles, managing the grade book and attendance records, attending faculty meetings and parent conferences, writing curriculum, student assessments, and lesson targets, preparing for extra-curricular activities like marching band, chorus, or the musical, finishing your own homework for graduate courses, district inductions, or professional development assignments, ETC.

But, if you “get organized,” you will love it! There is nothing better (albeit hectic) than the “calling” of serving your students and the profession as a music educator, inspiring creative self-expression, artistry, music appreciation, and life-long learning.


© 2017 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits from “hourglass” by annca, “children” by mochilazocultural, “stopwatch” by geralt, “parade” by Marmiche, “time management” by mohamed1982eg, “choir” by intmurr, “time” by geralt, “box” by rawpixel, and “businessman” by Fotomek.

Ethics Follow-up


Part IV: More Perspectives and Resolving a Few “Loose Ends”

Prior to this article, I recommend reading the following:



Just when you thought it was safe to read another of my blog-posts… you bump into another one on ethics and music education!

When my colleague and friend James Kimmel, PMEA District 7 Professional Development Chair, approached me to consider doing an “ethics workshop” for his annual in-service conference (October 9, 2017 at Ephrata Middle School), two questions immediately popped into my mind: “Why is this necessary?” and “Who would want to attend a session on ethics?”

Of course, being retired and having a little more unassigned time on my hands, I took it as a challenge and began some preliminary research.

The first thing I discovered is that almost no one in the public-school music education sector has had formal ethics training (myself included), unless you count a couple thirty-minute segments at a teacher induction or staff in-service program on sensitivity training, nondiscrimination and diversity awareness, anti-bullying or workplace sexual harassment policies, or a review of FERPA (family educational rights and privacy act) and HIPAA (health insurance portability and accountability act) as “ethics!”

Okay all you Pennsylvania music teachers: Before this blog series, did any of you ever see a copy of the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Practices and Conduct for Educators? Prior to working on this project, neither did I, nor did a single band director to whom I spoke at two large fall marching band festivals and several football games! Do you know that earning a teaching certificate from your state and becoming eligible to be hired as an educator means you automatically agree to be legally bound by the prevailing government’s “Code?” The ethical or discipline code of your state will define the proper interactions between the individual teacher, students, schools, and other professionals, and make explicit the values of the education profession as well as regional standards and expectations. Wouldn’t you agree that NOW would be a good time to learn the details of these inherent responsibilities?


What is a Fiduciary?

club-2492011_1920-qimonoEducators are among the singular professions which have a “fiduciary” responsibility. The term “fiduciary” can be defined as “a person or organization that owes to another the duties of good faith and trust, the highest legal duty of one party to another, and being bound ethically to act in the other’s best interests.” Joining doctors, lawyers, clergy, and mental health therapists, educators ascribe to the highest standards of training, moral decision-making (“code of ethics”), behavior (“code of conduct”), and self-regulation and assessment of the “best practices” regarding the mastery of skills and subject areas necessary to their field. However, unlike these other professionals, teachers do not receive regular and systematic pre- and in-service training on ethics, and our “clients” are a “captive audience.”  Regardless, the duty of all teachers is to act as a fiduciary in their students’ best interest and to create and maintain a safe environment for them at all times.


Ethics Violations in the News

You must have seen the news stories! In a word, the trending statistics of state and USA teacher ethics violations and misconducts are abominable! For example, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) where I taught and currently live, in the year 2015, there was a 200 percent increase in PA educator misconduct investigations (768 reports) compared to the number of complaints filed in 2011 (256). Within PDE disciplinary case resolutions in 2015, 41% resulted in job loss and a permanent revocation or surrender of the teaching certificate.

If your curiosity is a little on the morbid side, you can look up on the PDE website and find the names of more than 1740 educators (“offenders” and their “offenses”) who have violated their ethics and received discipline and/or criminal prosecutions or civil proceedings from March 2004 to June 2017.

Well, we don’t have to just pick on Pennsylvania “bad-boys” (and girls). According to, the following statistics give teachers everywhere a black eye from shore to shore!

  • Texas had a 27% increase over 2015-17 of alleged inappropriate teacher-student relationships
  • Kentucky schools reported more than 45 sexual relationships between teachers and students in 2011, up from 25 just a year earlier.
  • Alabama investigated 31 cases during the year ending July 2013, nearly triple the number it had investigated just four years earlier.


Eric Simpson shared more bad news in the Journal of Music Teacher Education. His study, “An examination of the relationship of teacher certification area to sexual misconduct: Florida as a case study,” analyzed 383 samples of FL teacher discipline cases in 2007-2010 and their area(s) of certification, with these results:

  • Teachers with multiple-certifications = 35.51%
  • Music teachers ~5%
  • Most frequent offense = sexual misconduct 25.77%

But, 60% of the offending music teachers in the sample were disciplined for sexual misconduct!

Can the data get any worse? In 2004, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of the Shakeshaft national study by the American Association of University Women, with 9.6 percent of students reporting that they had suffered some form of sexual abuse during their school careers. According to “the list of such conduct included lewd comments, exposure to pornography, peeping in the locker room, and sexual touching or grabbing. Around one in 10 students said they had been the victim of one or more such things from a teacher or other school employee, and two-thirds of those reported the incident involved physical contact.”

If these numbers are accurate and truly representative of the student population nationwide, 4.5 million students currently in grades K-12 have suffered some form of sexual abuse by an educator or school staff member.


Mandatory Reporting

Another area I did not dive into during the last three articles is our legal mandate to report colleagues who violate “The Code,” especially for sexual misconduct. My own state’s regulations (similar to most) are as follows:

“All educators who know of any action, inaction or conduct which may constitute sexual abuse or exploitation or sexual misconduct are now required to file a mandatory report with the Department and shall report such misconduct to his or her chief school administrator and immediate supervisor.”

― Pennsylvania Department of Education:


If you are an administrator, the statute is more wide-ranging:

“Specifically, whenever you believe that an educator is involved in misconduct that implicates his or her fitness to serve children in the schools of Pennsylvania, you should report the misconduct to the Department…”

“Reporting to PDE does not relieve [the administrator] of any other duty to report to either law enforcement and/or child protective services.”

― Pennsylvania Department of Education:

Another moral obligation is to simply look out for our student’s welfare and keep our eyes open for any unusual behavior, conflicts, or inconsistencies.

questions-2212771_1920-geralt_euAlways looking for the signs of…

  • Physical abuse
  • Self-abuse or thoughts of suicide
  • Sexual abuse
  • Signs of neglect
  • Patterns of abuse

Teachers are required to report any suspicions of child abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol use, and mental health problems.

Most school districts have an internal mechanism of reporting to school counselors or administrators any observations (or suspicions) of these issues… everything from falling asleep in class, being “accident-prone” (lots of unexplained injuries), confirming a high absentee rate, exhibiting mood swings (up and down), and coming to school with blurry or blood-shot eyes, etc. No accusations! You just handover your comments to the authorities, and report on what you see, not necessarily what your interpretations are for the causes of the problems.

Music teachers often work with students in close proximity before or after-school hours, and sometimes on weekends. As a marching band assistant, musical producer, festival chaperone, or trip sponsor, I always had the personal or cell phone number of my building principal in case I needed to reach out for help.



These are the regulations on protecting student privacy rights, and violations of which (even unintentionally) are “breaking the law.” (Sources: and

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 sets parameters on accessibility and disclosure of students records.
  • Grassley Amendment (1994) details privacy of student participation in surveys, analysis, and evaluation.
  • confidential-cropped-1726367_1920-HypnoArtHealth Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.
  • Drug and alcohol treatment records of students kept by any institution receiving federal assistance are protected under Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act (1976).
  • Records of students in special education are affected by the above laws plus Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1997).

Here are few additional ethical “conundrums” on which to reflect:

  • Discussing student information in open or common areas
    • How many times have you walked through a busy hallway discussing news or concerns about a student with another colleague or family member?
    • Avoid inadvertently disclosing any personal information about students and staff members “in public.”
    • Also, one should resist speaking to students in these areas as it could become violation of student confidentiality if overheard.
  • Sharing information with other colleagues who are not directly related to the student’s situation.
    • You might be tempted to reveal interesting cases or anecdotes to colleagues… DON’T!
    • FERPA regulations state that school officials must have a “legitimate educational interest” when sharing information.
    • Just because someone is employed in the district with you does not mean they have lawful access to student info.
    • There is a great risk of others passing on this information… like gossip!
    • Rules of thumb: Ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this information?” and “How will it benefit the student?”
  • However, you should be aware of exceptions to student privacy concerns.
    • Reporting of physical abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual violence.
    • Suspicion of serious mental health issues that may result in danger to the student (such as suicide)
    • On the occasion when a staff member working with a student is unsure how to proceed (e.g. seeking advice on disability)



The “Grandma Litmus Test”

We have talked about many principles in this series on “Ethics for Music Educators.” Here is something about the “process,” an “ethical decision-making model” based on…

  • “What would grandma think about my action, behavior, or decision” and
  • “How would I feel if my actions are tomorrow’s breaking news?”

Answer the following questions about the contemplated activity or decision:

  1. Is it legal?
  2. Is it consistent with the profession’s values?
  3. Is it consistent with the teacher’s code of conduct?
  4. Is it consistent with your district’s policies?
  5. Would you be comfortable if this decision was published online or in the newspaper (or made known to your “grandma”)?
  6. Does it feel right? (Is it the right thing to do?)

If you answered “NO” to any one of the questions (1, 3, and 5), do not engage in the contemplated activity and seek additional guidance.

If you answered “YES” to all of the questions (2, 4, and 6), then you may proceed with the contemplated activity. However, if you have any lingering doubts, do not hesitate to seek additional guidance.


Final Thoughts

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

– Rear Admiral Mary Brace Hopper, an early computer programmer

board-1848717_1920-geraltProponents of this belief will tell you to go ahead and stick your neck out, feel free to do something “for the good of the order,” and later “beg for forgiveness” if/when it goes south and your administrators say they do not approve.

This may or may not work, and I cannot label this orientation as “ethical!”

Music teachers are usually the “lone rider” in their building when it comes to doing their job. Music directors, especially those who are involved in extra-curricular activities, are deluged with making many decisions every day… sometimes even on the hour. Few people (models or mentors) will be there to help guide you in your content area.

My advice: Less experienced teachers, run everything through your fellow colleagues (informally) and principal (formally). Don’t fall back on the lame “oops” and “beg for forgiveness.” I may have felt differently when I had twice as many years of experience than the building administrators who were assigned to “supervise” me… but, even then, “venturing out without a paddle” usually did not serve the best interests of the students… There’s no reason to place “the teacher’s convenience” over the safety/welfare of the students, without first obtaining the legal and political “backup” of your bosses. “Better safe than sorry!” (I am running out of cliches!)

“Perception is reality.”

– Lee Atwater

Perceptions/appearances vs. motivation and reality: It means that your behavior and its results matter infinitely more than your intentions.

It is the responsibility of the teacher to control his or her “public brand” – how he or she wants to be perceived by students, parents, colleagues, and the public. One’s public brand can and does impact perceptions, which in turn can impinge upon effectiveness.

males-2110573_1920-3dman_euMy advice: “Forget your rights” and be more aware of your image and how your actions will look to the public. Reputations are hard to restore. Being an effective teacher is all about trust and integrity, and (sorry, one more cliche) “your actions speak louder than words!”


Teaching is the most honorable and rewarding career on this planet. The rewards far outweigh the challenges and additional responsibilities. “Making a difference” in the lives of our music students has always inspired me, and the fact we have to uphold the highest standards in moral professionalism and behavior does not phase me in the least.


The purpose of these blog-posts on ethics, sort of a “refresher” course to reflect on our internal decision-making compass, was to reinforce Lawrence Kohlman’s sixth stage of moral development – principles of conscience – and the “best practices” of professional attitudes, values, and beliefs that guide the problem-solving we face in their daily work. Hopefully this content will promote thought-provoking discussion about doing what’s right when no one is looking… because, your mother would say, “You know better!”

Please feel free to comment… I would appreciate hearing from you!



© 2017 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order): from “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal; from “Ethics” by 3dman_eu, “Club” by qimono_eu, “Cube” by 3dman_eu, “Questions” by geralt_eu, “Confidential” by HypoArt, “Woman” by geralt_eu, “Board” by geralt_eu, “Males” by 3dman_eu, “Business” by Maialisa.

Ethics for Music Educators III

Part III: Case Studies

If you have not previously read them or need a review, please revisit Part I: “Back to Basics” and Part II” “The Nitty Gritty” in this series on Ethics for Music Educators.

Like professionals in other disciplines, music educators are expected to observe certain behavioral standards. In addition to teaching musical skills, concepts, and context, music educators are also expected to protect the welfare of children, serve as trustworthy stewards of public property, and generally behave responsibly and professionally within the context of the school and local community. Despite these expectations, many music educators have engaged in unprofessional, unethical, or illegal conduct.

― Joelle L. Lien, “Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators” in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 2012.

colourful-xylophone-1424837 0 14 Henk L

Music teachers often have busy professional lives, many spending large amounts of time back at school for extra-curricular activities, individual practices, ensemble rehearsals, events from marching band to musicals, and travel to/from festivals, conferences, concerts, adjudications, and itinerant school assignments. Also unique is the fact that some music educators participate in after-school programs and see their “charges” as much or more often their parents. These once-in-a-lifetime musical opportunities inspire the growth of student artistry, leadership, creative self-expression, and teamwork. They also expose music teachers to more frequent contact with potential ethical issues ― inconsistencies, dilemmas, and problems.

ethics 27

From a “crisis of conscience” to political nightmares, there are no easy right or wrong answers to many of these ethical “conundrums!” Full discussion and disclosure with the goal on addressing “the needs of the students” are mandatory with the quick educational sketches depicted in the following scenarios.

Pedagogical Problems

  • kids-listening-to-music-1374340 Ted HortonAdministrators, parents and public’s interpretation of “separation of church and state” or “perceived emphasis” on Holiday vs. Christmas music (with sacred text) at December concerts e.g. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, Hatikvah, and/or John Rutter’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful & Joy to the World as the finale
  • Defending a music educator’s grading criteria: daily performance evaluation vs. lesson or concert attendance (pass/fail?) and other non-musical requirements
  • Identification of the poorest singers or instrumentalists in our ensembles and limiting their enrollment or participation in ensembles that regularly attend adjudications or competitions: “Do the needs of the few less proficient performers out-weigh the benefit of the many?” or “Are our ethical obligations met if a large non-auditioned ensemble is open to all and an auditioned group is provided for exclusive use of the best students?”
  • Rationale for the unbiased selection of solos, leadership positions, drum majors, leads in the musical, etc. for the music program: perception of teacher favoritism or the “rights of seniority” vs. “best one for the job!”
  • Incidents relating to a music teacher’s struggle over whether to be “blatantly honest” regarding a student’s chances at a music career: “Is it ethical to allow a private music student to continue the study of music performance based on their desire, when it is clear they do not have the talent, work ethic, or overall aptitude to succeed in the music profession?” The other side of this issue, can we ever say, “You do not have enough talent to go into music.”
  • Maintaining balance between the pursuit of competitive performance excellence (repetitive programming of a limited number of major works) with appropriate teaching practice (survey, reading, and performance of a wide variety of selections in the folder)

Enforcement Problems

  • Quandary whether it is ever in the students’ best interest to ignore an existing policy or rule, for example, staff noncompliance of “no smoking on campus” or other school regulations.
  • Holding a student accountable for breaking a law or rule, when doing so would jeopardize a musical group’s performance: “My drum major was suspended because she smoked pot and was caught. I needed her to run the half time show we had been practicing for months and so I convinced administration that she had to participate because it was part of my curriculum and part of her grade. I decided the other kids shouldn’t be punished because of her idiocy so I worked hard to keep her in the show. In my heart, I would have preferred she not participate, but not at the expense of the other kids’ performance.”
  • “Fair use doctrine” and photocopying music

DCF 1.0

It should be mentioned here that there are a number of misconceptions regarding the Copyright Law:

  • Copyright law does permit copying music in the emergency of an imminent concert date, but it also requires that the same music be purchased regardless of whether it is needed after the performance.
  • The law prohibits purchasing music but then making copies to preserve the original scores.
  • The law does not permit photocopying more than 10% of a complete work, even for educational purposes.
  • Out-of-print music may not be photocopied without explicit permission granted by the publisher of the work.
  • Compositions with an expired copyright or that never had a copyright are considered “public domain” and are free to copy.


Finances and Resource Allocation Problems

  • Hundred Bill CornersCompetition for the enrollment of the same students (band/string/choir) within the music department
  • Private lesson prerequisite for participating in an honors ensemble, music director giving them, and charging a fee for his/her “off-school” time
  • (Lack of) equity in school budget allocation (inconsistencies within different academic areas and within the music department itself, not defending per-pupil costs and enrollments, etc.)
  • Receiving special favors or kickbacks from the music industry (touring companies, riser/music stand distributors, instrument rental companies, etc.): “If you choose our travel agency for the Orlando trip, we will throw-in the purchase of a new conductor’s podium and music stands for your band room!”

Scrutiny and sample audits of music educators and other school professionals in this category have included the following:

  • Accuracy of teachers’ absence reports and itinerant staff sign-ins to their daily building assignments: “I saw the music teacher eating lunch at a local restaurant.”
  • Balancing of school purchase orders and activity fund invoices with existing instrument, equipment, or music inventory
  • Management of school activity funds (tickets, marching band shoes/accessories, honorariums, and “under the table” compensations)
  • Inspection of music libraries for evidence of illegal photocopying


parade-band-1421028 Sarah DeVries

Problems in Relationships

  • Perception of “being knifed in the back“ by colleagues teaching other academic subjects (advising students to drop music)
  • Disagreements with administrators on “the right thing to do” (everything from grading to attending PMEA workshops)
  • Incidents involving gossip or divulging confidential information about students
  • THE BIG BOO-BOO: Dual or conflicting relationships and inconsistent maintenance of clear, responsible, and professional boundaries between teachers and students. Most of the incidents in violation of “crossing the line” of “student-teacher boundaries” would be complications that arose when the teacher-student relationships became “too close.”

Was Mr. Holland a hero or a villain in the 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus? Certainly, many would agree that the acclaimed motion picture starring Richard Dreyfuss as “Glenn Holland” depicted a struggling composer who reluctantly becomes a teacher and eventually learns the value of his profession and his family. However, many say he is a model example of the “slippery slope” of blurred student-teacher boundaries and that he seriously breached the ethical standards of teachers.

It wasn’t Mr. Holland’s in-class performance that concerns Troy Hutchings, director of Student Services in Northern Arizona University’s College of Education and a faculty member in the college. It’s his relationship with Rowena, one of his students. In a famous scene at a bus stop, Mr. Holland and Rowena kiss.

“He should be fired,” Hutchings said. “That’s sexual misconduct—a violation of his fiduciary position.”

Mr. Holland’s situation isn’t atypical. The Richard Dreyfuss character had a troubled marriage and a difficult home life. “Right or wrong, he found something with his students that he felt he didn’t have at home,” Hutchings said.

Imagine if one of us drove our “star pupil” to the bus stop on her way to “make it big on Broadway” without the direct support of her parents!


Problems in Diversity

  • Sensitivity in meeting the needs of ALL students: no discrimination on the basis of race, gender & gender identity, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, socio-economics, etc.
  • Balanced representation of lesson targets and course material on multiculturalism
  • “Many of our students see music education as ‘white privilege’ and we have to do a lot of convincing to get the kids to participate…”

For all music teachers, it is recommended you peruse the position statement on the NAfME website: “Equity and Access in Music Education”


More Issues in Music Education

Case Studies in Music EducationIf you have not had the occasion to read Case Studies in Music Education by Frank Abrahams and Paul D. Head, it would be a valuable aid to “facilitate dialogue, problem posing, and problem solving” among pre-service (and current) music teachers. Using the format of Introduction, Exposition, Development, Improvisation, and Recapitulation known by all music professionals, each chapter presents a scenario with a moral dilemma that many music educators face in the daily execution of their teaching responsibilities.

How should a music teacher balance learning and performing? What is the best way to handle an angry parent? What are the consequences of the grades teachers assign? What are the best ways to discipline students? How should teachers relate to the administrators and to other teachers? The emphasis here is not on the solution, but on the process. There are many viable approaches to nearly every obstacle, but before any meaningful long-term solutions can be made, teachers must identify their own personal philosophy of music education and recognize those traits that are admirable in another’s style.

―Excerpt from back cover of Case Studies in Music Education, Second Edition, by Frank Abrahams and Paul D. Head

Scenarios: How Would You Judge These “Misconducts?”

ethics 22For additional examples of ethical issues in education, try these links. Personally, many of these fictional video reenactments are hardcore and very painful to view… but may shed some light in any discussion of teacher (mis)behavior: actions from simply inappropriate, unwise, or “bad for appearances” to a range (from bad to worst) of unprofessional, immoral, unethical, and illegal conduct. Some of these stories you will agree should be instantly labeled as the highest degree of unethical practice ― actual “crimes against children” and should invoke punishment if found guilty ― while others may lack clarity and make it difficult in arriving to a consensus.

If you are sharing this article within a group (induction, staff meeting, in-service, etc.), besides selecting the degree of misconduct, you may also want to reflect on the following questions (and also peruse the “essential questions” following the conclusion below.)

  1. What possible issues/concerns might this scenario raise?
  2. How could this situation become a violation of the law, the “Code” or other school/district policies?
  3. In this situation, what are some potential negative consequences for the teacher and the student?

From the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission Ethics Toolkit:

PA PSPC logo

Other sources:


The Ethics Equilibrium Perspective

Keep in mind, discussions about any scenarios of possible educator misconduct should be viewed through the lens of an ethical framework for professional decision-making, not just violations of regulatory policies resulting in the consequences of disciplinary action, revocation of teaching certificate, and/or criminal penalties. As mentioned before (“Ethics for Music Educators – Part I and Part II”), please review Troy Hutchings work:

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 1.39.16 PM-1



After culling through a myriad of research (see below), I summarize with a few of my quick “common sense” recommendations which I offer at music teacher conferences or in-service workshop presentations. What are your thoughts on these?

  1. Never put anything in email, text, writing, or anywhere on the Internet that can come back to haunt you.
  2. Do not engage in gossip about other students or professionals.
  3. Avoid unofficial/unsupervised meetings or off-campus personal fraternization with students.
  4. Do not transport individual students.
  5. Do not share photos or personal information on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Gab, etc.).
  6. Avoid physical contact with a student (never touch, hug, hold, push, etc.).
  7. In your presence, allow no harassment or speech/language that is of a sexual nature or can be misinterpreted.
  8. Do not provide closed-door counseling.
  9. Do not give gifts to your students.
  10. Report serious medical issues to the authorities (bulimia, abuse, alcohol-use).
  11. Report any suspected professional ethics violations of colleagues to administration.

The purpose of this three-part blog-post on “Ethics for Music Educators” and studies like “Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators” by Joelle L. Lien in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, was to investigate the kinds of ethical problem-solving music educators face in their daily work and to promote thought-provoking discussion about these matters. Now it is your turn to face these critical issues and/or incidents, openly investigate and illuminate philosophical inconsistencies within your institutions, associations, schools, and/or colleagues, and develop your own “iron-clad” professional code of ethics that truly addresses the daily work of your music education practice.

Additional Discussion: Essential Questions for All Educators

  1. What are the ethical responsibilities of teachers?
  2. How do ethics inform a teacher’s personal and professional actions?
  3. How does the PA Code of Professional Practices and Conduct (or your state’s educator code of conduct) communicate standards for appropriate behavior for teachers?kids-singing-christmas-songs-1438089 Ned Horton
  4. What does it mean to be a “moral exemplar” or “role model” in the community?
  5. What are the expectations of educators with respect to accumulating either personal or financial gain or advantage (other than their contractual compensation package) through their work in the school system?
  6. How can a teacher foster positive, professional relationships with students?
  7. How is the appropriate teacher-student boundary defined?
  8. What are the professional expectations of teachers with regard to their “electronic” interactions with students?
  9. Why and how should teachers control their public “brand” or persona?
  10. How do teachers’ use of emerging technologies such as social networking, cell phones, etc., present challenges to maintaining appropriate student-teacher boundaries?
  11. What are the professional expectations for working with diverse populations of students, parents and colleagues?
  12. How does your classroom environment promote respect for your students’ individual needs and backgrounds?
  13. What are the professional expectations of teachers regarding their relationships with colleagues?
  14. How can a teacher foster positive, professional relationships with colleagues, parents, and the community?


Special Thanks and Credits for This Three-part Blog-Series

  • Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit by Dr. Oliver Dreon, Sandi Sheppeard, PA State System of Higher Education, and the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission
  • Nebraska Professional Practices Commission
  • Connecticut’s Teacher Education & Mentoring Program
  • Lien, Joelle L. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education

playing-harp-1563567 Gerrit Prenger

References for Further Research

  • Abrahams, Frank and Paul Head. (2005). Case studies in music education (2nd ed.). Chicago: G.I.A.
  • Allan, J. (2011). Responsibly Competent: Teaching, Ethics and Diversity. Policy Futures in Education, 9(1), 130-137.
  • Assaf, L., Garza, R., & Battle, J. (2010). Multicultural Teacher Education: Examining the Perceptions, Practices, and Coherence in One Teacher Preparation Program. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(2), 115-135.
  • Barbieri, Susan M. (2002). An elegy for ethics? Strings 16(8): 62–67.
  • Bowman, Wayne. (2001). Music as ethical encounter. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 151: 11–20.
  • Brandenburg, Judith B. (1997). Confronting sexual harassment: What schools and colleges can do. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Brooks, David (April 17, 2015). When Cultures Shift. New York Times.
  • Campbell, E. (2003). The Ethical Teacher.  Philadelphia:  Open University Press.
  • Dreon, Dr. Oliver, Sheppeard, Sandi, and PA State System of Higher Education. Educator Ethics and Conduct and Toolkit. Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission. Online:
  • Ehrensal, P., Crawford, R., Castellucci, J., & Allen, G. (2001). The American Melting Pot Versus the Chinese Hot Spot. in J. Shapiro & J. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Elliott, David J. (1995). Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Fibkins, W. L. (2006)  Innocence Denied:  A Guide to Preventing Sexual Misconduct by Teachers and Coaches.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Education.
  • Flusser, Victor. (2000). An ethical approach to music education. British Journal of Music Education 171(1): 43–50.
  • Gilligan, C. (1982). In A Different Voice.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press.
  • Golann, Stuart E. (1969). Emerging areas of ethical concern. American Psychologist 24: 454–459.
  • Goree, K., Pyle, M., Baker, E. & Hopkins, J. (2007). Education Ethics Applied. Boston:  Pearson Education.
  • Gregg, Jean W. (1997). From song to speech: On the ethics of teaching voice. Journal of singing: The official journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing 54(1): 55–57.
  • Hutchings, Troy (2015). “Ethics in Education” Vimeo
  • Hutchings, Troy and Thompson, David (2016). “Ethical Equilibrium.” AACTE Professional Development
  • Johnson, L. S. (2012). Guidelines for Dealing with Educator Sexual Misconduct. National Association of Independent Schools. Retrieved from https://
  • Johnson, Tara Star (2008). From Teacher to Lover: Sex Scandals in the Classroom. New York
  • Jorgensen, Estelle R. (2003). Transforming music education. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on Moral Development:  The Philosophy of Moral Development.  New York:  Harper Collins.
  • Krause, J., Traini, D., & Mickey, B. (2001). Equality versus Equity. in J. Shapiro & J. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Lecroy, Hoyt. (1992). Imparting values: A challenge for educators. Music Educators Journal 79(1): 33–36.
  • Lien, Joelle L. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education. Online:
  • Mark, Michael L. and Madura, Patrice (2010). Music Education in Your Hands. Routledge.
  • MENC. (2003). The United States Copyright Law: A Guide for Music Educators. Online: December 4, 2010.
  • MENC. (May 1973). Music Code of Ethics Music Educators Journal Vol. 59, No. 9.
  • Milner, H. (2010). What Does Teacher Education Have to Do with Teaching? Implications for Diversity Studies. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 118-131.
  • Murray, Dave. (December 23, 2010). Are teachers role models outside the classroom? Unions, courts say educators deserve privacy. M Live Media Group. Online:
  • Myers, K (2005). Teachers Behaving Badly.  New York: RoutledgeFarmer.
  • National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. Model Code of Ethics for Educators. Online:
  • Nourse, Nancy (2003). The ethics of care and the private woodwind lesson. Journal of Aesthetic Education 37(3): 58–77.
  • O’Neill, J., & Bourke, R. (2010). Educating Teachers About a Code of Ethical Conduct. Ethics & Education, 5(2), 159-172.
  • Pope, Kenneth S. and Valerie A. Vetter. (1992). Ethical dilemmas encountered by members of the American Psychological Association: A national survey. American Psychologist 47(3): 397–411.
  • Pring, R. (2001). Education As A Moral Practice.  Journal of Moral Education, 30(2): 101-112
  • Regelski, Thomas A. (2011). Ethical implications of music education as a helping profession. Nordic Research in Music Education. Yearbook Vol. 13 2011, 221-232.
  • Richmond, John W. (1996). Ethics and the philosophy of music education. Journal of Aesthetic Education 30(3): 3–22.
  • Roberts, Brian A. (2009). Ethics in Music Education. The Canadian Music Educator. Excerpt online:
  • Rodriguez, Carols Xavier. (2012). Ethics in Music Education. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education. Online:
  • Simpson, R. Eric. (2010). An examination of the relationship of teacher certification area to sexual misconduct: Florida as a case study. Journal of Music Teacher Education 20(1): 56–65.
  • Staratt, R. (2004). Ethical Leadership. San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.
  • Stein, Nan D. and Lisa Sjostrom. (1994). Flirting or hurting? A teacher’s guide to student-to-student sexual harassment in schools (Grades 6 through 12). Washington, DC: National Education Association. (ED 380 415)
  • Stufft, William D. (1997). Two rules for professional conduct. Music Educators Journal 84, 40–42.
  • Szego, C. K. (2005). Praxial foundations of multicultural music education. In Praxial music education: Reflections and dialogues, ed. David J. Elliott, 196–218. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Volk, Terese M. (1998). Music, education, and multiculturalism: Foundations and principles. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Woodford, Paul G. (2005). Democracy and music education: Liberalism, ethics, and the politics of practice. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
  • Wynne, E.A. (1995). The moral dimension of teaching. In A.C. Ornstein (Ed.) Teaching: Theory into practice. (pp. 190-202). Boston: Alyn and Bacon

brass-tubas-1199098 Aron Kremer

Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series.



© 2017 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order) from “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Colorful Xylophone” by Henk L, “Listening to Music” by Ned Horton, “Music 3” by Carol Kramberger, “Music” by Ricardo Vasquez, “Parade Band” by Sarah DeVries, “Girl with Guitar” by Stacy Brumley, “Kids Singing Christmas Songs” by Ned Horton, “Playing Harp” by Gerrit Prenger, and “Brass Tubas” by Aron Kremer



Ethics for Music Educators II

Part II: The Nitty Gritty

(This blog-post is the second in a series of three articles. For an introduction to this topic, you should first read “Part I: Back to Basics” at

A good teacher is a doctor who heals ignorance and an artist who inspires creativity. ― author unknown

Societal Changes Promoting Ethical Disputes

Brooks When Cultures ShiftMany have suggested that there has been a decline in moral standards that have contributed to ethical disputes in modern society (and in the public schools). Some say that this is attributed to a breakdown or lessening of the influence of organized religion and family values. “When Cultures Shift,” an excellent article in the New York Times (April 17, 2015), David Brooks explores some of causes and effects of this “slip” to our value systems, ethics, and renewed focus on self:

  • Cultural shift in personal mores
  • Consumerism
  • Self-esteem movement, narcissism, and “the big me”
  • Trends towards acceptance of informality and casual behavior
  • Social media and other technology

Brooks remarked, “The big shift in American culture did not happen around the time of Woodstock and the Age of Aquarius. It happened in the late 1940s, and it was the members of the Greatest Generation that led the shift.”

We now live in a world in which commencement speakers tell students to trust themselves, listen to themselves, follow their passions, to glorify the Golden Figure inside. We now live in a culture of the Big Me, a culture of meritocracy where we promote ourselves and a social media culture where we broadcast highlight reels of our lives. What’s lost is the more balanced view, that we are splendidly endowed but also broken. And without that view, the whole logic of character-building falls apart. You build your career by building on your strengths, but you improve your character by trying to address your weaknesses.

So perhaps the culture needs a re-balance. The romantic culture of self-glorification has to be balanced with an older philosophic tradition, based on the realistic acknowledgment that we are all made of crooked timber and that we need help to cope with our own tendency to screw things up. That great tradition and body of wisdom was accidentally tossed aside in the late 1940s. It’s worth reviving and modernizing it. ― David Brooks

Read his entire piece at

The Role of Education in Upholding Standards of Behavior

All I Ever Learned KDo schools, not necessarily families, serve as the “safety net” for socializing its citizens, and teaching morality, manners, and the values of human relationships? Are teachers held to a higher standard of behavior in order to model these principles and charged with the responsibility of indoctrinating the meaning of “right and wrong” and how to get along with each other? Many would seem to agree, including sample codes of ethics for teachers and this from Robert Fulghum (

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sand-pile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

― Robert Fulghum in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Philosophies in Moral Development

According to Jacques S. Benninga in “Moral and Ethical Issues in Teacher Education” from Eric Digest (, “Though codes of ethics may not have played a significant role in teacher preparation programs in the past, professional ethical dispositions of teachers must now be addressed as part of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation process (NCATE, 2002).” He describes the Four-Component Model of Moral Maturity, a program of ethical education first developed for dental professionals at the University of Minnesota since adapted to other professional training programs including the training of teachers. The program assumes that moral behaviors are built on a series of component processes (Bebeau, Rest, & Narvaez, 1999). “Each component is clearly defined, and educational goals, teaching strategies and assessment methods can be derived from those definitions.”

  1. Moral sensitivity, the awareness of how our actions affect other people.
  2. Moral judgment about complex human activities (Piaget 1965 and Kohlberg 1984)
  3. Moral motivation, a prioritization of moral values over personal values
  4. Moral character (acting on one’s convictions)

three-frogs-with-a-message-1316215 Gerla Brakkee.jpgIn Essays on Moral Development: The Philosophy of Moral Development (New York: Harper Collins 1981), Lawrence Kohlberg illustrates his “Six Stages of Moral Development” from ethical decisions based on adherence to rules/regulations and avoidance of punishment to acceptance of universal principles of justice and respect for human life.

Here is a brief outline of Kohlberg’s six moral stages:

  1. Obedience and punishment orientation
  2. Naively egoistic orientation (satisfying self-needs)
  3. Good-boy, good-girl (approval/conformity) orientation
  4. Authority and social-order-maintaining orientation
  5. Contractual/legalistic orientation (social contracts)
  6. Individual principles of conscience

However,  Carol Gilligan proposes a contrasting theme, “Three Evolving Steps of Caring,” in her book, In A Different Voice (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press 1982).

  1. Decisions based solely on care for their needs.
  2. Decisions based on care for the needs of others.
  3. Decisions based on care for themselves and others.

The Professional Standards and Practices Commission of the Pennsylvania Department of Education resolved these apparently incompatible philosophies:

Despite their contrasting lenses on moral development, when applied to the teaching profession, these two ethical perspectives complement each other.  Teachers should be motivated by a universal respect for human life and also be guided by principles of caring.  In fact, teachers have a fiduciary duty to act in a way that is in the best interest of their students. Inherent in a fiduciary relationship is an imbalance of power where the students place their trust /confidence in the teachers, who are responsible for caring for their students and respecting their needs.  This overarching responsibility of teachers provides an ethical standard of professional practice to which professional educators must abide and has powerful practical and legal implications for their personal and professional lives.

Sample Code of Professional Practices and Conduct

eye-see-you-1239025 Donald CookAs I said in Part I of this blog series, one of the first acts of a new or transferred teacher upon being hired to a specific school district is to visit the website of his/her state’s education department, and make a thorough search on the topic of “code of ethics” or “code of conduct.” There is no defense for ignorance of the codes and statutes relevant to the state you are/will be employed.

A few quotes and material from the Pennsylvania “Code of Professional Practices and Standards for Educators” are listed below. For a complete listing, go to or download the PDF file from


PA PSPC logo

In addition, if you live and work in Pennsylvania, I would strongly recommend you peruse the comprehensive Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit produced by Dr. Oliver Dreon, Sandi Sheppeard, and the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission, a multiple-week induction program with coursework, essential questions, scenarios, and researched sources on teacher ethics (for which permission was given to share segments of their text below in professional development forums and workshops). Go to:

  1. Professional educators shall abide by the Public School Code of 1949 (24 P. S. § § 1-101 – 27-2702), other school laws of the Commonwealth, sections 1201(a)(1), (2) and (4) and (b)(1), (2) and (4) of the Public Employee Relations Act (43 P. S. § § 1101.1201(a)(1), (2) and (4) and (b)(1), (2) and (4)) and this chapter.
  2. Professional educators shall be prepared, and legally certified, in their areas of assignment. Educators may not be assigned or willingly accept assignments they are not certified to fulfill.
  3. Professional educators shall maintain high levels of competence throughout their careers.
  4. Professional educators shall exhibit consistent and equitable treatment of students, fellow educators and parents. They shall respect the civil rights of all and not discriminate on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, culture, religion, sex or sexual orientation, marital status, age, political beliefs, socioeconomic status, disabling condition or vocational interest. This list of bases or discrimination is not all-inclusive.
  5. Professional educators shall accept the value of diversity in educational practice. Diversity requires educators to have a range of methodologies and to request the necessary tools for effective teaching and learning.
  6. Professional educators shall impart to their students principles of good citizenship and societal responsibility.
  7. Professional educators shall exhibit acceptable and professional language and communication skills. Their verbal and written communications with parents, students and staff shall reflect sensitivity to the fundamental human rights of dignity, privacy and respect.
  8. Professional educators shall be open-minded, knowledgeable and use appropriate judgment and communication skills when responding to an issue within the educational environment.
  9. Professional educators shall keep in confidence information obtained in confidence in the course of professional service unless required to be disclosed by law or by clear and compelling professional necessity as determined by the professional educator.
  10. Professional educators shall exert reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions which interfere with learning or are harmful to the student’s health and safety.

― Section 4: PA Code of Professional Practices and Standards for Educators


school-1465744-1 elias minasi

The Teacher-Student Relationship

Trust has evolved into the operative foundation of the relationship of students with their teachers. The duty of teachers is to act as a fiduciary in their students’ best interest and to create and maintain a safe environment for their students derives. When a teacher enters into an inappropriate relationship with a student, the teacher violates the recognized student-teacher boundary and thereby redefines the boundary inappropriately. Some unintentionally fall prey to the “slippery slope” of misconduct. The inappropriate relationship shifts to serving the needs of the teacher and not the needs of the student.

When teachers become confidants, friends, or counselors of students, a dual relationship is created which creates an ambiguity in the student-teacher relationship where roles are less defined. This ambiguity helps to foster inappropriate actions and educator misconduct.

headphones-1415466In addition, in almost every state education system, there are “mandatory reporting” regulations. Teachers are held responsible to ensure that their colleagues conform to the appropriate standards of ethical practice as well. In other words, if you know something is wrong and you do not report it to an administrator, you could also be liable and subject to hearings, discipline, and even prosecutions for negligence of your duty to protect the best interests, health, and safety of the student(s) involved.



Teachers who are experiencing difficulties in their personal lives or are socially or emotionally immature may be particularly susceptible to the “slippery slope” of blurred teacher-student boundaries. Typical vulnerabilities include the following:

  • Viewing students as peers
  • Suffering from adult relationship issues
  • Immaturity
  • Need for attention
  • that-s-lame-bad-and-or-stupid-1537799 Daino_16A sense of invulnerability
  • Absence of a developed personal moral compass
  • Lack of personal crisis management skills

New or inexperienced teachers, those near their students’ ages, educators who look or act “cool” or “trendy,” or share common interests or an overlapping circle of friends, may be tempted to share inappropriate feelings or become “too close” with their children.

Every behavior or decision made by a teacher with respect to his or her students should be prefaced with the question:  “Whose needs are being met by my course of action?” There can only be one acceptable answer to this question: “The needs of the student!”


Social Media

In terms of teacher ethics, communicating digitally or electronically with students may lead to a blurring of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and create additional challenges to maintaining and protecting one’s privacy. Texts, emails, and social media postings are not private, and may be seen by others, forwarded, and/or copied or printed. Out of context, they may be misinterpreted, appear to be inappropriate, and/or lead to a violation of “The Code.”

computer-and-apple-1241514 Ales CerinIt is the responsibility of the teacher to control his or her “public brand” – how he or she wants to be perceived by students, parents, colleagues, and the public.  One’s public brand can and does impact perceptions, which in turn can impinge upon effectiveness.

When I started teaching in 1978, we did not have “social media.” (Actually, if you can imagine this, there was no Internet yet, most of us did not have computers, and flip or smartphones and tablets were only the subject of science fiction or Star Trek.) Guidelines for use (or abuse) of social media were not even a “seed” in our imaginations.

When MySpace and Facebook came upon the scene in 2003-2004, most school administrators recommended “stay away from these.” The online sharing and archiving of photos initiated the adoption of many other social media apps (Flickr and later Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc.), which provoked new challenges in maintaining privacy, appropriateness, and professionalism. However, soon after, school leaders started rolling out “teacher pages” and school web-pages, online bulletin board services, interactive forums, virtual learning environments like Blackboard and Blended Schools, and other educational tools that encouraged two-way communications among students in a class and the teacher. Technology is here to stay… so how should we use it safely?

The American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), a non-profit organization dedicated to placing qualified teachers in the classroom, released its “10 Social Media Rules for Teachers,” appropriate tips for protecting educators:

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

―Summarized from

girl-with-smart-phone-1616794 Eric Gross


To be continued…

Part III: Issues and Scenarios in Music Education… will review:

  • Pedagogy
  • Enforcement
  • Finances and Resource Allocation
  • Relationships
  • Diversity
  • More Scenarios – How Would You Judge These Incidents?
  • Bibliography


Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series comes.



© 2017 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order) from “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Three Frogs with a Message” by Gerla Brakkee,  “Eye See You” by Donald Cook, “School” by Elias Minasi, “Headphones” by Benjamin Earwicker, “That’s Lame, Bad, and Stupid” by Daino_16, “Computer and Apple” by Ales Cerin, and “Girl With Smart Phone” by Eric Gross.



Ethics for Music Educators I

Part I: Back to Basics

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line.  — Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash sang his love song, “I walk the line…” but for teachers in the education profession, it is a “fine line” to maintain the standards and appearances of professionalism, morality, and ethical codes of conduct in the school workplace.


The purpose of this blog series is to explore an introduction to the definitions, philosophy, and practices of teacher ethics, integrity, professional standards, and behavior “codes,” and some of the available resources, perspectives, and “legalese” on proper relationships among students, parents, and other professionals, appropriate student-teacher boundaries, warnings of vulnerabilities and dilemmas at the workplace, and tips to avoid the problems of unacceptable appearances and actions.

ethics 3However, the disclaimer is that I am not an attorney, human resource manager, nor scholar on school ethics, nor was I ever trained in a single workshop, college class, teacher induction or in-service program on this subject. After reading this article, you should immediately visit the website of your state’s education department, and search on the topic of “code of ethics” or “code of conduct.” A few examples of the “real deal” are listed below, and yes, you must study “every word of” the entire document and  applicable rules from the state you are/will be employed.

Teacher Rules — The Good Old Days?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to Snopes (see, the following “rules of conduct for teachers” — one of the similar “the way we were” documents of questionable origin — may have been circulating since at least the 1930s.

“Nobody has ever been able to verify the authenticity of this list of rules. It has been reproduced in countless newspapers and books over the last fifty years, and copies of it have been displayed in numerous museums throughout North America, with each exhibitor claiming that it originated with their county or school district.”

However accurate, one can only marvel at the real or perceived grimness of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century American schoolteacher’s lot: “the profession was lowly regarded, the work was physically demanding and involved long hours on the job, the position paid poorly, retirement benefits were non-existent, and teachers were expected to be among the most morally upright members of their community.”

Sample Rules for (Female) Teachers 1915

  1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless attending a school function.
  4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
  6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except your father or brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.
  12. To keep the classroom neat and clean, you must sweep the floor at least once a day, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 AM to have the school warm by 8 AM.



Like medicine and law, teaching is a “professional practice,” a “conservative” occupation with high expectations and close public scrutiny. Although many have considered the 24/7 nature of a career in music education a “calling,” the true qualities of the teaching professional include these values also embraced by doctors and attorneys:

  • on-the-phone-closing-the-deal-1241406 Michael RoachAchievement of higher education, constant training and retooling, specific goals, and self-improvement
  • Adoption and refinement of “best practices”
  • Habits of creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills
  • Acceptance of criticism, peer review, teamwork, compromise, and group vision
  • High standards of behavior, etiquette, appearance, language, and ethics

According to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, “an effective teacher” is distinguished by exceptionally high standards:

Effective teachers score high on accepting, adult involvement, attending, consistency of message, conviviality, cooperation, student engagement, knowledge of subject, monitoring learning, optimism, pacing, promoting self-sufficiency, and structuring.

Effective teachers score low on abruptness, belittling, counting hours or “clock punching,” defiance, illogical statements, mood swings, oneness (treating whole as “one”), and recognition-seeking. — David Berliner and William Tikunoff

Referred to as “moral professionalism” (see Wynne, E.A. 1995. “The moral dimension of teaching.” In A.C. Ornstein Ed. Teaching: Theory into Practice. pp. 190-202. Boston: Alyn and Bacon),  the bar is further raised:

  • Coming to work regularly and on time
  • Being well informed about their student-matter
  • Planning and conducting classes with care
  • Regularly reviewing and updating instructional practices
  • Cooperating with, or if necessary, confronting parents of underachieving students
  • Cooperating with colleagues and observing school policies so the whole institution works effectively
  • Tactfully but firmly criticizing unsatisfactory school policies and proposing constructive improvement


balance-1172786 Stephen Stacey


Webster’s definition of eth·ics is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” or “a set of moral principles.” Others have tried to clarify the meaning of these terms with more in depth interpretations:

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. — Potter Stewart

Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal. — Aldo Leopold

Ethics and morals relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct. While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different: ethics refer to rules provided by an external source, e.g., codes of conduct in workplaces or principles in religions. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong.

— “Ethics vs. Morals” at Diffen

According to Laurie Futterman, former Heart Transplant Coordinator at Jackson Memorial Medical Center and now chair of the science department and gifted middle school science teacher at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center, “ethics is a branch of moral philosophy.” Futterman wrote the following in the March 31, 2015 issue of Miami Herald about how ethics “involves defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.”

“In discussion however, ethics can become eclipsed by commingling concepts of values and morals. They all provide behavioral rules, so what are the differences?

  • Values are rules from which we make our personal decisions about what is right and what is wrong, good or bad. Values help direct us to what is more important and past what is less important. This helps guide us when making decisions.
  • Morals tend to be broad yet are more far reaching because of their strong link to good and bad. We judge others by their morals rather than their values.
  • Ethics, in contrast, are a set of rules that tend to be adopted and upheld by a group of people. This could include medical ethics, journalism and advertising ethics and educational ethics. So ethics or intent, tends to be viewed as something upheld and adopted internally, such as professionalism, while morals are ideals we impose on others.”

In addition, there are distinctions between “Codes of Conduct” and “Codes of Ethics.” Although they both provide self-regulation of (un)acceptable  behaviors,  frequently the Code of Ethics outlines a set of principles that affect/govern decision making, while the Code of Conduct delineates specific behaviors that are required or prohibited and governs actions.

ethics 29

For the sake of our discussion here about ethics in education, I will add the qualifier that gavel-1238036JasonMorrisona “violation of ethics” is usually associated with significant consequences or punishment, like charges of medical malpractice or lawyers facing an “ethics committee” hearing. Confirmed unethical behavior may result in censure, suspension of license or certification, or other discipline action. Most state education governing entities post legally-binding “educator discipline acts” or codes of professional standards, ethics, and/or behavior, with extensive penalties.



The grounds for imposition of discipline are broad and far-reaching, and will be governed by the state or county education system to where you are employed. As an example, “the laws” defining infractions in Pennsylvania are:

  • Immorality
  • Incompetency
  • Intemperance
  • Cruelty
  • Negligence
  • Sexual misconduct, abuse or exploitation
  • Violation of the PA Code for Professional Practice and Conduct Section 5(a)(10)
  • Illegal use of professional title
  • Failure to comply with duties under this act, including the mandatory reporting duties in section 9a.
  • Actions taken by an educator to threaten, coerce or discriminate or otherwise retaliate against an individual who in good faith reports actual or suspected misconduct under this act or against complainants, victims, witnesses or other individuals participating or cooperating in proceedings under this act.

— PA Educator’s Discipline Act: 24 P.S. §§2070.1 et seq. Chapter 237/Definition of Terms:

For more discussion on these definitions, visit

Violations range from exhibiting poor behavior or even the semblance of impropriety to “breaking the code” or criminal offenses. (Yes, “appearances” can get you in trouble, due to one’s interpretations of the above charges of “immorality,” “intemperance,” and “negligence!”) In short, from bad (unprofessional) to worse (illegal), this illustration ethics 22defines misconducts.

The first two on the bottom of the figure (unprofessional or immoral incidents) may only (?) result in damage to one’s professional reputation, lowering the year-end teacher evaluation score, earning a “warning” or “write-up” by the principal/supervisor, or a job re-assignment, but unethical or illegal conduct usually results in further investigation and possible major (and often permanent) disciplinary action:

  • Private Reprimand
  • Public Reprimand
  • Suspension (temporary termination of certificate)
  • Revocation (termination of certificate)
  • Surrender (of certificate)
  • Supplemental Sanctions
  • Legal (Criminal) Action (fines, suspension, jail time, other penalties)
  • Civil Action


Ethical Equilibrium: Consequential “Codes of Conduct” vs. Professional Ethics

“From a decision-making standpoint, I tend to look at it from the perspective of Ethical Equilibrium (some work by Troy Hutchings). Teachers weigh the moral (personal) dimensions with regulatory ones (the law) with the ethics of the profession (ethics of teaching?). While focusing on consequences is important, I worry that teachers may interpret this to mean that as long as they don’t break the law, they can still be unprofessional and immoral.”

– Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University and author of the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission Ethics Tool Kit.

The foundations of “what’s right or wrong” and what your mother always said was “behaving appropriately when no one is watching you” are all about professional ethical standards that guide decision-making. The work of Troy Hutchings (among other leaders in this field) helps to further clarify these sometimes blurred definitions:

  • Personal Morality: “Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may/may not align with community mores.”
  • Regulations of Law: “Policies, statues, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes.”
  • Professional Ethics: Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situation and systemic contexts in choosing the best course-of-action.”
  • Professional Dispositions: “Agreed upon professional attitudes, values and beliefs to be held by educational practitioners.”

See the slide below borrowed from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education webinar presentation “Beyond the Obvious: The Intersection of Educator Dispositions, Ethics, and Law” by Troy Hutchings and David P. Thompson.

Hutchings Nexus Between Ethics and Conduct

In other words, the intent of these essays on ethics is not to emphasize the “lowest standards of acceptable behavior” or the consequences of misconduct for music teachers. We will strive to move from “obedience and punishment orientation” (stage 1) and “self-interest orientation” (stage 2) to “social contract orientation” (stage 5) and “universal ethical principles (stage 6) of Lawrence Kohlberg’s “Six Stages of Moral Development.” (See


Sample Codes of Ethics

MCEEOne of the best examples endorsed by many states, college education methods programs, and other institutions, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification has published its “Model Code of Ethics for Educators” (see outlining the following principles:

  • Responsibility to the Profession
  • Responsibility for Professional Competence
  • Responsibility to Students
  • Responsibility to the School Community
  • Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology

In addition, it would be valuable to study the standards proclaimed by other organizations, such as

The latter “Music Code of Ethics” was revised and ratified in 1973 by the Music Educators National Conference (now the National Association for Music Education), American Federation of Musicians, and the American Association of School Administration (now the School Superintendent’s Association). It is worth reading mutual agreement of these parties regarding which performance events are sanctioned for music education programs and those that are only appropriate for professional musicians who make their livelihood in the field of “entertainment.”



To be continued…

Part II: The Nitty Gritty will review:

  • Societal Changes Promoting Ethical Disputes
  • The Role of Education in Upholding Standards of Behavior
  • Philosophies in Moral Development
  • Sample Code of Professional Practices and Conduct
  • The Teacher-Student Relationship
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Social Media


Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series comes.



© 2017 Paul K. Fox


Photo credits (in order) from “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Piano Prodigy” by Crissy Pauley, “Old School House” by Vikki Hansen, “On the Phone Closing the Deal” by Michael Roach, “Balance” by Stephen Stacey, “Gavel” by Jason Morrison, and “Music” by Ricardo Vasquez.



Dress for Success at Teacher Interviews

Tips for Modeling the “Proficient Professional” Look

“Make no mistake — you are being judged as soon as you walk into the room and the interviewer has made an initial impression of you in the first few seconds they see you based on how you look. That may not be fair but it is reality in many cases. An interviewer is expecting you to dress appropriately for the interview. If not, you are showing the interviewer that you don’t understand the basics of what it takes to be successful in the workplace. If this is the case, you already have one strike against you.”  —  Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation,

Trolling online for a consensus on what to wear to school employment screenings, I found repetitions of the words “professional,” “appropriate,” and “comfortable,” but no single standard of dress. Most agree that you must exhibit an image of confidence, optimism-1241418-1competence, and responsibility, and should probably error on the side of more formal attire rather than day-to-day casual.

Dressing appropriately for your teacher interview makes your critical first impression on the interview committee. Betsy Weigle from Classroom Connection explains in a YouTube video how to avoid common mistakes plus tells you what to bring along for success at

  1. Dress comfortably but dressier than what you would wear teaching in a classroom.
  2. Your appearance should be professional and appropriate, and show that you really want to be considered for the job.
  3. The focus should be on you, not what you are wearing.
  4. Ladies should wear a skirt or slacks, blouse and a little sweater. A dress would be fine, too (but don’t be too dressy).
  5. Shoes and jewelry should be comfortable AND yet not be noisy or distracting.
  6. No perfume or cologne: Your presence should not enter the room before you do.
  7. For men, a collared shirt is recommended. Dress-up a little bit.
  8. Jeans are never appropriate for a job interview.
  9. For both men and women, adding a little color is a great choice.
  10. Do not wear a mini-skirt, t-shirt, shorts, or sport shoes.

Hannah Hudson shares six hints in “Real Teachers Spill: What to Wear to a Teacher Interview” from We Are Teachers. She provides good photographic examples of her thoughts maintaining style and comfort while exhibiting professionalism, so be sure to read the entire article at

  1. sharp-dressed-breast-1241310Suits are always a good choice.
  2. If a suit isn’t an option, try a pair of dress pants or skirt with coordinating top and blazer or cardigan.
  3. Women, consider a black sheath dress.
  4. For men who don’t want to go the suit route, we advise a button-down shirt and pants.
  5. Don’t forget the footwear!
  6. Choose a fun accessory.

In a blog entitled “Teacher Interview Style” posted on Classy in the Classroom at, a very upbeat Amy Disbrow personally models her professional attire with remarks on selecting specific styles and colors.

Pictures are also provided in “How to Dress for an Interview” by Alison Doyle from the balance. Start reading the entire blog-post at Sample interview outfits and advice for men are posted at and for women at

Michigan State University’s Career Services Network “Dressing for Interviews” offers additional recommendations (some hopefully under the category of “common sense”) at

  1. It is rarely appropriate to “dress down” for an interview, regardless of company [or school district] dress code policy. When in doubt, go conservative.
  2. Avoid loud colors and flashy ties.
  3. Clothing should be neat, clean, and pressed. If you don’t have an iron, either buy one or be prepared to visit the dry-cleaner’s often.
  4. Shower or bathe the morning of the interview. Wear deodorant. Don’t wear cologne or aftershave. You don’t want to smell overpowering or worse, cause an allergic reaction.
  5. Make sure you have fresh breath. Brush your teeth before you leave for the interview, and don’t eat before the interview. Don’t smoke right before an interview.

Finally, it is probably worth reading excerpts regarding school institutional dress codes. Good examples include the following:


  • From Education World at “The staff policy prohibits jeans, see-through clothing, torn clothing, short or very tight-fitting clothing, sweat suits, shorts, hats, with exception of religious head-wear, thongs (flip flops), and sneakers or athletic shoes, although gym teachers are permitted to wear athletic shoes.”
  • From the Association for American Educators at “Litchfield Elementary School District in Arizona piloted a policy designed to prohibit rubber-sole flip-flops, visible undergarments, any visible cleavage, bare midriffs, clothes that are deemed too tight, too loose or transparent, bare shoulders, short skirts and exercise pants. Administrators in the district also suggested guidelines for natural hair color, limiting piercings, and covering tattoos — all of which can come across as unprofessional.”
  • From Teaching Community “What Teachers Should Never (Ever) Wear” at “How you choose to dress each morning reflects how you feel about your job — that you take your position seriously, that you are ready to work and that you pay attention to detail and know what you expect to encounter that day. You wouldn’t go to a construction site in your favorite four-inch stilettos, right? Of course not, you’d go in a hard hat, because it’s appropriate for the situation. Appearances matter!”
  • From Edutopia “How Should Teachers Dress” by Kevin Jarrett at “There is a LOT to consider between formal district dress code policies, personal taste and preference, teaching assignment, community norms, individual income levels, and even climate concerns. As a new teacher, you obviously are going to get your cues from the existing teaching staff, and will probably aim a tad higher, at least initially, while you get established. For most men, this will mean a long-sleeve dress shirt and tie, maybe even a sport coat too. A suit is not out of the question.”

Over the span of my 35+ years in education, I, too, have noticed a significant “slip” or shift to more casual and informal clothing. Some change was expected. After all, in the Rules for Teaching 1915 (see, these guidelines were strictly enforced (mostly for woman teachers):

  • You may not smoke cigarettes.
  • You may not dress in bright colors.
  • You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  • You must wear at least two petticoats.
  • Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.

interview-1238367-1My view? Teaching is still among the most conservative of occupations. That is how it is viewed by the general public, parents of school-aged children, School Boards, administrators, and interview panels. You can certainly exercise your right to wear whatever you want and show-off numerous body piercings or tattoos… but, like it or not, the school districts are within their rights to choose someone else.

In dealing with our most “treasured blessings” – the students and future hopes of mankind – educators’ ethics and code of professional practices should continue to reach for the highest standards of conduct and appearances. Why? Our kids deserve it!

Hope these online sources help to give you a balanced perspective! Check out the rest of my articles on “Becoming a Music Educator” (click here). PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits (in order) from Rita Mezzela, Michael Roach, Keith Syvinski, Heriberto Herrera, and Martin Boulanger





inteREVIEWING the situation… and jobs

Senior Music Education Majors’ Employment Prep

Did you miss your state MEA conference?

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

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

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


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

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

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

Successful professionals stay up-to-date with their journals

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

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

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

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


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

What was YOUR score… out of 11?

Get to work… so you can get work!



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

© 2017 Paul K. Fox