This year music education was turned upside down (as was the world) leaving music teachers to find new and innovative ways to teach students that they had largely never had to think about. And since I'm hopelessly optimistic, I thought I'd share some upsides to learning through private lessons online.
IPad’s were purchased, Zoom took over our lives, and I have a feeling this integration with technology is here to stay for a while…. Or maybe even forever.
I have not taught a proper in-person lesson since March 3rd (not that I’m keeping track…), and it has been an adventure to see what teaching looks like in the climate of COVID. Obviously, the spread of COVID is much worse if you play/teach a wind instrument (like me), but teaching online has made me notice deficiencies in education that can go largely untalked about in lessons.
Honestly, this experience has helped me grow so much as a teacher. And I wanted to share a few reasons why I think music lessons are honestly more important now than ever.
1. Students are not actively working on the devices, and they’re off social media.
They’re doing something that, though the lesson is through the computer, if the internet went out or you lost power, it would still be possible to practice and create.
Students are probably spending the majority of their time in front of screens (honestly me too). The long term effects of this amount of time are truly unknown, and I can’t think that it would be good for all of us. Music gives them contrast. Music is a skill they’re building, it is a practicable thing away from the computer where they get to create sounds that are their own.
Any non-computer activity right now is hard to come by, but music is a life-long skill they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.
Also, individualized attention can be a really nice change of pace. As a quiet kid, I never really received recognition from teachers in school, but music is where I got to shine. Private lessons can be powerful and encouraging experiences for students and individually tailored to their needs. In a world where online learning makes it even harder to participate in classes, music lessons focus directly on the student. This interaction is something that will be missing from most school experiences this year.
2. Students learn long-term gratification.
We now live in the world of instant gratification. The online world is moving so fast while we are just sitting in our chairs. This sedentary lifestyle juxtaposed to the world moving a million miles a second is something we’ve never encountered. Music teaches delayed gratification. There’s no app that will learn the notes and rhythms for you. There is such satisfaction in a long term goal. This is something kids can work toward in music, even though the lessons are online, the physical act of practicing and working toward a goal is a skill built by the student themselves.
This long term gratification teaches students patience with themselves, and it shows progress week to week. Since lessons are online, all Zoom calls can easily be recorded. It is a perfect record to be able to show a student how far they have come!
Long-term gratification is essential to a successful and fulfilling life. Students learn that it may take them years, not days, to achieve what they want. If they can see those big goals through, that skill transfers to any other ambition they may have. (This is one of the BIG reasons I love teaching: seeing and guiding this process!)
3. They will develop a larger vocabulary around music because lessons are online.
I have taught many lessons online in the past 6 months, and one of the hardest parts is not being able to hear them fully in person. That being said, this means I ask them a lot of questions that lead to them analyzing their own playing. Was it actually softer/louder? Was the sound more resonant? Describe how the sound was different this time than last time, etc.
This is a skill I think is so important when it comes to remembering things they learn in lessons. Many students feel like they can’t repeat what they learn in their lessons at home. Now, they play a big part in analyzing and describing their own playing to me in more detail than what zoom allows. Since they can’t rely on me to tell them if it is “good or bad” they have to start forming their own opinions. This gives them agency and empowers them to listen to themselves. I can’t even begin to tell you how important this skill is. It is truly one of the hardest to learn, but online lessons can actually aid in this process.
The nature of online learning makes students more independent. They get to notice more about the music they listen to and more about their playing. The online format allows us to easily listen to music together and discuss music very easily as we are still both hearing the same thing at the same time.
4. It is convenient.
You don’t have to drive somewhere, pay for parking, walk to the place, realize you forgot to put enough money in the meter, walk back, then probably eat dinner out because it's after school and it's easier to pick something up.
I mean I loved my trips to Wendy’s after a flute lesson just as much as the next kid, but I was an only child and if you’re trying to keep track of activities for multiple children, it can be super difficult to find time to schedule them all, let alone eat!
Having a weekly convenient time is much easier to manage with online learning. I used to drive nearly 40 minutes to lessons in high school. That means a nearly 3-hour commitment round trip (Wendy’s pick-up included). This can take time away from schoolwork or maybe more importantly downtime/relaxation time.