How To Post & Comment

Thank you for your participation in this project.

Posting to this Blog is fairly simple. In order to author an original post or comment you must be issued an invitation. That can be done by emailing the blog administrator at Next you will need to create a google account using the email address that you were issued the invitation with. Google accounts can be created at

Using the sign-in option at the top right corner of the blog you can enter you google account id and begin posting.

From there begin by composing your narative in any word processing software. Then select New Post from the top right hand corner of this page and copy and paste your material directly to the message box that appears. When you have finished select Publish Post from the options at the bottom of the page.

Alternatively you may email me directly at and I will arrange to have your narrative posted. If you wish to remain annonymous please note that information in your email.

Do not forget that you are able to comment on others posts in addition to composing your own narratives. Comments work in the same technical manner as posting an original composition but they are archived slightly different.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Mark P. Murphy
Educational Leadership
The Pennsylvania State University

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Tie, Some Blue Cheese, and a Shiny New Plaque

Note: This is a test of the blog program

“A tie, some blue cheese, and a shiny new plaque”

It seemed like life moved in slow motion for a moment. In my mind I could hear a prolonged “NOOOOOOO” originating from my toes and stopping just shy of my vocal chords. Then it happened. A big chunk of blue cheese, right on my new tie.

“…the kind of young leadership that our organization needs,” the speaker proclaimed. Of course I did not have any clue what he was talking about. I neglected to listen to half of our band director’s awards speeches because his voice sounded like Ben Stein and my 9th grade attention span had run out about fifteen minutes ago. Besides, the end-of-the year banquet was my first and last chance to hang out with the upperclassmen and now I had salad dressing all over my first really nice tie.

“….someone that has led our group by example, by caring about what happens on and off the field,” he continued. Again, I had missed any indication that he was looking in my direction. I knew little about these annual awards but what I did know was that they were typically reserved for the brightest and the most dedicated members and I did not consider myself to be either. For the time being my tie remained my top priority as a looked for water or ice, or anything to cover it up with.

“Mark, would you like to come up and say a few words?” I heard him say. Then my date chimed in, “Yeah, go on up there, you deserve it!” And with that I hesitantly stepped toward the podium to accept my “Freshman of the Year” award.

Until middle school I had considered myself to be fairly intelligent. After several semesters in senior high my grades were little more than average. Music was perhaps the only thing that made sense to me but I certainly did not consider myself to be talented or anything close to a leader. With one award, however, everything seemed to change. Instead of wandering the hallways of Union-Endicott High School with complete anonymity, I was now considered one of the school’s most valued musicians and a budding leader. What was more? My friends, my family, the school administration and yes, even my greatest adversary was there to watch me (and my recently stained tie) accept my award.

I was heavily involved in our music department; a member of the jazz ensemble, marching band, concert band, saxophone quartet and jazz combo. Still until that evening it had always just seemed like something I did because I enjoyed it. I never considered it to be much of an academic study or a subject from which I could pursue a career. Over the next several years, however, musical accolades seemed to pour in, including being named the first sophomore drum major in school history—I may have been a clueless freshman at the time but even I knew that the school drum major was the musical equivalent of being the football team’s quarterback.

The truth was that I enjoyed the responsibility and loved being the student “face” of our department. When it came time to decide what career path I would choose in college I could not fathom a profession more rewarding than teaching music.

Five years later I became a high school band director. I have since asked my former director what factors played into his choosing me for that award. His response, although I do not remember it verbatim, was something to the effect of “You really did deserve the aware and above all the other candidates you just need a little faith in yourself.”

During my first year of teaching I created an annual award for the freshman that I view as most deserving of special recognition called the “Director’s Citation of Excellence.” Sure I consider talent and leadership, but it is mostly reserved for the quiet student who just needs a “little faith in their self.”

Impact on Self Esteem:

We can all relate to being the “new kid on the block,” the “freshman,” or the junior member of a faculty. Perhaps more than any other experiences that I recall from growing up that award gave me the self-confidence to realize that I was not just an insignificant member of a bigger organization. It reaffirmed that my actions, opinions, and talent were important and valued. Whatever sense of insecurity that was inside of me at the time seemed to fade almost instantly. I recommitted myself to leading the by example and learned to trust myself as a musician and student.

Resulting Motivational Influences:

My need for structure, acceptance, responsibility and success were all affirmed from this incident. It increased my self confidence and acknowledged that my work ethic was admired. As a result I have developed a greater self trust when presented with responsibility and charged with leadership. When given ambiguous goals I create a pathway to success and communicate my goals to those around me. When it seems as though my work is going unnoticed I am able to assure myself that the final reward will be a job well done and that is greater than temporary recognition. I am able to sustain focus for long periods of time and commit to long-term objectives. I tend to go above and beyond expectations to avoid letting others, or myself, down.

Preferred Values:

Hard work
Multiple Intelligences

Beliefs Formed:

As a result of that evening I belief that work ethic is as important, if not more so, than natural talent. I am not a “gifted musician” by any means, nor am I what some would consider to be a “natural born leader,” but I worked harder than most of my peers and that gave me a great advantage to obtain my goals. Although we live in a “squeaky wheels gets the oil” society I respect “quiet” leadership and tend to reward persistence as much as genuine achievement. Further, I recognize that my students, and people as a whole, can be intelligent and creative even if they do not always perform on traditional assessments and belief that success in one endeavor can be readily applied to a variety of challenges.

Behavior Enacted:

I have consciously set goals for myself and planned for success in both my own studies and the students in my classroom. I no longer fear leadership and decision making. Although it seems a cliché, I imagine myself as being successful and have learned to work backwards to formulate benchmarks for achieving my objectives. Similarly, I encourage students to organize their work in the same fashion. For those students who seem to be in need of a little “faith in them self,” I find methods of examining their strengths and applying their interests toward success in all functions in school. Perhaps most of all I make a concerted attempt to get to know all of the members of my class and not let the quiet leaders slip by unnoticed.

I still have the tie, sans blue cheese.

Mark P. Murphy
Educational Leadership
The Pennsylvania State University


JTW said...

I can relate to this posting totally! I too was a band student quite similar to you. I too was a very cautious, quiet freshman who kind of went along with the flow, just happy to be in band and playing my instrument (clarinet). I too was in jazz/stage band, pep band, marching and concert bands. I never really thought highly of my playing ability either, but as you were placed in the DM spot, so was I. It was a great role to be in and I too, as you, lead by example. It is great to be able to hear a fellow bandee's story. I have found that I utilize the ethic of care quite often. In today's educational climate it is extremely important to utilize a multicultural lens in an administrative role and I believe that most band programs prepare us quite nicely to do be able to do that. I too have a meta value of best interest to the student and believe strongly in building a learning community. Great post, enjoyed it tremendously.

Bridget said...

Your music director saw in you something you did not see in your self. Obviously the ethic of care and the importance of students float to the forefront. I also see an ethic of justice, the opportunity your director took to level the playing (pun unintended) field. He allowed you to utilize talents and skills that may not have occurred to you. As educators we hold power in our words and actions. Go for a patterned tie every time.

Chiachen Chang said...

This is a great example of how the issues of ethics of critique, care, and justice that address into the educational and leadership decision-making could humanely maximize the benefits and result in positive influences for the individuals. The annual award decision you reserved for the self-doubt students could effectively help them to strengthen their assertiveness, to motive their gumptions, and to progress their achievements. It is great to know that the ethical-oriented decisions your director esteemed has been passed on for the new generations by you. Thank you for this very intriguing analysis, I enjoyed reading.