Over the last couple months of this pandemic, education systems around the world have been shaken to their core. Teachers and students were forced to completely change their approach to instruction and learning and adopt what initially seemed like a cold, impersonal teaching model – virtual education. However, it has turned out that online teaching has been a fantastic opportunity for so many students and teachers to thrive. I wanted to share a few of the wonderful benefits that I’ve experienced through teaching remotely over the last three months.
First, and I think most importantly, my relationship with my students has strengthened tremendously. I’ve gotten to know my students on a much more personal level and through that I’ve been able to identify the unique learning habits of each student much better. I know which students respond to positivity better than to constructive criticism, I know which students excel with written instruction rather than visual, I know which students thrive best aurally. Here’s an example. I have a student who had been struggling for a while. We’ll call him Bob. Whenever I asked Bob what music he liked to listen to he would always give a general like “I don’t know” or “Anything.” So we experimented and played a bunch of different artists, but nothing seemed to work. Well, when we got into virtual lessons, I noticed a Beatles poster on the wall in the background of his room and I asked him about it. As it turned out, Bob is a huge Beatles fan. The next week I had him playing “Yesterday,” and he’s been thriving ever since with other songs like “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood.” If it wasn’t for virtual lessons, I may never have known his passion for the Beatles and may never had seen the incredible progress he’s made in just three short months.
Second, flexibility in time. When you have a student who is taking a one-hour, private lesson it can often be too long for the student’s attention span. What I’ve done is split some of those long lessons into two shorter lessons a week. In one lesson I’ll focus on technique (scales, arpeggios, slurs etc…) and in the other lesson I’ll focus on the musical development of the repertoire. This approach has really improved those student’s focus and productivity and would have been unlikely to instate if the lessons were still physical.
Third, flexibility in curriculum. One of the results of the first point on this list was pleasantly learning that so many of my students have strong interests in other areas like composition and theory. From that, I’ve been able to integrate those areas of interest into the curriculums for those various students. I’ve also had the opportunity to host a variety of group sessions for my entire studio. So far I’ve had mostly group technique classes and ensembles, but in the upcoming weeks I’ll host a listening party and a virtual studio pizza party. One of the added benefits of this is that my students are getting to know each other and are building friendships within the group, friendships that will eventually inspire peer to peer learning as well.
Remote teaching certainly isn’t easy. I’ve been busier in the last couple months than I have in a while. There are challenges that we all have to face, but if you’re able to see past those challenges and look at the benefit, you’ll be able to create an unbelievably positive experience for you and your students. I’d like to encourage you to think outside the box and get even more creative with the tools you have.
Wishing you all success,