Moving toward a "new normal"

June 18, 2020

Last week my students showcased their musical work through a virtual recital. To participate, each student had to record a video of their music and submit it to the staff at Notes n’ Beats. These videos were then broadcasted back-to-back on YouTube for the enjoyment of numerous enthusiastic viewers. While viewing this recital, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past three months and think about the positive aspects of our online work.

 

I have been teaching for close to ten years at this point and have attended numerous student recitals; however, I am confident that this virtual recital is going be one I remember throughout my career. Not just because of the trying circumstances that surround the times we live in, but because of the many unforeseen opportunities that arose through the online platform. For example, this broadcasted recital was the first student recital where I could pay full attention to the work of my students. In-person recitals always involve so much work behind the scenes—tuning guitars, frantically looking for lost music, making sure performers are lined up correctly, etc.—that any attention devoted to the performances on stage are brief. The fact that I could devote my full attention to this virtual studio recital allowed me to absorb each performance fully and reflect on all the work each student put into it.

 

Outside of the recital, the online platform has also forced me to engage with the numerous virtual tools that are available to teachers. Technology has done so much to improve the effectiveness of the work we do; however, there are certain areas where the integration of new technology can be limited. Innovation can easily be brushed over by teachers, myself included, who have a tried and true curriculum and don’t see the point in experimenting with change. Consequently, the switch to the online platform has forced the integration of modern tools into my own teaching kit. A few examples include the digitization of my teaching materials and the incorporation of applications for practicing concepts like note-reading and programs for students to write their own songs.

 

Like everyone I am ready to get back to a normal where I can teach my students and interact with parents face-to-face. A normal where I can discuss different teaching strategies with all my fantastic colleagues. And finally, a normal where I can create music with fellow musicians, whether it be my students or my friends.

 

That being said, certain components of my work will never return to normal. I will take more time during live recitals to stop and absorb the beauty of what is being created on stage rather than be distracted by the extra activity behind it. I will be less fearful of technology and use it more often in my own teaching. And finally, I will regularly reevaluate and improve my teaching strategies by my own initiative.

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