Covid-19 may be strong, but music teachers are stronger. Learn how you can support your pupils, parents and caregivers with these five key tips.
Last month announced the closing of schools in the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Children have been sent home with parents and caregivers, while teachers everywhere are wondering how they’ll support their learners out of school and without face to face lessons.
As you transition to teaching online, collaborating with pupils, parents and colleagues will be essential to your learners’ success. Here are five tips to help support them in these unprecedented times.
1. Stay connected with learners and parents
With so much software at our fingertips, we’re more connected than ever. But what does school from home communication actually look like?
Here are some considerations for staying connected:
Choose how you’ll communicate (and stay consistent)
Pupil/parent–teacher communication will be different in for all of us, but the important thing is that it stays consistent. You might like to keep to your schedule and deliver online lessons using software like Zoom. On the other hand, you might want to consider offering 2-3 online lessons a week (for shorter durations) which has proven to increase pupils' progress.
You might want to provide pupils/parents with an online learning platform like SeeSaw where you can set work, view/track progress and provide effective feedback. We are all working incredibly hard and want the best for our pupils. Online learning platforms ensure you stay connected with your pupils and parents whilst providing them with immediate feedback which will move your learners forward quicker. This is something you might want to implement permanently (especially with your regular pupils).
Implement safeguarding measures
This brings up another important topic: safeguarding measures. You may want to consider whether or not to appear on camera. If you decide to go down this route, you can create short videos or ‘mini-lessons’ using hands and voices to demonstrate musical concepts/technical skills. With children and teenagers parents should be on hand and in the room whilst live lessons are going on. The recording of lessons, even in part, also needs some consideration.
Gather resources to support pupils and parents
In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing resources for music teachers and pupils, and finding new ways to support you. Stay in the loop by signing up to our blog, checking out our resources page or even better joining The Music Circle Community.
2. Getting Started Online
You can provide online music lessons in the following ways:
live video call
online learning platform
online video recording exchanges
a combination of all the above (this will provide pupils with a unique, quality music education)
Live video call - providing your pupils with online video call lessons (which follow the same structure, time and content as your normal lessons). This will keep the process consistent and you will transition more naturally into this method of teaching. You can use software such as Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. We are currently using Zoom which allows us to use video but also share our screen with pupils to demonstrate/show pieces of music.
To deliver live video call lessons you will either need a laptop or desktop computer (with a camera and microphone), mobile phone, or a tablet (including an iPad). Whichever device you have, you will need to be able to position it facing you and your instrument. On top of this, you may want headphone (to prevent echo), a stand-alone microphone and an additional camera (to easily switch between different angles).
Online learning platform - a place for you and your pupils to track their learning journey, assign activities, upload videos/audio/photographs and provide effective feedback. You can use this to input your teaching and lesson notes and your pupils can log their practice sessions and ask questions, receive support and publish their performances to a real audience making the learning purposeful. We are currently using SeeSaw as it is easy to setup and use during this time, but also we believe it is one of the best. There are alternatives such as: Google Classroom, Cadenza, ABRSM Music Case App. If you require any further support on this, we have an entire section within our community.
Online video recording exchanges - communicating through video exchange provides pupils and teachers with an ongoing method of communication at times that suit both you and your pupils. A benefit is that both you and your pupils have unlimited 24/7 opportunities to learn and provide feedback. Video exchanges are not limited by live time restraints which sometimes holds pupils back. With video exchange lessons, pupils can watch, pause, rewind and review you demonstrating and explaining the material as many times as they need to really understand what they have to learn. The same goes for the you (the teacher) - we can watch the student's performance over and over, each time focusing on different things to address, so that the resulting video response is much more comprehensive than a live one.
Combination - having a combination of live lessons, access to an online learning platform and video recording exchanges will provide your pupils with a comprehensive, high-quality music education that will motivate and inspire them to constantly improve and progress at a faster rate than traditional weekly face-to-face lessons. We have a model of this within The Music Circle community and can support you to get this setup in your practice.
For lots of pupils and parents right now, instrumental practice is clashing with school work and parents working from home. So how can you support them to balance instrumental practice, work and school while keeping their sanity intact?
In normal circumstances, we would recommend teaching following the Learn4Performance approach (you can learn more about this approach in our next blog - how exciting!) and this can work incredibly well if you are still regularly communicating with your pupils. However, during these unprecedented times, we recommend setting stand-alone activities. Depending on how you are communicating with pupils, whether you are just teaching weekly lessons, or have setup a combination of all the above, it’s a good idea to set activities with lots of independent learning time. Not only will pupils learn new skills, they’ll give parents and caregivers extra time to focus on work.
Encourage your pupils to spend lots of time exploring their instrument - you could provide them with a picture a day (this could be different animals) and they have to compose a piece of music for this picture.
Ask parents to record pupils playing
With only so many hours in the day, figuring out how to continue working and how to keep younger children engaged is no easy. Encouraging parents and caregivers to record their child playing can help them feel connected. Singing together will also build this connection and support pupils' musicality.
We understand you, parents and caregivers are entering into brand new territory and it’s okay to acknowledge that routines will be disrupted, things might go a bit slower than usual, and new challenges will arise. We are going through this too!
But one thing is clear: helping parents and caregivers prioritise their health will benefit everyone over the next couple of weeks.
Encourage your parents to print out a daily planner. This plan can include a morning routine, lessons, music practice, chores, as well as physical activities. The plan can stop at the time parents or caregivers would usually get home, leaving time to switch off and enjoy some free time.
Encourage parents to get outdoors
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) is asking people to maintain social distancing and hand-washing measures, experts advise getting out for a walk or for some fresh air once or twice a day. Even short walks have been scientifically proven to boost your mood. Pupils can listen out to the different sounds they can hear and use these in their compositions or discussions with you in their lessons.
Look for ways to minimise stress
According to psychiatrist Judson A. Brewer, anxiety happens when our prefrontal cortexes don’t have enough information to predict the future accurately. Without accurate information, our brains go into overdrive, and we start relying on our senses of fear and dread. But there are ways to 'hack' the emotions you may be feeling. Once you’re aware of your negative habits, you can actively shift to a more positive one. For example, if you’re a person who touches their face in times of anxiety, Brewer advises taking a big breath in, and asking yourself when you last washed your hands? This helps our brains shift to what we do best: think. “Oh, I just washed my hands ten minutes ago.”
Pausing, even for a moment, gives our prefrontal cortex a chance to put things in perspective and think about any next moves.
It is absolutely fine to ask for help! Please reach out to us if there is anything you need support with whether you are inside The Music Circle or just reading this blog, we are all in this together! Send a message to our inbox - we would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Take it one step at a time
Our last piece of advice is to take it day by day. With non-stop Covid-19 coverage at every turn, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We are with you every step of the way. If you are a member of our community inside The Music Circle, reach out to other members or ask for professional support. Alternatively, reach out to us, email us and together we will get through this!
Who knows, we might learn something about our teaching and implement some of these things into our normal practice. Let's learn together!
Always remember what brought you to teaching. You’re a passionate music teacher who’s looking out for your learners’ best interests. And in uncertain times like these, YOU make all the difference.
Keep inspiring, keep smiling, keep safe!