Philosophy and Career Goals
What Sort of Teaching Outcome Do You Value More?
Knowing whether you value process more than product is a good guideline for making teaching decisions.
Which is more important to you: the process or the product?
Put another way: what is the thing you want most for your students to do: (1) student feels good about himself and studying piano/learning or (2) student is able to play a number of difficult pieces well?
What Is the Most Important Thing You Teach?
What is the single most important thing you want a student to learn from study with you?
Put another way: what is the single thing you most want your students to take away with them when they leave your studio?
What is the standard by which you will measure your success as a teacher?
Why Are You Teaching?
Knowing why you are in this profession will guide many of your business decisions.
For example, if your teaching fees will be the primary support of the household, you will experience an urgency to find and retain students which those teaching for a second family income or for "mad money" may not feel. For you, is studio teaching:
You need not tell anyone else why you are doing studio teaching because it's none of their business, but you should be honest with yourself.
- temporary work until you decide what you really want to do?
- stop-gap employment until your real goal is attainable?
- a way to earn money for a limited amount of time (for example, until your spouse finishes her education)?
- the only thing you know how to do to earn money?
- a fall-back because you didn't get the faculty position you'd hoped to obtain or your concert career hasn't taken off as you'd hoped?
- supplemental income for a specific expense (ex.: children's college or downpayment on a house) or for pin money?
- primary support for the household?
- your genuine calling, regardless of prestige or compensation?
What is your ultimate professional goal? How will you know when you've met it?
Is this the same goal you had for yourself ten years ago? Five years ago? How might your goal now be different in five years? Ten years?
Career Planning and Goals
If you were going to move to another town, you would never set out across the country by car without road maps. Nor would you load your possessions into a U-Haul and drive around until you found a good place to live. Career planning is a lot like this. Knowing your new address is your set of career-end aspirations. Systemically reaching those aspirations, by means of short- and long-term goals, are the road maps of your teaching career.
Let's start at the end: retirement. This may seem backwards, but it's not. You can plan your route only if you know the final destination.
Imagine what you'd like to have accomplished in your career by the time your retire. Write down your aspirations in a column on the left-hand side of a large sheet of paper. Note ideas as you think of them; order means nothing. Don't discard something because you think it's improbable or even impossible. If you think of it, write it down. The following may help you get started:
Head the column you made "Aspiration." Make a middle column and call that one "Action" and a right-hand column and mark this one "Impediment."
- What would you like to have accomplished overall?
- What kind of students would you have produced? What would they have done with the music education you gave them?
- Would you have specialized in a certain student age group or type? A specific pedagogy method?
- What sort of professional development would you have undertaken?
- What other professional activities would you have explored (ex.: composing, arranging, journal articles)?
- What instrument(s) would you own? How large would your music library be? Would you have other equipment (MIDI, recording gear, etc.)?
- What would your annual income be? Your hourly fee?
- How large a student load would you have? Would you cap it at some number and, if so, what number?
For an example, you might have "publish a book of piano music" as the aspiration. The action might be "write it and find a publisher," and the impediment might be "don't know how to find publisher" and "don't have book written." Now set about breaking action and impediments into manageable hunks. For actions, you might put "draft outline of book" and "write book." For impediments, you might write "make list of publishers and addresses" and "find people who've published who might be able to help me find a publisher."
Now you spread out those specific actions into a time frame, from one year to five or even twenty years. Now you have a road map of what you hope to accomplish and the time frame in which you hope to do it. If the goals are small and specific, it is easy to evaluate whether you reached them.
At the end of each year, look over your one-year goals and cross out those you accomplished. Move some of the items from the five-year goal list to the one-year list. Adjust other goals appropriately.
Reward yourself when you reach a goal. You worked hard and deserve it.
Remember that goals are not set in cement. Change your goals as necessary. Maybe you don't care anymore about being a published composer. Maybe you'd rather develop a special program for the hearing-impaired student.
As long as you know where you're headed, you have a wonderful chance of getting there. If you take one step at a time, you won't be overwhelmed.
Good luck! This is a fantastic career!
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