Hive Mind: Summer 2021

Every newsletter, a question will be posed to be answered by our excellent Suzuki community (trainers, teachers, parents, students), finding inspiration in our shared ideas around successful outcomes in all kinds of circumstances related to music education.

This newsletter’s question is: How has teaching online for the past year or so changed your outlook about online teaching? Once we can teach in person again, will you still teach a portion of students online or return exclusively to in person lessons?

From Mary Burke

While on-line teaching works as a resource, it can not, in my opinion, replace in-person lessons for my studio.  Any chance I had to teach in person I took it, including the April break, before it was mandated that students were not going back to school.  If the kids were in school, physically or virtually, they came to me for lessons if possible.  Many families themselves wanted to be in-person when possible so there was not added screen time to their child’s day.   While students with more experience are easier to instruct on-line than little ones (and parents) just learning, I still prefer in-person teaching.

As a piano teacher, much of the lesson focuses on body, hand position and fingering.  The video set-up does not always allow for a good, or close up view of all these elements.  As well, some of the instruction gets lost in limited audio technology on both sides.  For instance, sometimes I cannot hear a sustained note, even though the student did not let go of the key, so I am relying on visual cues.  Something as simple as the furnace coming on at the student’s house can cancel the sound!  This results in lost time so not as much is accomplished during the lesson time.  There is also a difference if a student has an acoustic piano vs. a weighted keyboard — acoustic sound translates better.  While there are audio settings for background noise, it does not always work depending on the computer, tablet or phone.

The students also like the interaction of the ‘real’ me.  We chat and our facial expressions (when masks are not required) and body language say a lot. I hope I know my students and connect with parents well enough that I can gauge how a child is feeling when they come in and sit down for their lesson.  I have more control of the lesson (student and parent) when I am beside them and a connection that the computer does not allow.

I will certainly use on-line teaching for snow days, make up lessons or immuno-compromised families/students, but it will not be a 100% replacement for any of my students.  I’m sure through necessity most teachers have made the on-line model work well, but for the longer term, I plan to be back teaching in person and using on-line lessons as back up.

Hive Mind Question for Fall 2021 Newsletter

The pandemic has taken a toll on all of our mental health, but children and youth have been particularly affected. How do you support the mental health of our students?