This would have been the Massachusetts spring vacation week but with the closure now of 6 weeks of school and since it took about 3-4 weeks for local schools to create a unified plan for learning online, this traditional spring break was cancelled. I, however, was desperate for a break since we didn’t miss a single day of piano…we all moved from in studio lessons to online lessons over a single Sunday. I was straining my voice to speak clearly, and the use of headphones created headaches. I absolutely had a bit of PTSD over worry about making online lessons work technically and just as interesting and reflexive as in person. Would my students continue to enjoy their lessons? Would parents be able to pay for lessons? So, we mixed things up a bit: we held three group workshops using the meeting app Zoom and students followed this experience by submitting videos of their playing so we could create a group video recital to be posted on You Tube.
The Zoom meetings were terrific! We all began with a sobering thought for all…Governor Baker had just released information that school was cancelled for the rest of the year just an hour before our first zoom workshop. I started each workshop by giving the students time to talk about their feelings regarding school. Their responses were adult-like, heartfelt and honest. How they missed their friends; missed school birthday parties, sports, band, art classes, drama and their preference for learning in person. We are all so concerned about high school seniors missing their graduation ceremonies and senior week festivities. But my students pointed out that they were missing eighth grade graduation ceremonies marking their transition from middle school to high school and other step up ceremonies marking the movement from elementary school to middle school. Students were worried about falling behind. They were worried about their school lockers! The order to leave school came so quickly that most students did not know to empty their lockers of notebooks, iPads, jackets, sneakers and food. One student felt very badly for the custodians who must be smelling the rotting food emanating from each cubicle.
The students played so very well and really listened to each other. I initiated the need to mute all except for the student who was performing. But a few students in, I realized no one was making a sound. I didn’t have to mute anyone in the other group sessions either. We used hand signals and I learned a few new ones as well…the pointing up of fingers number 2 and 5 meaning “I agree”! However, the favorite time was at the end, when all students were encouraged to share peaks at their pets. Dogs, cats, birds, and guinea pig. We were even treated to chickens in Thalia’s backyard! Almost all students turned in videos of their playing and allowed us to make a successful end to the third quarter of the teaching year.