RTRL.65: Reported Self-care Practices of Music Educators (Kelley et al., 2021)

Source:

Kelley, J., Nussbaum, K., Crawford, M. O., Critchfield, J. B., Flippin, S. H., Grey, A. N., & Mahaffey, C. R. (2021). The reported self-care practices of music educators. Journal of Music Teacher Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/10570837211056615

What did the researchers want to know?

What are the reported self-care practices of K-12 music teachers, and do they vary by teaching experience, age, gender, or level of instruction?

What did the researchers do?

Kelley et al. surveyed 337 K-12 music teachers in a southwestern U.S. state on their personal and professional self-care practices. Personal self-care includes behaviors that promote well-being, interpersonal connections, physical wellness, and leisure while professional self-care includes work-related behaviors like building professional knowledge, developing professional support systems, and work-life balance. (See table below for a full list of survey items.) Participants rated their agreement for each item on a 5-point scale (5 = strongly agree, 1 = strongly disagree) to indicate the degree to which they do or do not engage in each self-care behavior. (In other words, the closer the rating was to “5”, the more the teacher reported engaging in that behavior).

What did the researchers find?

In terms of personal self-care behaviors, the most highly-rated items were “I spend time with family or friends” (average rating= 4.34) and “I spend time with people whose company I enjoy” (average rating= 4.31). The lowest-rated personal self-care item was “I take time off when I am not feeling well” (average rating = 2.70). Participants also rated other physical and health-related items similarly low.

The most highly-rated items for professional self-care behaviors were “I participate in activities that promote my professional development” (average rating = 4.26) and “I find ways to stay current in professional knowledge” (average rating = 4.26). The lowest rated item was “I avoid over-commitment to work responsibilities” (average rating 2.79).

Kelley et al. also calculated composite scores for personal self-care, professional self-care, and total self-care by adding up the scores for the items in each category. Out of a total of 140 possible points, the average score for total self-care was 104.16. Overall, teachers reported engaging in more professional self-care than they did personal self-care. Specifically, “participants indicated the lowest levels of engagement in common self-care practices within the physical subcategory. Most participants indicated they continue to work when they do not feel well, do not maintain a physical activity routine or a healthy diet, do not take regular breaks during the workday, and over-commit to work responsibilities” (p. 8).

The researchers also conducted statistical analysis to see whether self-care differed by age, years of teaching experience, gender, or level of instruction (elementary vs. secondary). They found weak correlations between age and self-care and between years of experience and self-care, meaning that older teachers and/or teachers with more experience were slightly more likely to practice more self-care than younger teachers and/or those with less experience. There were no significant differences in self-care between male and female teachers or between elementary and secondary teachers.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Particularly in times of extreme stress, it is important that teachers engage in personal self-care behaviors. Given that Kelley et al. found teachers are more likely to engage in professional self-care behaviors than personal, it is important for teachers to consciously choose to commit time to taking care of themselves, both physically and emotionally. Most teachers are extremely passionate about what they do and are constantly striving to improve the learning experiences they provide for their students. However, given the extreme and prolonged stress of teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers must prioritize their own health and well-being. If this means temporarily dialing down efforts to advance their professional expertise, so be it! As the researchers clearly state, “we do not advocate for an additive solution to promote self-care” (p. 9). School districts should not add requirements for teachers to complete training on self-care. Instead, music teachers and music teacher educators should be encouraged and empowered to model “purposeful self-care, to promote healthy boundaries and work-life balance, and to embrace values of self-care over self-sacrifice” (p. 9).

PERSONAL SELF-CARE BEHAVIORSAVERAGE
RATING
I spend time with family or friends. (social)4.34
I spend time with people whose company I enjoy. (recreation)4.31
I make a conscious effort to appreciate positive things in my life. (psychological)4.31
I seek out activities or people that encourage and/or comfort me. (social)4.04
I find ways to cultivate a sense of social connection in my life. (social)3.84
I share my feelings with others during stressful times in my life. (psychological)3.79
I seek guidance or counseling when necessary. (psychological)3.45
I see a doctor or other medical professional when I have health concerns. (physical)3.43
I participate in physical exercise (physical)3.38
I make an effort to get enough sleep each night. (physical)3.37
I take some time for relaxation each day. (psychological)3.33
I eat a balanced and healthy diet. (physical)3.17
I make physical activity part of my regular routine. (physical)3.14
I take time off when I am not feeling well. (physical)2.70
PROFESSIONAL SELF-CARE BEHAVIORSAVERAGE
RATING
I find ways to stay current in professional knowledge. (professional development)4.26
I participate in activities that promote my professional development. (professional development)4.26
I monitor my feelings and reactions to students and colleagues. (professional psychological)4.16
I cultivate professional relationships with my colleagues. (professional social)4.15
I confide in a trusted colleague regarding work-related stressors. (professional social)4.08
I try to reduce stress by proactively navigating challenging situations in my professional work. (professional psychological)3.99
I anticipate situations which may cause me stress at work. (professional psychological)3.98
I tell colleagues about positive workplace experiences. (professional social)3.96
I maintain a professional support system. (professional social)3.89
I make personal connections on campus to avoid feeling isolated. (professional social)3.70
I connect with organizations in my professional community that are important to me. (professional development)3.66
I choose to participate in school-related social and community events. (professional social)3.52
I take breaks throughout the workday. (work-life balance)3.14
I avoid over-commitment to work responsibilities. (work-life balance)2.79
Table 1: Survey Items and Average Responses

RTRL.36: Music Teacher Mentoring: Then and Now (Conway, 2015)

Source:

Conway, C. (2015). Beginning music teacher mentor practices: Reflections on the past and suggestions for the future. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 24(2), 88-102.

What did the researcher want to know?

How has new music teacher mentoring changed (or not) in the preceding 10+ years?

What did the researcher do?

Conway conducted a follow-up with 13 teachers who had participated in her previous study when they were in their first year of full-time music teaching (during 1999-2000). Each participant read Conway’s original research report as well as interview transcripts and their email logs, journals, and questionnaire responses from the original study. They then reported their reactions to these documents via email and participated in an individual interview with Conway, in which they discussed their current views regarding mentoring of beginning music teachers.

What did the researcher find?

In examining the new data from this study, Conway identified several themes. Now that the participants have experience teaching and mentoring, they expressed that mentoring is a valuable professional development experience for the mentor as well as the mentee. Another theme was that participants had mixed feelings about who should serve as mentors, particularly retired teachers; while some felt that retired teachers have much to offer as mentors, others expressed a feeling that new teachers may perceive retired teachers as out-of-touch. A third theme was that new teachers must be proactive in seeking out answers and take responsibility for their own learning and growth.

There were several areas of consistency between the original study (published in 2003) and new data collected in 2010. These included a lack of consistency in new teacher mentoring programs, a delay in mentees pursuing curricular questions until after an initial “survival” phase, and the need for music-specific support. Time for the mentor to observe in the mentee’s classroom also continues to be vital.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Districts/administrators still may need to be convinced of the value of mentoring for new teachers, and if a mentor teacher is not provided, new teachers must seek out their own mentors. New music teachers might also consider forming relationships with different types of mentors, including music-specific and building-/district-specific (but not music) mentors. In order to maximize their ability to provide context-specific assistance, mentors should find a way to observe in the mentee’s classroom. If in-person visits are not possible due to time or distance restrictions, video-conferencing software (e.g., Skype) or sharing of digital video footage provides new opportunities for mentors to directly observe their mentees and offer targeted support.

RTRL.33: Human Resource Professionals’ Perceptions of Music Teacher Candidate Performance on Applicant Prescreening Measures (Shaw, 2019)

Source:

Shaw, R. D. (2019). Human resource professionals’ perceptions of music teacher candidate performance on prescreening interview instruments. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 29(1), 100-114.

What did the researcher want to know?

How do HR professionals perceive music teacher job candidates’ performance on interview prescreening instruments? 

What did the researcher do?

Shaw’s study participants were human resource professionals from five different school districts in one metropolitan area in the Midwestern U.S. Of these five districts, three were using the Applitrack TeacherFit instrument, one was using the Ventures StyleProfile, and one was using Gallup’s TeacherInsight. Except for the district that used the Gallup’s TeacherInsight, the other four districts also screened top candidates before selecting interviewees by administering the HUMANeX Ventures instrument over the phone or in person; this tool is aimed to gauge candidates’ teaching-related characteristics in the themes of drive and values, work style, relationships, influences, and thought processes. Shaw conducted multiple interviews with each HR professional, all of whom were former principals and/or teachers (though none had taught music).

What did the researcher find?

In general, most participants observed that candidates applying for elementary teaching jobs typically performed better than secondary candidates on the prescreening measures, particularly in terms of empathy and relationship building. However, they perceived music teachers to be lacking in these areas regardless of whether applying for elementary or secondary music teaching jobs. Most of the participants expressed “the feeling that music candidates viewed themselves as directors of large programs” rather than focusing on individual student growth. One participant explained, “They’re after excellence, molding a group of kids in a unified way to perform” (p. 107). This HR professional “felt that music teachers he had interviewed thought only about ‘getting a superior rating at contest,’ and were modeling their approach on an ‘old-school’ drill sergeant style teaching more common in the past” (p. 107). 

What does this mean for my classroom?

Music educators should reflect on the extent to which they prioritize large-group performance and program goals over focus on individual students. Being a music teacher is hard! It is easy to get so caught up in doing things the way they’ve always been done that we lose sight of other possible ways of looking at things. Hearing HR professionals’ perspectives that many music teachers “are in it for the wrong reasons,” namely because “they like the performance” (p. 107), might prompt us to step back and ask ourselves some important questions, such as the following:

  • To what extent do I relate to my students as individuals?
  • When a student is struggling, do I try to respond with empathy? Or am I angry because that student’s behavior is detrimental to the group? Why do I feel this way?
  • What is more important to me as a music educator: group performance or individual student experiences? Why?
  • As a music teacher, what am I even there for? What is my larger purpose?

We may not have immediate answers, but reflecting on questions like these can help us remain thoughtful about who we are as educators.

RTRL.08: “An Examination of Music Teacher Job Interview Questions” (Juchniewicz, 2016)

Source:

Juchniewicz, J. (2016). An examination of music teacher job interview questions. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 26(1), 56-58.

What did the researcher want to know?

What do principals think are the most important questions to ask when interviewing prospective music teachers? Does a principal’s school level, setting, or years of experience affect which interview questions they believe are more important?

What did the researcher do?

Juchniewicz surveyed 405 principals in North Carolina via an online questionnaire. Respondents were asked to rate the importance of 27 given interview questions and were provided an opportunity to list any additional questions they believed were important.

What did the researcher find?

The top three interview questions rated as most important by principals overall were:

  • “How will you connect with your students?”
  • “Tell me what I’ll see happening in your classroom.”
  • “How would you make sure students are successful in music?” 

This table shows the rankings and mean ratings of the top 20 most important interview questions (p. 62):

 

Principals rated each question on a 5-point scale
(1 = “not important at all” to 5 = “very important”).

Perceived importance of questions did not vary significantly by principals’ school level (elementary, middle school, or high school), setting (urban, suburban, or rural), or years of experience (5 or more years or less than 5 years). Among the free responses provided, “integrating other subjects into the music classroom” and “team player/colleague” emerged as common themes.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Regardless of whether you are applying for a music teaching job in an elementary, middle, or high school or in an urban, suburban, or rural area, certain questions are likely to be asked in the interview.  “Music teacher candidates should pay particular attention and be prepared to respond to several of the interview questions … rated as very important by principals of the present study” (Juchniewicz, 2016, p. 66).