By Debbie Hammond
At the end of August, I had the privilege of spending a week at music camp, in person! I was so excited to be able to teach in the same room as my students that it hadn’t occurred to me until the first morning of classes that I hadn’t taught in person for months. I had been thinking for weeks about how to manage plans for my students for the coming year and somewhere in those best laid plans, I forgot one thing. Re-entry is a real thing for teachers too! I had no idea how real until I sat down for lunch with my camp teaching colleagues and we all looked at each other with a somewhat bewildered look on our faces. With a little laugh, the colleague to my left said “So, re-entry is a real thing.” After some lunch and a little brainstorming about adjusting strategies, we all set out for a better afternoon of classes. I can happily report that the mood at dinner was much improved. As we all embark on our fall schedule of teaching lessons and group classes, here are a few ideas that helped me transition back to an in-person teaching mindset.
Since March 2020, I have taught about 97 percent of my time online. The current situation in Ontario dictates that numerous public health rules be followed. Make sure you have taken the time to read through the requirements in your area and have a clear plan for any students/families attending lessons in person. Keep in mind that every family has received a safety plan from their school and any other activities they are participating in. Sharing your plan in written form, talking about it and reposting it in your lesson space will help make sure everyone is working together.
I have always had a routine for the start of each lesson. Students arrive, unpack instruments and put music on the stand. We chat a little about life and then start the totalization activity. While you might remember all of this routine, it is very likely your student has forgotten. Little reminders about getting everything ready before they start the lesson are really needed here. Everyone is out of practice at having lessons, so before starting, take a breath and run your own mental checklist to make sure everything is ready to go.
Saying ‘Yes’, while saying ‘No’
There is no mute button when the student is standing in front of you. Zoom classes, especially group classes, have allowed things like plucking strings and talking while the teacher is talking. When standing in front of your group class for the first few times, remember that it is okay to be strong in asking for exactly what you want. Saying ‘no’ to extra plucking strings and talking is really saying ‘yes’ to having an engaged group class. In the beginning, everyone will need more reminders while getting back into the habit of being in group class.
Time and Timing
Give yourself a little time: time to adjust, time to observe, time to reflect and time to adjust. My experience so far suggests that lessons feel the same, but different at the same time. A strange combination of comfortably familiar and bizarre awkwardness. A little extra time and a little extra conversation can help settle everyone into the lesson flow.
There is nothing more important that recognizing effort and celebrating hard work! Returning to group class and lessons is hard work. Things have been different for so long that students are really working hard to do what you ask of them. This goes for parents too. A few words of recognition will go a very long way in supporting your studio families along this journey. At camp, I handed out a lot of stickers, and saw a lot of smiles too!