Does Practice Make Perfect?

Photo credit: FreeImages.com, photographer Alexander Kalina

 

foxsfiresides

Tips on Developing Better Practicing Habits

Every good musician knows that regular practice is a must, but did you know that careless or inattentive practice can actually make you worse?

It is not necessary true that “practice makes perfect” – more likely that “perfect practice develops perfect playing.” Quality not quantity, you say? Your school music teachers will urge you to increase both the quality (focus, attention, goals/planning, etc.) as well as the number of minutes per week. Here are a few hints on improving practicing techniques. Read on… there are many additional resources for parents to guide their musicians to musical mastery!

  1. Designate a quiet place for practice at home
  2. Limit all distractions (TV, video games, computers, phones)
  3. Plan habits of consistent daily practice time(s) and weekly frequency
  4. Make practice goals (what do you hope to accomplish this week?)
  5. Take a few minutes to warm-up (scales, finger patterns, long tones, or lip slurs)
  6. Sandwich method (start at the bottom and work your way up)
    1. Review a song you already know (bottom slice of bread)
    2. Focus on a few “hard parts” (the meat in the middle of the sandwich)
    3. Sight-read something new (condiments, pickles or cheese)
    4. Review another well-prepared song (top slice of bread)
  7. Pizza slices
    1. Identify and prioritize the problems or hard sections
    2. Partition the entire song
    3. Focus on a “slice” of the music – a measure, phrase or line of music – at a time
    4. Drill (daily) on one or a few slices
    5. Next practice session, repeat then progress to next section
  8. Re-order the sections of a piece (scrambling)
  9. Target a difficult passage, play slow at first, then increase tempo gradually each time you play it
  10. Try patterns of instant slow/fast and then fast/slow
  11. Fire up different sections of the brain on a problem spot
    1. Say the letter names out loud (or sing them) – speech center
    2. Bow or tap the rhythms “in the air” – left-side psychomotor
    3. Finger the notes without the bow or mouthpiece – right-side psychomotor
    4. Combine a, b, and/or c on specific passages – all parts of the brain
  12. Create new rhythmic or articulation/bowing variations to challenge your playing of the passage
  13. To improve your musical batting average, implement the Ten-Times Rule (accurately in a-row)
  14. Always add expressive markings including dynamics, tempo and articulation changes, etc.

seriestoshare-logo-01Yes, practicing should be heard at home. It is NOT enough simply to play at school. The long-tested “success equation” is TIME + MAKING PROGRESS = FUN (encouraging more time, progress and fun). Practicing on a regular basis improves technique, musicianship, self-confidence, endurance, reading skills, and besides… playing better is a lot more FUN!

PARENTS: Here are several excellent websites on recommendations for developing better practice skills, but ask your school music director for more advice!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

This “Series to Share” is brought to you by… the Founding Directors of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO), “A Community Orchestra for All Ages” based in Western Pennsylvania. Please feel free to download a printable copy (CLICK HERE) and distribute to music students, parents, teachers, and fellow amateur musicians.

SHJO rehearses most Saturdays in the band room of the Upper St. Clair High School, 1825 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241. New members are always welcome! For more information, please go to www.shjo.org.

How Retirement Has Changed Me

Part I: One retiree’s quest for learning technology, science, and history

Freedom! “Living the dream” in post-employment life has opened so many new avenues of exploration, allowing me to embrace many things I have always wanted to try. Released from the 24/7 nature of running a music program, classes and/or ensembles (even at rest, your mind is still “back at work” thinking about your next lesson or concert selection – and we all know how much time we spent on extra-curricular activities and professional development), you must now find your own intellectual stimulation, replenish your “curiosity quotient,” rekindle your creative self-expression, and re-invent yourself. laptop-1242490

Gone are the days that my laptop computer was used mostly for taking daily homeroom and class attendance, updating the student data in MMS or the grade-book program, and reading school emails and directives from administration. Thank god, those forms of “technology” are “retired” (probably permanently for me).

Following my own advice from this series of blogs on retirement resources, I have had no trouble “finding purpose, structure, and community,” emphasized by Ernie Zeliniski as key components in his bestselling book, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. However, keeping track of the schedule (since it is ever-changing) can be a challenge! Our numerous appointments, lunch dates, babysitting chores, volunteer hours, and medical checkups now land at more unpredictable dates. Happily, the iPhone calendar app, which is linked to my wife’s devices, too, calendar-series-2-1192572is the most essential “tech tool” to maintain your “now busier than ever” daily/weekly plan.

It should be mentioned, if you are a fan of Google gmail, there is also an excellent Google Calendar, as well as a place for contacts, documents, and photos stored safely “in the cloud.”

Updates and Passwords

Retirement provides me more time to literally “figure out technology.” Although I would never claim to have much skill as a nerd (nor would I ever try to seek employment as a member of the highly esteemed Geek Squad), I am finally taking the necessary steps to update my software more regularly, download revised apps, and even go as falinux-login-1497422r as changing my passwords. Everyone knows, with hackers lurking around every corner of the Internet, you are supposed to do two things: have a different password for each application, and from time to time, change these passwords. They should not be something someone else could guess, like “1234” or your phone number or the nickname “foxy” for me. A “good” password should utilize numbers, capitalized letters and small-case, and special characters like $, &, or underline. Using a password manager program like Last Pass (my favorite, and it also comes with a “free version”), you can generate totally random characters for any password and maintain a secure “password vault” under one “master password.” For password manager reviews, check out PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp.

Media Moments

When I was teaching, after a long day of classes and rehearsals, the purpose of the television was to put me to sleep when I got home. Of course, that has not changed much. I hate television. There are very few programs in which I am interested. However, I finally got around to discovering what Amazon Prime and Netflix offer. Crazy old Trekkies like me can now can view every episode of the original Star Trek series in chronological order. When my wife revisits her fixation on the new Gilmoreleo-logo Girls three-part movie or The Crown (Netflix), all I have to do is go into another room, fire up my computer’s browser, and check out the latest video podcast of “Leo the Tech Guy” (techguylabs.com) or any number of the playlists of Ted Talks (these about music caught my notice):

silent-serviceOne of my hobbies furthest from a career in music education has to do with collecting and reading books about World War II, particularly U.S. Navy, submarines and surface fleet. One of my fellow hospital volunteer escorts, a veteran of the Vietnam war, turned me on to the free classic online episodes of T.V. series The Silent Service, for example the 25-minute 1957 broadcast of  SS Tinosa Story #8310 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1nESHgqAnY) archived by Persicope Film LLC.

Almost anything can be found on the Internet. Archived in YouTube, do you remember that old science film your elementary teacher may have shown called  “Hemo the Magnificant” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08QDu2pGtkc? Although the content is out-dated, I can’t help being a little nostalgic in sharing the entire “Bell Lab Telephone” series:

  1. Our Mr. Sun (1956)
  2. Hemo the Magnificent (1957)
  3. The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957)
  4. The Unchained Goddess(1958)bell-lab
  5. Gateways to the Mind (1958)
  6. The Alphabet Conspiracy (1959)
  7. Thread of Life (1960)
  8. About Time (1962)
  9. The Restless Sea (1964)

The Rise of “Siri” and other Personal Assistants

My new girlfriend Siri has become a constant trip partner, not just for using turn-by-turn directions (often needed since my wife would tell you I can get lost in my closet), but to open up opportunities for brainstorming and sound out new ideas for my  writing. Whenever I am “on hold” sitting in a doctor or dentist office, doing family shopping at the mall, or even waiting for traffic at an accident or during rush hour, my hands-free blue-tooth connection allows me to “babble” my thoughts into an app called Evernote, which provides (not always accurate) transcripts that can be downloaded from any of my devices including my computer. Later on, I can use the text as a basis for an article’s outline or to add to my “honey-do” list. However, just remember, you should not use this “tech technique” while driving… the distraction of turning Siri on and off or viewing your last entry does not allow for safe/alert driving!

echoPowered by artificial intelligence, other voice-activated virtual assistants and knowledge navigators including products like Google Home and Amazon Echo (with a different “girlfriend” named “Alexa”) are flooding the market. This should be no surprise… the 21st Century seems to be developing many new inventions of super-automation, not so far from the female-voiced computer interface on the USS Enterprise (Star Trek) that could control everything. Soon you may take a ride from Uber in a driver-less car or “program” the autopilot on your pure-electric Tesla. Do you foresee the time when you will accept your Amazon merchandise or pizza being delivered from the air? What were those drone-operated lights we saw in the background of Lady Gaga’s halftime performance at the 2017 Super Bowl… possible future special effects for HS musicals and marching band shows?

My generation of teachers who entered the profession had no experience or training in microcomputers, tablets, smartphones, smart watches or other devices, or virtual reality headsets. (They weren’t invented yet!) Throughout the advent of technological “innovations,” many of us felt like we were “technology immigrants” trying to catch-up! It was easier for those “technology natives” born after 1980 since they grew up with the Internet. Change is inevitable, and we are all life-long learners. So it almost goes without saying: You can teach an old dog new tricks… even retired music teachers and other baby-boomer retirees how to grasp the fundamentals and benefits of technology, media, and online learning.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

(First four photo credits: Ned Horton, Jean Scheijen, Maxime Perron Caissy, and Joshua Davis at FreeImages.com)

Body Language & Interviewing for a Job

More Sources to Prep You to Make a Good Impression at Employment Screenings

If you have been closely following this section of the https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com blog-site on “Marketing Professionalism,” you have consumed a lot of advice on numerous topics for preparing for the job search, developing your personal brand, and especially “conquering” employment interviews, such as:

body-language-3-1240767This article’s focus will be on the seemingly intangible… “body language!” Many say that during the interview, first impressions are critical — “the first ten seconds will create the interviewer’s first judgments about you, and then after four minutes, it’s all over.” The research also suggests that during the interview, the evaluation of your merit is based 7% on what you say, 38% on your voice or how you say it, and 55% on our facial expressions and non-verbal cues.

A good starting point to the introduction of “nonverbal communication” was posted by Jonathan Burston in his Interview Expert Academy website: http://www.interviewexpertacademy.com/body-language-the-3c-triangle/:

Using a triangle to symbolize his concepts, the “3Cs of Body Language” are:

  • Context of the situation/environment you are in… with friends (relaxed) or the boss (more stressed)
  • Clusters or groups of body language signals that you give off unconsciously
  • Congruence or links between what the person is saying, the tone of their voice, and the signals their body is giving off

He summarizes, “The 3C Triangle will help you understand the core parts of reading body language. Next time you’re with someone, either a friend, family member, work colleague or an interviewer, remember to use the 3C’s. Keep practicing.”

Probably one of the most unique presentations on this subject is a TED talk filmed in 2012: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy. Check out the transcript at http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are/transcript?language=en.

“Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.”

Although some of her findings referenced in her talk are an ongoing debate among social scientists, Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we may be able to change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — by simply changing body positions.

body-language-6-1240752Some of Cuddy’s assertions:

  • “When we think about nonverbal behavior, or body language — but we call it nonverbals as social scientists – it’s language, so we think about communication. When we think about communication, we think about interactions.”
  • “What are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance? …In the animal kingdom, they are about expanding. So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space, you’re basically opening up.”
  • “What do we do when we feel powerless? We do exactly the opposite. We close up. We wrap ourselves up. We make ourselves small. We don’t want to bump into the person next to us.”
  • “We know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds? And when I say minds, in the case of the powerful, what am I talking about? …I’m talking about thoughts and feelings and the sort of physiological things that make up our thoughts and feelings, and in my case, that’s hormones.”
  • “Powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel they’re going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to think more abstractly…They take more risks.”
  • “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes… Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors… Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.”

From Monster website, a very comprehensive article worth reviewing is “Body Language Can Make or Break a Job Interview” by Robert Ordona at https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/body-language-can-make-or-break-a-job-interview-hot-jobs. He cites several body language experts. “You could be saying how great you are, but your body could be giving your true feelings away,” says Alison Craig, image consultant and author of Hello Job! How to Psych Up, Suit Up, & Show Up. Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language, agrees with Craig – and with the highly regarded Mehrabian communication study, which found that “if what’s coming out of your mouth doesn’t match what your body is saying, your audience is more likely to believe your body.”

Ordona’s blog-post sections provide the “nitty-gritty” of nonverbal communications:

  • Your “Great Entrance”
  • Showing your “good side”
  • First impressions
  • Handshakes
  • The walk to the interview
  • At the interview
  • The art of departing

Excerpts from Craig, Bowden, and Ordona’s work, here is a “top-ten list” of body language do’s (green) and don’ts (red):

  1. Be aware that the interview may start in the parking lot… you never know who may be observing you from a window or standing near you in the hallway. Regardless how you feel (inside yourself), model an attitude of outward calm, purpose, and confidence. This is no time to be frantically searching for your copies of your resume.
  2. The receptionist or secretary in the office may be informally assessing you (and the administrator may ask their opinion), so let them “observe you without letting on that you know they are watching.” Whenever possible, sit at right angles or offer your profile to them. “It makes them feel comfortable, and if they’re comfortable, they’re more likely to form a good impression.”
  3. While waiting, sit with good posture, back straight, and your chest open – additional signs you are “confident and assertive.” Don’t hunch your shoulders or tuck your chin into your chest, which may imply you are “closed off.” Don’t try to appear to comfortable or informal, for example “elongating your legs or throwing your arm across the back of the chair,” as it might make you look arrogant.
  4. If you can tell, try facing the direction from where the interviewer will come; “it’ll make the greeting more graceful.” Also, “don’t have so much stuff on your lap that you’re clumsily moving everything aside when you’re called.”
  5. body-language-5-1240757Practice handshaking with a friend before taking interviews. Avoid “the overly aggressive or death grip” as well as “the limp handshake.” Since you are going to shake with your right hand, arrange your belongings on your left side. “Offer your hand with you palm slightly up so that your interviewer’s hand covers yours,” a sign that “you’re giving them status.”
  6. Even the walk to the interview room is the perfect to time to use good body language: follow the hiring manager or assistant “to show you understand the protocol” (“I follow your lead”), mirroring that person’s tempo and demeanor, showing “you can easily fit into the environment.”
  7. Once in the interview room, it’s okay to place a slim portfolio on the table, “especially if you’ll be presenting its contents,” but place your other belongings on the floor beside you. “Holding a briefcase or handbag on your lap will make you seem as though you’re trying to create a barrier around yourself.” Again, it is recommended you sit a slight angle to offer your profile, avoiding creating a defensive barrier.
  8. Sit up straight and display your neck, chest, and stomach area, a signal to the interviewer that you’re open. “Avoid leaning forward, which makes you appear closed off.”
  9. Sit about a foot away from the table and keep hand gestures at a level above the desk (or slightly lower) and below your collarbone. Your goal is to communicate that “you’re centered, controlled, and calm – and that you want to help.”
  10. The final advice at the end of interview: “Gather your belongings calmly, rise smoothly, smile, and nod your head. If shaking hands with everyone in the room isn’t convenient, at least shake hands with the hiring manager and the person who brought you to the interview space.”

Another interesting online resource is Forbes, “10 Body Language Interview Mistakes” at http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lml45lide/10-body-language-interview-mistakes-2/#76cf48105767. Eleven slides illustrate suggestions about eye contact, the way you fix your hair, crossing your arms, and other “physical slip-ups in your next interview.”

Finally, Yohana Desta offers “9 Simple Body Language Tips for Your Next Job Interview” on Mashable at http://mashable.com/2014/11/17/body-language-job-interview/#UZoXdE1FEsqB.

“Job interviews are notorious tightrope walks. You want to be confident, but not obnoxious; intelligent but not a know-it-all. Trying to find a balance and also explain why you deserve a job is hard enough. But what if your body language could help you out?” – Yohana Desta

body-language-8-1240743Although “the experts” are not always in consensus, especially on the subjects of eye contact and leaning posture, Desta’s tips summarized below provide additional enlightenment on how to use body language to promote a positive image:

  1. Sit all the way back in your seat.
  2. Don’t go for direct eye contact.
  3. Use hand gestures while speaking.
  4. Show your palms.
  5. Plant your feet on the ground.
  6. Work on your walk.
  7. Nod your head while listening.
  8. Lean in.

In a challenging job market with limited openings for public/private school music educators in many geographical areas of the country, there is great competition in the screening and evaluation of the applicants. Hopefully these suggestions from “the experts on body language” will help you better prepare for employment interviews… and land that job you always wanted!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Picture credits: Photographers John Evans and Henk L. at http://www.freeimages.com

ESSA, PDE, and Lessons in Creativity IV

Advocate the Arts and Creativity by Providing Feedback to Your State’s Education Department

“With this bill [ESSA], we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will.” — President Barack Obama

In the constantly changing climate of “educational reform,” the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama in December 2015 is the latest “flavor” of educational law to come down from Congress, serving as the re-authorization opmeaf the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Each state must now develop and adopt their own “plan” of ESSA implementation. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is considering some very broad topics for inclusion in its state plan, and is currently asking for feedback from the general public on the following (source – Pennsylvania Music Educators Association – PMEA –  http://www.pmea.net/specialty-areas/advocacy/):

Assessments

  • Can we reduce the amount of time students spent on statewide PSSA testing (grades 3-8)?
  • Is it feasible to test students at multiple times across the school year instead of only once?
  • Can we eliminate double testing for middle school Algebra I students? (Would need to add advance math test in high school for those students.)

Accountability – Measures

  • Future Ready PA Index – a proposed tool to measure school success
  • Increased weight on growth in test scores  versus point-in-time achievement
  • Local options for additional assessments
  • Career ready indicators and meaningful post-secondary student engagement
  • More holistic measures of student success
  • Measures of both inputs (i.e., course offerings) and outcomes (achievement scores)

essaAccountability – Interventions

  • Tailored to local context and school based needs assessment.
  • Intervention for lowest performing schools to include BOTH academic and holistic strategies
  • Level of state intervention to be responsive to student progress over time.

Educator Preparation and Evaluation

  • What are the best strategies to ensure effective, diverse educators and school leaders for all students?
  • What changes in teacher preparation do we need to consider to improve the readiness of new teachers?
  • How to promote alternative pathways to teacher certification?

Mark Despokatis, Chair of the PMEA Council for the Advancement of Music Education, says that music teachers and parents “don’t have to respond to every suggestion, but please feel free to respond to those on which you can provide opinions and feedback.” Comments should be shared directly with the PDE at RA-edESSA@pa.gov. Also, PMEA members should submit their feedback to PMEA via email to Mark Despotakis at mark.despotakis@progrmusic.com.

PDE has provided a PowerPoint presentation about the public listening tour and with a little more background on the above listed suggestions on their website at http://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/tour.aspx#tab-1.

pen-tablet-girl-1511024

This blog-series on “creativity and education” maintains the position that a focus on the development of self-expression and artistry in the schools should be at the top of the critical “big four list” for satisfying  “the real purpose of education” – personal discovery, self-improvement, and developing the building blocks for success and happiness in life:

  • Creativity
  • Literacy
  • Logic
  • Global understanding

“Talk is cheap! Educational research, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills movement, and other leading-edge groups, company managers, HR Directors, and the general employee job market have known for a long time what is best for kids and the economy… in a nutshell, the need for more exploration, teaching, and mastery of student creativity, including inquisitiveness, ingenuity, inventiveness, flexibility of thought, and inquiry-based learning! In this era standardized testing, the Common Core revolution, and relentless “teaching to the test,” are we embracing the best practices of “whole child” learning? True customization, individualization, and personalization of education dictate a change in emphasis from not relying purely on lesson targets and assessments of simple objective, one-answer-only, convergent thinking, but moving towards the more complex (and richly meaningful) higher-order, multiple-pathway, divergent thinking – greatly valued skills of analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing.” — Paul K. Fox in “Creativity in Education” https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/creativity-in-education/

Here is your next installment of research and resources on rationale and application of helping our students become more creative. However, do not be shy in vocally expressing your own views and support of the arts to your state legislators and and governor. For the future of education, this is probably the most important role a music advocate can play!

Girl drawing back to school

Google’s Most Cited Sources for Creative Teaching and Learning

  • Creativity in Education edited by Anna Craft, Bob Jeffrey, and Mike Leibling (Continuum 2007)
  • Creativity and Education by Robina Shaheen (Scientific Research 2010) http://file.scirp.org/Html/3369.html
  • Creativity and Education by Hugh Lytton (Routledge 1971/2012)

“Throughout the world, national governments are reorganizing their education systems to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. One of the priorities is promoting creativity and innovation. In the new global economies, the capacity to generate and implement new ideas is vital to economic competitiveness. But education has more than economic purposes: it must enable people to adapt positively to rapid social change and to have lives with meaning and purpose at a time when established cultural values are being challenged on many fronts.” — Ken Robinson in the Preface of Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education provides insightful essays by Margaret A. Boden, Ken Gale, Laura Haringman, Susan Humphries, Dame Tamsyn Imison, Mathilda Marie Joubert, Jenny Leach, Bill Lucas, Bethan Marshall, Kevin McCarthy, Susan Rowe, Leslie Safran, and Peter Woods. The book is divided into two general sections and thirteen chapters:

Part One: Creativity and Individual Empowerment

  • The Art of Creative Teaching
  • Creative Teaching, Teaching Creativity, and Creative Learning
  • Little “c” Creativity
  • Creative Literacy
  • Creativity as “Mindful” Learning: A Case from Learner-Based Education

Part Two: Creativity and Pedagogy

potter-1518976

  • Creativity and Knowledge
  • Teacher Education within Post-Compulsory Education and Training: A Call for a Creative Approach
  • Creating Danger: The Place of the Arts in Education Policy
  • Poised at the Edge: Spirituality and Creativity in Religious Education
  • Creative Leadership” Innovative Practices in a Secondary School
  • Effective Teaching and Learning: The Role of the Creative Parent-Teacher
  • Creating a Climate for Learning at Coombes Infant and Nursery School
  • A Hundred Possibilities: Creativity, Community, and ICT

Although conceived more than ten years ago, this set of comprehensive articles are a “must read.” As Sir Ken Robinson endorsed, these contributions provide arguments that “educating for creativity is a rigorous process based on knowledge and skill; that creativity is not confined to particular activities or people; that creativity flourishes under certain conditions and, in this sense, can be taught.”

Creativity and Education comes to us via Scientific Research Open Access of “Creative Education” 2010, Vol. 1, No. 3. Robina Shaheen shares interesting research focused in her three sections of her paper:

  • The Link Between Creativity and Education
  • Changing Role of Education
  • The Inclusion of Creativity Within Education

She cites numerous authorities in support of the essential rationale for promoting  creativity in schools.

“Fostering creativity in education is intended to address many concerns. As a summary, this includes dealing with ambiguous problems, coping with the fast changing world and facing an uncertain future ( Parkhurst, 1999). Perhaps the most dominant current argument for policy is the economic one. The role of creativity in the economy is being seen as crucial (Burnard, 2006) to assist nations for attaining higher employment, economic achievement (Davies, 2002) and to cope with increased competition. It is for this reason that creativity cannot be “ignored or suppressed through schooling” (Pool e, 1980) or its development be left to chance and mythology” (NESTA, 2002). It is predominantly for this reason that there is a call for its inclusion in education as a fundamental life skill” (Craft, 1999) which needs to be developed to prepare future generations (Parkhurst, 1999) so that they can survive as well as thrive in the twentyfirst century” (Parkhurst, 2006). Developing children’s creativity during their years in education is the start of building human capitalupon which, according to Adam Smith and successive commentators, depends the “wealth of nations (Walberg, 1988).” — Robina Shaheen

child-laptop-1243096Shaheen discloses the new focus of the Foundation Stage Curriculum and National Curriculum for schools in England, with the aim that the school should “enable pupils to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better. It should give them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, and enterprising.” The key points on the National Curriculum website are:

  • What is creativity?
  • Why is creativity important?
  • How can you spot creativity?
  • How can teachers promote creativity?
  • How can heads and managers promote creativity?

She concludes that there has been a recent upsurge in “creativity and education” in most European, American, Australian, and East Asian countries, as reflected in their policy documents. She cites the example of what UNESCO now proposes should be taught to Asian students:

  • Rather than “learning how to learn” – “learning how to learn critically”
  • Rather than “learning how to do” – “learning how to do creatively”
  • Rather than “learning how to work together” – “learning how to work constructively”
  • Rather than “learning how to be” – “learning how to be wise.”

Another excellent reading, the book Creativity and Education rounds off the third most cited online reference on this subject.

drama-1436610-1

Author Hugh Lytton (1921-2002) was a distinguished scholar in the field of developmental psychology. His table of contents displays an amazing wealth of thought-provoking material:

  1. The creative process
    • Imagination and intuition
    • Creative moments
    • The poet’s inspiration
    • The scientist’s insight
  2. “Convergent” and “divergent” thinking, or how intelligent is a creative and how creative is an intelligent person?
    • Origins of intelligence tests
    • Mechanics of intelligence tests
    • Theory of intellect
    • “Intelligence” and “creativity”
    • Do “creativity tests” measure creativity
  3. What are creative people like?
    • Creative men
    • Young creatives
    • Madness and genius
  4. dancing-1240581Nurturing creativity
    • Home background
    • Pre-school education
    • Developing productive thinking
  5. The creative child at school
    • Is education biased against creativity?
    • Teachers’ and pupils’ attitudes
    • Achievements
    • A propitious school climate
    • Teaching for creativity
    • Specialization in arts or science
  6. Retrospect

Although a little pricey, the book is currently available for purchase on Amazon, which provides the following description.

“The author provides a lucid account of creativity and its educational context. He discusses the creative process, the character of different kinds of creativity, creative people, developing creativity, and the creative child at school, to give his readers an understanding of the issues that home or school have to face in fostering a creative, non-habit-bound child. The book should be particularly welcome to all concerned with education in view of the present stress on child-centerd education and on the development of individual children’s abilities, especially their powers of original thought and search to the full.” — Amazon re: Creativity and Education by Hugh Lytton

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Politically, very little is in the forefront on nurturing creativity in education. Our legislators, administrators, and curriculum revisionists continue to be more concerned about standardized tests, the Common Core, and the “basics” of math, reading, and writing. Most states (PA included) do not embrace the recently revised and released National Core Arts Standards, for which “creating” has three major essential targets:

  • Anchor Standard #1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
  • Anchor Standard #2: Organize artistic ideas and work
  • Anchor Standard #3: Refine and complete artistic work

As stated in the first “lessons in creativity,” we should all venture out on our own expedition… to find additional strategies to implement teaching and learning creativity. As you can see, there is a lot of material to review, at least on the rationale of creativity in education, if not the “how to” of bringing it into the classroom. Happy hunting!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Picture credits: Photographers Collwyn Cleveland, Cienpies Design, Nevvit Dilmen, Shamseer Sureash Kumar, John Nyberg, Gerrit Prenger, Jeff Vergara and cover photo artist Cecilia Johansson at http://www.freeimages.com

“Act Well Your Part; There the Honor Lies…”

Amateur/Community Theater Groups in PA

pmeaReprinted from the Fall 2016 PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association

 

Opportunities abound for “hands-on” participation in community theater, volunteering as an actor, singer, dancer, musician, props or scenery painter, make-up artist, costume seamstress, stage technician, usher, box office sales or marketing staff, etc. As you can see at the PMEA link below, there are numerous amateur groups throughout the state.

The payback of theater involvement (for all ages, full and part-time workers, soon-to-retire, and retired members) is well-documented. For example, according to the www.openartsalliance.com, “Theatre is one of the oldest and most influential art forms. It combines interpersonal skills with intrapersonal awareness. Just think about ALL the benefits that theatre can offer artists young and old alike!”

  1. Self-confidence and risk taking
  2. Imagination and creative self-expression
  3. Empathy and tolerance
  4. Cooperation and collaboration
  5. Concentration
  6. Communication skills
  7. Emotional outlet
  8. Problem solving
  9. Fun and relaxation
  10. Self-discipline
  11. Trust
  12. Memory
  13. Social awareness
  14. Aesthetic appreciation
  15. Physical fitness

drama-1436610-1With the help of PMEA State Director of Member Engagement Joshua Gibson, PMEA retired members researched and compiled a PA community theater directory, to join the listings of bands, orchestras, and choruses posted on the PMEA retired members’ website.

This project was daunting! Just because a group advertises as serving as a local “civic theater,” it does not mean there are “open” auditions for non-Equity actors, or volunteers can lend a hand in making the sets/costumes or running the stage tech (although everyone usually asks for money or unpaid ushers!). It was found that some semi-professional companies act very “community” oriented, while others are really “closed shops!” Even if it was hard to discern their “amateur” status or opportunities for nonprofessionals, most PA organizations and contact information were included… to allow PMEA members to find out for themselves if the association would accept non-union actors, etc.

Another problem was that many small theater groups do not maintain a web-page. We had trouble confirming they were active (names or locations changed a lot, too). Scores of amateur drama companies are likely missing. Please consider this a “first draft” and send all corrections to paulkfox.usc@gmail.com.

For retiring and retired PMEA members, good advice comes from Ernie J. Zelinski, author of the book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.

Zelinski“Two essentials for successful retirement are sufficient funds to live on and sufficient things to live for. You may have the funds and a list of interests, hobbies, and leisure activities that will keep you busy. Nonetheless, if you want your retirement to be satisfying, these activities may not be enough. You may need an overriding purpose.

“While describing retirement, George Bernard Shaw concluded, ‘A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.’ Shaw was right in that retirement can be hell for those who don’t put any purpose into it. On the other hand, for people who have some major purpose to their lives, retirement can be heaven.”

You have heard it before… For a happy, healthy, and meaningful retirement, revisit your “creative roots,” the reason you went into music in the first place. Have you always wanted to explore or nurture the “thespian” in you? Here’s your resource to get started today! Get out there! “Bring down the house.” “Break a leg!”

Additional sources of information:

To download the updated PMEA Amateur/Community Theater Company listings for Pennsylvania, please click on the link at http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

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This article is a complimentary re-issue to motivate retired music educators to join their professional association. For more information, please go to PMEA website http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/ and read the blog-post “PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?”

 

(Photo credits: Loretta Humble and Shamseer Sureash Kumar at FreeImages.com)

 

PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?

PA Music Teacher Retirees – Renew Your Membership!

On behalf of the 400+ retired members of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (not to mention the 4000+ regular and collegiate members), let me congratulate and welcome you to retirement!

chorus-515897_1920This will sound like an advertisement (it is)… for retaining one’s professionalism, keeping involved albeit less active in the profession, supporting the future of music education, and on occasion lending a hand to PMEA throughout retirement! In return, the association will provide you opportunities to record and post your career accomplishments and position assignments (past and in the future), network with your friends and colleagues retired or still “in the trenches,” and nurture your personal quest for creative self-expression and artistry… everything from guest conducting or adjudicating ensembles to writing for PMEA publications or presenting sessions at the conferences. It is all about YOU!

When (now) Immediate Past President Dennis Emert appointed me to the position of State Retired Member Coordinator almost three years ago, I had no idea what I could offer… except to serve as a “cheerleader” and represent the best interests of our music teacher retirees. This blog-post is to acquaint you with the rich assortment of resources PMEA offers to its retired members, and examples of our retirees’ news, views, and rationale for continuing their participation in PMEA… even let you take a peek at sample Retired Member Network eNEWS issues and articles in PMEA News. That’s what’s in it for you!

grandfather-on-the-porch-1398795Research indicates that people either LOVE retirement or HATE it, and their journey to the blessed “golden years” can have many ups and downs, especially for type-A, peak-performing individuals who (used to) spend large amounts of time and personally identified with “the job…” like many music educators. Since retiring myself from the Upper St. Clair School District in June 2013, my goal has been to help others enjoy this life-changing passage, cope with life-style changes/altered expectations, and find creative new ways to self-reinvent and thrive. Objectives for retired members in 2016-17 are:

  • Continuation and expansion of PMEA Retired Members’ projects started in 2015-16, including the Retiree Resource Registry (R3), PA community band, orchestra, chorus and theater group listings, volunteering at conferences, sessions on “how to retire,” etc.
  • Exploration of new and unique ways to inform, motivate, engage, and activate PMEA retired members, to enhance their feelings of value, purpose, and being “needed and useful” in support of PMEA and the music education profession: “The mission of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association is to advance comprehensive and innovative music education for all teachers and students through quality teaching, rigorous learning, and meaningful music engagement.”
  • Improvement in data tracking of retired members’ membership status and contact information in order to “keep connected”
  • Publication of news, awards, appointments, and successes of retired members
  • Promotion of additional tools for a smooth transition to happy retirement

Your first stop for retirement resources should be the PMEA website (look under the top menu “Focus Areas”), where we post past issues of the digital newsletter Retired Members Network eNEWS, relevant articles in PMEA News, etc. Take a moment and “surf the net” at http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

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There’s so much you can do now that you are retired! Now that you have “more freedom” to seek out purposeful and “fun” activities in education (but only the things you WANT to do!), ask yourself: “How you can rekindle your expressiveness?”

  • Why did you go into music and education in the first place?
  • What have you always wanted to play… sing… compose… conduct… record… create?
  • Have you thought about learning a new instrument, skill, or musical style?
  • When will you complete your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and have it performed?
  • When are you going to publish your songs, sonatas, warm-ups, methods, essays on pedagogy, musical plays, halftime shows… or personal memoirs?
  • What is your next article, book, method, composition, drum-line feature, etc.?
  • When are you going to join a community band, orchestra, chorus or theater group?

Or, if you would like to “give back” to the profession, “stimulate your brain,” and develop more association leadership, you can jump in to PMEA and explore any of the following:

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  • Run for local or state PMEA office or council position
  • Serve as presiding chair or member of the PMEA planning or listening committees for the conference
  • Participate as guest lecturer or panel discussion member at a conference, workshop, or college methods program
  • Judge local/state adjudication festivals
  • Help plan or manage a local PMEA festival or workshop
  • Accompany, coach, or guest conduct festivals or school/community groups
  • Assist the local music teacher in private teaching, piano playing, marching band charting, sectional coaching, set-up of music technology, instrument repair, etc.
  • Write for PMEA or NAfME

r3_logoAre you still willing to “lend a hand” on PMEA projects or share your expertise and provide a free (but priceless) consultant service to new/transferred PMEA members and officers? We constantly update and publish a Retiree Resource Registry (http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Retired-Resource-Registry-updated-11-23-2016-1.pdf and R3 Help Index http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/R3-Help-Index-11.23.16.pdf on the website. This project is a “win-win” as it also allows the retired member a place to archive all of his/her achievements, awards, past and current assignments, interests, and hobbies. To join this prestigious roster of “who’s-who of past music teaching leaders in PA,” please go to https://pmea.wufoo.com/forms/pmea-retiree-resource-survey/ or the PMEA website to complete the R3 sign-up survey.

Do you know it only takes $30 to join as a PMEA Retired Member ($64 for joint membership to NAfME and receipt of their publications as well!). What a deal! The membership form is at http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/.

bayfront1_highIn addition, retired member registration at the PMEA Spring Conference is… (drum-roll, please!) ONLY $10 early-bird! Our next spring conference will be held on April 19-22, 2017 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center. Music teacher retirees get to enjoy some social time to “swap stories” with a FREE breakfast on Friday, April 21. In addition, we are looking for volunteers to help man the PMEA Info Booth… of course, “retired members to the rescue!” Invitations and more details will go out to current members next month, but check out this section on the PMEA website for more information about the conference: http://www.pmea.net/pmea-annual-in-service-conference/.

In case you are interested, materials from the PMEA summer conference session, “Surviving and Reveling in Retirement,” are also in the retired members’ section. Feel free to download the workshop’s slides (http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/surviving-and-reveling-in-retirement-071316-web.pdf) and the recently revised handout (http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ultimate-retiree-resource-guide-rev-112716.pdf), the latter probably the most comprehensive nafme“reading list” ever published for music teacher retirees. Right now I am preparing for a session at the 55th Biennial NAfME Eastern Division Conference in Atlantic City on April 6, 2017. The title of my workshop is (appropriately) “Living the Dream… Survival and Celebration of Retirement.” Need an excuse to get-away from PA? Go to http://nafme-eastern.org/.

As a part of reflection and sharing of positive strategies for “Crossing the Rubicon” to a happy, healthy, and meaningful retirement, I have assembled a super-site of every website, article, book, publication, etc. of post-employment “gurus” that I could find. Visit the top menu link “For-Retirees” and come back often for updates.

Finally, in the month of January 2017, I will share the latest two retired member columns, “Pet Ownership and Retirement,” and “Act Well Your Part; There the Honor Lies” in PMEA News – our state journal.  Also, as a teaser from this blog, here are a few “free” PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS editions… probably alone worth the discounted membership fee? (But, perhaps you can find better jokes?)

Enjoy retirement… you have earned it! However, don’t forget the THREE BASIC NEEDS that work fulfills and which are essential to retirement, according to Ernie Zelinski, the best-selling author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free:

  1. Purpose
  2. Community
  3. Structure

Let PMEA Retired Membership help you on the way to self-fulfillment as you take the journey towards “living your dream and finding joy in your life!”

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

(Photo credits: FreeImages.com)

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Happy Thanksgiving, Newbies!

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” — Plato

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Things for Which Prospective Music Teachers and Students Majoring in Music Education Should Be Thankful… and on Which to Reflect Over This Holiday Season!

Music educators and those training for this honorable career have many reasons to feel blessed. This Thanksgiving 2016 blog is another one of my “pep talks” and an ongoing goal to share resources for pre-service professional development. Lets begin with a classic “top-ten” list — the fruits and cornerstones of our profession:

  1. prospective-music-student-1440071-1Music is one of life’s greatest treasures!
  2. You will always have your music. Your future employment is also your hobby, and even after 35 or more years, you will inclined to continue your music throughout the “golden years” of retirement.
  3. There are so many ways you can make a difference in the lives of children with music. Whether it is singing, playing an instrument, composing, listening, feeling, or moving in response to music, music fills a basic need!
  4. Although music is an excellent vehicle for developing 21st Century learning skills (the four C’s of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication), participating in music for music’s sake is paramount. To find true meaning and personal artistry, you cannot review the arts without “doing” (or creating) the arts.
  5. parade-band-1421028Your joy of creative self-expression and “making music” will sustain you through almost anything… and will transfer to your students’ success in life.
  6. In many settings of school music courses and extra-curricular activities, your students make a conscious effort to choose you and the study of music in order to spend as much time together. “They may have to take math and English, but they also want their daily dose of music!”
  7. Newcomers to this field, you do not have to be right or perfect all the time in class. During your student teaching and early years on the job, if you are enthusiastic, dedicated, and respectful of the feelings of your students, youkids-singing-christmas-songs-1438089r mistakes (and there will be many) will be forgiven. Besides, there are usually no “single right answers” in music and art – only opportunities for divergent and flexible thinking, adaptability, and personal expression.
  8. You’ll never forget your students… and when you bump into them after graduation, they will remind you all about “those good times!” Don’t be surprised when they tell you were the best part of their education.
  9. Your band, orchestra, and/or choral director back home (school district and university) are rooting for you… and want you to succeed. If you have questions, go see them. They would appreciate you asking for their advice.unwritten-solo-2-1314639
  10. Good news! Help is on the way! On this blog-site, there is a single link to all of the articles, handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc., everything from branding yourself to a review of the interview questions you will need to answer at job screenings. To help you market your professionalism, develop a philosophy of music education, learn the basics of networking, dive into making a business card, professional website or e-portfolio, or practice taking interviews, go to the link above or https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/becoming-a-music-educator/.

Why Music? Why Do You Want to Become  a Music Educator?

It never hurts to embrace and share the excellent voices of our music education advocates. Check out these interesting online sources:

Ten Goals for the Holiday Break

After you finish your fall 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 gifts. Play your instrument, accompany concert-1435286someone else, or sing solos at a local nursing home or senior center.
  2. Sit in with a church or community choir, band, or orchestra. Just ask the conductor if you could participate in a few rehearsals over your break.
  3. Learn something new about music… a different instrument, recent releases in sheet music or recordings, unique composer/arranger in your major area, music education article from a professional journal, innovative music software or interactive online programs (often free trials are available to future teachers), etc. For example, have you perused SmartMusic and MusicFirst?
  4. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpend a lot of time sight-reading… especially on the piano. To take your ear-training training a step further, pull out your old folk-song sight-reading series  or Hindemith’s Elementary Training for Musicians and practice musicianship exercises.
  5. To improve your score reading, take a choral arrangement and play the individual vocal parts at sight (soprano + bass, alto + tenor, soprano + tenor + bass, etc.). Or, perform on the piano 2-4 parts of a string quartet score.
  6. Volunteer to assist coaching a sectional or large ensemble at your local public school.
  7. Attend as many local concerts as you can: school, amateur adult, and professional.
  8. Compose or arrange a short holiday, folk, or classical song for unusual instrumentation (e.g. flute, viola, baritone sax, and tuba). Who knows? Someday you may have to conduct an ensemble with such unique membership.flute-player-1567317
  9. Record video/audio excerpts of your major instrument/voice for placement on your professional website. Begin preparations on or update your e-portfolio.
  10. Read all of the “marketing professionalism” articles on this blog-site. Take notes or print the things to which you want to refer back. Make a list of the possible interview questions, and put yourself through several “mock job screenings” (alone or with one or more college buddies) with you answering these randomized questions in front of a camera. Assess your performance. During your”free time” over the holiday break, assemble your “personal stories” – anecdotes revealing your skills, personality traits, teaching experiences, and accomplishments that could be shared at future employment interviews. Most important article on this subject? Look at thanksgiving-turkey-1521430https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/interview-questions-revisited/.

Best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and fulfilling holiday. Please enjoy lots of turkey with your loved ones, but if you can, “catch up” on your long term preparation for becoming a music educator. Make every day count over the recess. Reflect on why you are becoming a music educator, and be grateful for the multitude of benefits! Finally, never forget your own creative roots… make time for music every day!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Photos are licensed by FreeImages.com (all rights reserved)

Is It Autumn?

Retirement… and the Seasons of Change

As I walk my two energetic dogs near our local school and park today, I noticed that the leaves are “holding on for dear life,” most have not fallen nor started their usual color transformations. This is Western Pennsylvania in mid-October. What is happening? What forces are disrupting our cycle of the seasons… from the normal spring re-awakening of our senses, to the heat and glory of summer, to the falling temperatures and brilliance of color in the autumn, just before everything shuts down for winter? Global warming? (Well, it was a balmy 75-degrees today!) Or, nature’s way of holding on to the past… and living every moment to its fullest?

Well, one thing is for sure. You can smell that change is in the air… and in our lives as we take on the great trek to retirement  – a process, like the unpredictable and evolving seasons, which can self-empower and lead us to creative ways to self-reinvent and thrive.

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If you stop to think about it, full-time retirement embraces many of the analogies we use for our changing seasons. If those early years of education, staff orientation and induction, job training, in-service programs, conferences, etc. stand for rapid growth and the budding months of spring, perhaps summer symbolizes our career accomplishments and professional journey towards harvesting our special skills, experiences, and interests in early fall. One may accurately depict the onset of a gloomy late autumn and stormy winter weather as our release from the employment routine, the sudden free-fall of retirement, retooling and coping with the emotional turmoil of momentous life-style changes, possibly even a short hibernation (rest, reflection, and a less frenzied schedule of activities), but eventually planting the seeds of new goals, habits, perspectives, and expectations… which leads us back to spring – the season of renewed hopes, revitalized rebirths, and new beginnings.

“Retirement is the last opportunity for individuals to reinvent themselves, let go of the past, and find peace and happiness within.” – Ernie J. Zelinski

Research suggests that, as wonderful as the retirement “voyage” is for some, many do not find it “clear sailing!” Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne wrote in his book Retiring Mind (Fairview Imprints, 2010), “50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.”

In the event your job was cut or downsized, or you were forced into “early retirement,” you may even be in the partial grips of post-traumatic stress disorder, or experiencing some of the stages of grief and loss (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief):

  • autumn-1Denial
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Acceptance

At the very least, the passage to post-employment boils down to coping with a few of these very common emotional “bumps” along the way:

  • Loss of professional identity
  • Loss of goals, daily routine, and purposeful activity
  • Loss of social network and interaction with co-workers

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not our circumstances.” – Martha Washington

The good news? Yes, you can survive “Crossing the Rubicon” into retirement… and flourish while “living the dream” in your supposed “golden years.” Advice from gerontologists, psychologists, and other “experts” on aging include the following:
  • Prior to retiring, prepare for “life after work.” Cultivate interests outside the job, lead a healthier life-style, revitalize family relationships, and nurture friendships.
  • Stay engaged! Understand many “high achievers” never fully retire.
  • Take a break and self-reflect on trying new and fulfilling quests of work/life balance.
  • Find purposeful activities to do during your retirement.
  • Focusing on your talents and abilities, and set some new goals regarding how you want to spend your free time.
  • Because your brain’s reward center likes variety, give yourself an assortment of new or unique experiences.
  • Treat your first year of retirement as if you are interning.
  • Reprogram yourself to be less addicted to achievement (or linking your self-identity or self-worth to a job).
  • Limit your television viewing time (less than two hours a day!)
  • Plan some regular physical activity.
  • Revisit your creative roots and enjoy personal moments of “making music” – singing, dancing, playing instruments, composing, doing drama, writing, painting, sewing, woodworking, etc. – in short, CREATING SELF-EXPRESSION!

“If you were planning to spend the rest of your life in another country, you would want to learn as much about it as possible. You would read books about the climate, people, history, and architecture. You would talk to people who had lived there. You might even learn a bit of its language. Old age is like another country. You’ll enjoy it more if you have prepared yourself before you go.” – F. Skinner and Margaret Vaughn in TIPS Retirement for Music Educators, MENC 1989

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If you ask the average retired music teacher, “Let’s get together for lunch. When are you free?” you’ll probably witness the retiree whipping out his smartphone to check his calendar app. Retirement does mean freedom, but it often also induces a very busy schedule of new commitments, perhaps even related “encore career pursuits” involving music and education such as student teacher supervision, private tutoring, coaching sectionals or small ensembles, assisting local music industry in organizing music tours/trips or delivering rental or repaired instruments, babysitting grand children or others, care-taking for an elderly loved one, etc.

“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” – John W. Raper

A lot of our retired members enjoy part-time positions in guest conducting, teaching or presenting at the college level, providing private lessons, serving in state MEAs or the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), or other consultant services like the special interest categories on the PMEA State Retired Resource Registry Index. Many of these jobs can be started before retirement, just expanded to fit your new-found flexibility of fewer conflicts or time constraints.

The best advice I can give to newbie retirees is to learn from your peers and the successes of others who have come before you. Read everything you can get your hands on from these online “gurus” of retirement:

Check out other articles at this blog (click on “Retirement Resources” at the right), and peruse my two blog-posts at Edutopia:

Finally, if you are a NAfME member and want to see a little of Atlantic City next spring, come to my session, “Living the Dream – Survival and Celebration of Retirement” at the 55th Biennial Eastern Division Conference April 5-8, 2017 (I believe I am presenting on Thursday.) Join us, retirees! It will be FUN!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

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Lessons in Creativity III

More Resources on Creativity and Online Learning

painter-1522795.jpgHere is your next installment (part three) on a collaborative exploration of “teaching more creatively and teaching creativity.”

Touching briefly on the research, thoughts, and works of my heroes and gurus in this field (like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Curtis Bonk, and Daniel Pink), check out the other “creativity in education” articles at this site. Please click on one or more of the following links:

Thanks to the generosity and inspiration of Indiana University Professor of Education Dr. Curtis Bonk, today we have a new book list and additional “free” materials with a focus on improving online learning.

More for Your Library on Creativity

Have you read any of these? (Thanks to Amazon.com, who would love to sell you these, a short description is included… mostly copied from a part of their web marketing.)

imagination-1199071Catmull, Ed (2014). Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming Unseen Forces in Way of Inspiration. Random H. From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award–winning studio behind Inside Out and Toy Story, comes an incisive book about creativity in business and leadership.

Shenk, J. W. (2014). Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. HMH. Weaving the lives of scores of creative duos—from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Marie and Pierre Curie to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—Joshua Wolf Shenk identifies the core qualities of that dizzying experience we call “chemistry.” Revealing the six essential stages through which creative intimacy unfolds, Shenk draws on new scientific research and builds an argument for the social foundations of creativity—and the pair as its primary embodiment.

McArdle, Megan (2014). The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success. Viking. Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking audiobook, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure.

Brown-Martin, Graham (2014). Learning Re-imagined. Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation. Learning Reimagined takes its readers on a journey in search of innovation in the way we learn and teach. Filled with case studies and interviews, the book invites the reader to join the author as he travels the world to investigate the challenges that today’s educators face.

Wagner, T. (2012). Creating Innovators: Making of Young People Who Change World. Scribner. From a prominent educator, author, and founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group comes a provocative look at why innovation is today’s most essential real-world skill and what young people need from parents, teachers, and employers to become the innovators of America’s future.

Martinez & Stager (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, & Engineering in the Classroom. There’s a technological and creative revolution underway. Amazing new tools, materials and skills turn us all into makers. Using technology to make, repair or customize the things we need brings engineering, design and computer science to the masses. Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing. The active learner is at the center of the learning process, amplifying the best traditions of progressive education. This book helps educators bring the exciting opportunities of the maker movement to every classroom.

musician-1436958Robinson, Sir Ken (2013). Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions.   The Element gives readers an inspirational and practical guide to self-improvement, happiness, creativity, and personal transformation, introducing the concept of self-fulfillment through the convergence of natural talents and personal passions. Among the questions that the book dives into include:

  • How do I find out what my talents and passions are?
  • What if I love something I’m not good at?
  • What if I’m good at something I don’t love?
  • What if I can’t make a living from my Element?
  • How do I do help my children find their Element?

The E-Learning Revolution

Before I retired in 2013, I noticed a growing trend of assigning web-based or online assisted classes to music teachers, especially for the Fine and Performing Arts subjects of music and art appreciation, music history, music theory, and composition. For example, two of the industry leaders in the field of interactive music learning software are MusicFirst, the Digital Education Division of the Music Sales Group (https://www.musicfirst.com/) and SmartMusic (MakeMusic, Inc.) at https://www.smartmusic.com/. General music and instrumental teachers are now taking advantage of innovative and fresh new enrichment tools offered by the web.

On his travelinEdMan website, Dr. Curtis Bonk gave an abstract of the talk he made in Seoul, Korea on September 21, 2016 (see http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/), providing an excellent history and perspective of the origin and “revolution” of online learning:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Meets the Fourth E-Learning Revolution
Over the past few centuries, humankind has entered and exited a series of industrial ages from the age of steam and water power to the immense benefits of electricity and efficient assembly line workers to the tremendous life enhancements from computers and pervasive automation. Now we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial age related to cyber physical systems with extensive physical, biological, digital, and educational implications. It is in this age that we now are witnessing hyper-accelerating advancements in robotics, mobile super-computing, artificial intelligence, drone technology, autonomous vehicles, and much more. Similarly, in education, after just two decades of Web-based learning, we have entered the fourth phase or wave of e-learning. Interesting, each of the four waves of e-learning have come exactly seven years apart. First was the establishment of Web browsers and learning portals, brought about by Web search companies like Netscape which was founded on April 4, 1994. Seven years to the day later, MIT announced the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement on April 4, 2001 and the age of open education was spawned. Another seven year span resulted in the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2008. Now we enter the fourth phase of e-learning involving the personalization of e-learning. This is the age where mentors, tutors, experts, colleagues, and instructors can appear instantaneously on a mobile device. As with the fourth wave of the industrial revolution, there is immense change around the world today related to new forms of learning typically involving technology in the fourth phase of e-learning. In fact, there are three mega-trends related to learning technology today: (1) technologies for engagement; (2) technologies for pervasive access; and (3) technologies for the personalization and customization of learning. To better understand these new forms of learning delivery, Professor Bonk will discuss these three megatrends as well as his recent research on the personalization of e-learning. Along the way, insights will be offered into where the fourth industrial revolution bumps into and fuels the fourth e-learning revolution.
– Dr. Curtis Bonk

TEC-VARIETY

For those of you who design or teach web courses, download a copy of Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online, by Curtis Bonk and Elaine Khoo.

dancers-in-white-1440514-1The authors have made an online version of this work available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. For details, go to
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/. The e-book PDF can be accessed through the book homepage at http://tec-variety.com.

Bonk and Khoo introduce a new acronym called the TEC-VARIETY, with the goal to assist those new to online learning or seeking additional support, and to present many stories, examples, and ideas to enhance online instruction. “The resource synthesizes the varied ways for enhancing Web pedagogy into a few principles or ideas that, when combined, can powerfully boost the chances for online learning success.” However, instead of targeting four aspects of learning—reading, reflecting, displaying, and doing—this framework addresses different aspects of learner motivation:
  1. Tone/Climate: Psychological Safety, Comfort, Sense of Belonging
  2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsiveness, Praise, Supports
  3. Curiosity: Surprise, Intrigue, Unknowns
  4. Variety: Novelty, Fun, Fantasy
  5. Autonomy: Choice, Control, Flexibility, Opportunities
  6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  7. Interactivity: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Investment
  9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  10. Yielding Products: Goal Driven, Purposeful Vision, Ownership

Cognitive Flexibility

Released on July 22, 2016 by Edutopia.org., I came upon this blog-post by Dr. Judy Willis: “Building Students Cognitive Flexibility” (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/building-students-cognitive-flexibility-judy-willis).

Is this article promoting 21st Century learning skills… something involving creativity or critical thinking? Yes! Absolutely! Bring them on!

Her opening premise:

In today’s world, the skillsets of cognitive flexibility are more critical and valuable than ever before. These skillsets include:

  • Open-minded evaluation of different opinions, perspectives, and points of view
  • Willingness to risk mistakes
  • Consideration of multiple ways to solve problems
  • Engagement in learning, discovery, and problem solving with innovative creativity.

throwing-pots-1540316While she suggests new ways to “activate your students” developing neural networks of skill-sets for “cognitive flexibility,” she defines several new opposing concepts: “inattentional blindness” vs. open-minded vision, and divergent thinking vs. the factory model of education. She provides excellent examples of lesson activities as she sums up her thoughts on learning transfer: “When you provide learners with opportunities to transfer their learning to novel applications, you’re extending their cross-brain connections and creative potentials.”

I liked her concluding quote: “H.G. Wells predicted that our future would be a race between education and catastrophe.”

Revisiting “BobWeb – The Best of Bonk”

To close up this edition of sharing creativity resources for educators, we return to Curtis Bonk and my all-time favorite website (about which you have previously heard me rave!): http://www.indiana.edu/~bobweb/r546/index.html.

If you have not visited here before, go directly to one of his four modules:

  1. Motivational Strategies
  2. Creativity
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Cooperative Learning

For your own edification, here are some things you can explore while enjoying the “wonderful world of BobWeb!”

  1. Select the “lecture presentation” menu link and view his week #3 Creative Thinking Techniques “Example of Metaphorical Thinking: Life on a Train.”
  2. Download and peruse his PowerPoint slides for “Week 2: Alternative Instructional Strategies – Active Learning, Motivation, and Creative Thinking Week 2 Lecture Presentation.” There is much to consume here. For example, one slide (#33) describes these principles of active learning (but watch out, slide #38 and 39 offers a teacher self-assessment on these best practices! How well did you do?):
    • Authentic/Raw Data
    • Student Autonomy/Inquiry
    • Relevant/Meaningful/Interests
    • Link to Prior Knowledge
    • Choice and Challenge
    • Teacher as Facilitator and Co-Learner
    • Social Interaction and Dialogue
    • Problem-Based & Student Gen Learning
    • Multiple Viewpoints/Perspectives
    • Collab, Negotiation, & Reflection
  3. Click on the menu link “Task Examples,” and download/read “Final Project: Creativity Unit Final Creativity Unit–Elementary students.”
  4. On the same web page, go to “Option A: Curriculum Brainstorm EXAMPLE 4 Reflection and Personal Exploration Activity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As a reminder to the fact that we ourselves live simultaneous both as teachers and life-long students, creativity is all about being willing to take risks. Check out these resources that will “spice up” your daily lessons, and focus on student inquisitiveness, ingenuity, inventiveness, flexibility of thought, and inquiry-based learning! It is worth repeating here: Bloom’s Taxonomy and Depth of Knowledge charts place creating at the top level of higher-order thinking. In “Creativity on the Brink” (2013), Alane Starko connected creativity to deep understanding: “If we want students to master the content, they must do something with it beyond simple repetition. They must use it in meaningful ways and make it their own.” Go ahead and use the above online tools as aids to classroom discovery and self-learning, but strive to truly engage the students in the subject matter, make it fun and intriguing, and build student autonomy, motivation, teamwork, and “purposeful vision” for further study.

What are your thoughts?

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Ethics for Job Seekers

Employment Etiquette & Standards of Morality

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. – Potter Stewart from http://www.brainyquote.com

Definitions

Google defines ETHICS as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.”

For more detail and an analysis of the “essential questions” on ETHICS, check out the blog “What is Ethics?” from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/what-is-ethics/.

From another perspective, according to Investopedia, “BUSINESS ETHICS is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities.” The full article can be read at http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/business-ethics.asp.

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Declining Standards of Behavior?

Jean Twenge, the author of the 2006 book Generation Me, considers Millennials (born between 1977 and 1994), along with younger members of Generation X, to be part of what she calls “Generation Me,” possessing a preponderance of the traits of confidence and tolerance, but also a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism. Wikipedia identifies the (older) “Me” generation in the United States, referring to “the baby boomer generation and the self-involved qualities that some people associated with it.”

According to Psychology Today in a blog-post The Truth About Lying by Allison Kornet (https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199705/the-truth-about-lying), “Deception is rampant—and sometimes we tell the biggest lies to those we love most.”

If, as the cliché has it, the 1980s was the decade of greed, then the quintessential sin of the 1990s might just have been lying. After all, think of the accusations of deceit leveled at politicians like Bob Packwood, Marion Barry, Dan Rostenkowski, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Clinton.

Regardless of these labels of societal trends, “generalizations about the generations,” and reflections on current social values and conscience in the media, how do you come to terms with the recent headlines of inconsistent (or “inconvenient”) ethics and morality?

  • State-sponsored doping of Russian athletes
  • Volkswagen emission cheating
  • Students saying, “If we don’t get caught” or “If they don’t find out,” it’s OK.
  • The rise of online plagiarism-checking programs such as turnitin.com.
  • The cynicism about “ethics in advertising: do we expect lies?”
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And yet, some of us still recite the Boy Scouts oath (“honesty”), “swear to tell the truth” (on a bible) in a court of law, and strive to maintain an atmosphere of honesty in the workplace (see http://www.businessinsider.com/3-essential-rules-to-workplace-honesty-2013-1  and http://smallbusiness.chron.com/create-atmosphere-honesty-workplace-10098.html).

So, are we “losing” our moral compass? Does “our word” mean anything? Do we take the easy way out and “fake a little” here and “wink a little” there? Is it affecting the way we interact with each other, in educational institutions, the marketplace, family life, and even presenting ourselves to be hired for a job?

Blame it on upbringing? Past experience? Perhaps it is safe to say one’s personal judgment may be affected by ethics. If a member of your family has a handicap parking placard, is it ever used when the handicapped individual is not riding in the car? In terms of judgment and feelings of entitlement, it is probably ill-advised to bring up anything to do with driving… fighting over parking places, cutting off someone, tooting horns at slow drivers, etc. Besides, who actually ever comes to a complete stop at a stop sign?

In the pre-employment planning stages, it is essential for you to make a honest personal and professional assessment, prepare to represent yourself accurately at interviews and on your resume and  e-portfolio, and model ethical personal branding. I would agree that “you cannot ‘fib’ and claim you are a ‘master’ of everything,” but if you are certified to teach music in grades K-12, not just band, or general music, or choir, or strings… you should state your proficiency to teach “the whole kit and caboodle.” At employment screenings, it’s more important to show you have learned the necessary 21st Century skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communications, creativity, and flexibility/adaptability… rather than whether you can play Paganini on the violin, sing a high “A,” improvise modern jazz styles, or piano accompany a musical production.

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Stretching Things a Bit?

The concept of a “stretched resume” is detailed online by “Employee’s Ethics: Getting a Job, Getting a Promotion, Leaving,” Chapter 6 from the book Business Ethics. The author tells the true story of Robert Irvine, who used to host the Food Network’s popular Dinner: Impossible. He was fired when he was caught “lying” or providing gross exaggerations on his resume. You should read the interesting full account at this site: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/business-ethics/s10-employee-s-ethics-getting-a-jo.html.

The kind of resume misrepresentations are categorized as the following:

  • False credentials
  • False experience
  • Embellished experience
  • False chronology
  • False references

The best quote from this reference suggests that the outcome of resume misrepresentation is not worth the chances you would take if/when you are caught:

Ethical egoism means your moral responsibility is to act in your own interest no matter what that may require. This provides a license for outright résumé invention… But, as is always the case with egoism, the question must be asked whether job seekers really serve their own interests when they claim things that may later be revealed to be false or when they land jobs they later won’t be able to perform because their qualifications were fake.

This source led me to the webpage http://fakeresume.com/ (aptly named) selling the book Fake Resume: The Machiavellian Guide to Getting a Job by Max Stirner (something I am not promoting!) You can peruse a segment of his work, “Five Reasons Why You Must Lie on Your Resume To Get a Job Today” at http://fakeresume.com/five-reasons-why-you-must-lie-on-your-resume.pdf. This excerpt is from his “Everyone Lies on Their Resume” section of his website:

fake-resume-ebook-vertical

The firm Hire Right released some interesting statistics that show how rampant resume fraud is in the United States. The company’s numbers show that 80 percent of all resumes are misleading. They also show that 20 percent state fraudulent degrees and 30 percent show altered employment dates. As if those numbers are not shocking enough, 40 percent have inflated salary claims and 30 percent have inaccurate job descriptions. Furthermore, the study shows 25 percent of people listing companies that no longer exist, and 27 percent giving falsified references; and these are only the people they have caught!

Guides to Employment Ethics

Regardless of what others do or say they do, marketing exaggeration and even falsehoods will not be in your best interest.

Richard Fein, Director of Career Management, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts-Amherst via Monstertrak.com wrote an excellent career guide on this subject: “Etiquette and Ethics in Your Job Search. What Are They and Why Should You Care?” Download the following to review the definitions, distinctions, and job search scenarios involving the terms “etiquette” and “ethics.” http://www.bu.edu/hospitality/files/pdf/ETIQUETTEANDETHICSINYOURJOBSEARCH1.pdf.

Another excellent resource is the “Job Search Ethics Brochure” from the University of Pennsylvania: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/files/Job_Search_Ethics_Brochure.pdf. In this thoughtful publication, additional terms are defined, such as “professional,” “integrity,” and “honor.”

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In addition, it should be “worth your while” to access some of the Franklin College’s “Helpful Handouts” under the Career Service section of their website: http://franklincollege.edu/student-life/career-services/students-alumni/helpful-handouts/. In particular, what stood out to me was their document “Job Search Ethics and Protocol,” which Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Career Services Kirk Bixler has graciously granted me permission to reprint below. (This is an excellent summary of many of the topics/tips we have posted at this site. Click on the “Marketing Professionalism” link to the right to read past blog-posts.)

  • Do NOT give into the temptation of carelessly completing an application. Do NOT make statements on an application like “see attached résumé.” Never leave spaces blank.
  • Apply for a job only if you have some realistic level of interest.
  • Absolute honesty on your résumé is imperative. Don’t overstate or understate. Don’t downplay your skills because you haven’t been featured in Business Week.
  • Request permission to use a person as a reference. Be prepared to explain to your reference what your job search plans are. Provide the reference with examples of qualities you possess. Offer a copy of your résumé. When interviewing, have your list of references on hand.
  • Don’t take advantage of an expense account when traveling for job interviews.
  • Show up for your interview. If you are visiting a person’s place of work, make sure your appearance, including mode of dress, is appropriate for that environment. You are not a student going to class. Consider yourself a professional trying to make a positive impression. How you present yourself is a partial reflection on the person with whom you are meeting.
  • Be a bit early for your appointment. Be mindful of the other person’s time. Come in prepared with questions & knowledge of the business.
  • Ask “How would you like to be addressed?” Be on the safe side; few people are offended by “Mister” or “Ms.” Be courteous to everyone you meet.
  • Everything you say must be true. On the other hand, you don’t need to say everything.
  • 25957630814_ee6ff87fe5_oYou may be asked to say something about another student or applicant. Speak only of your abilities & strengths. It is acceptable for an interviewer to ask you about other interviews, job offers & salary offers. You are not under an obligation to give a direct answer.
  • Be aware of illegal inquires. Employers may not ask, “How much alcohol do you drink?” “Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?” “What prescription drugs do you currently take?”
  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank-you notes are a MUST in the job search process. They may be handwritten or typed. Address them to the person with whom you had the interview.
  • Be aware of drug screening requirements.
  • Call to inquire about your status in the employer’s hiring process. If a specific time has been communicated, wait until that time has passed before contacting the employer.
  • Let the employer be the first to mention salary. End it early if you are not interested. Let the employer know you are not interested in pursuing employment.
  • When offered the job, ask for time to think it over & ask for a formal offer letter.
  • You may receive one or more job offers you decide to reject. You should convey your decision to reject a job offer orally & in writing. The considerations here are speed & certainty of delivery. Call the person who signed your offer letter. Write a brief letter, also. Do both in a timely manner.
  • Only accept a job if you are really interested. Don’t settle. Once you accept a job offer, formally remove yourself from all other job searches. DO NOT continue looking.

These final bulleted items are echoed by another prestigious institution. “Ethical Internship and Job Search Policies” is posted on the University of Notre Dame’s Career Center webpage (http://careercenter.nd.edu/students/ethical-job-search-policies/):

When accepting an offer of full-time employment or an internship (either paid or unpaid), one must have every intention of honoring that commitment.  If a student accepts an offer of employment, admission to a graduate or professional school, or other post-graduate career opportunity, he/she must withdraw from the recruiting process immediately. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Not applying to future job postings.
  • Declining all future interview invitations.
  • Canceling any active applications.
  • Contacting all recruiters to inform them of your wish to be removed from the interviewing and recruitment process (this includes all scheduled interviews).

Ethics? It all boils down to two questions: “Who are you?” and “For what do you stand?” Besides the fear of “getting caught in lies” and being fired for misrepresentation (or doing an incompetent job because you did not have the qualities for which your employer was looking), it centers on “liking what you see” when you look at yourself in the mirror. Anyway, didn’t you mommy tell you your nose gets longer when you tell a fib?

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Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.  – Albert Schweitzer
from http://www.brainyquote.com
PKF
© 2016 Paul K. Fox