After a year of lockdowns, school closures, and U-turns, many of you will be total pros at remote, hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous lessons. Here we compile some of the top tips we’ve gathered along the way.
Breakout Rooms = Practice Rooms
Delivering to a group and need to check up on their individual work? Whether in a classroom setting or a group rehearsal, assigning pupils their own breakout rooms as practice spaces means you can visit each pupil and see how they’re doing. No scheduling needed, just pop in when you feel like it. The threat of an imminent visit from a teacher can help keep them on task too, especially if they’ve got many distractions at home (how many pets have you seen over Zoom by now?)
Know Your Platform
Some schools will be very strict about the platform you can use and you’re stuck with it. If you’re a private teacher, try to get everyone on the same platform as you. We’ve found Zoom to be the best, as their sound options seem the most comprehensive. The Original Sound feature is fantastic and teaching instrumental lessons would be much harder without it. The new high fidelity music settings haven’t blown us away and sometimes caused more problems, but original sound should see you right.
Make sure you send accessible resources and instructions to students, parents/guardians, or support staff, so everyone is set up and ready to go.
Know the accessibility features of your platforms and technologies. There are new updates all the time, such as Zoom now having in-meeting closed captions. Google Meet’s captions are generally accurate, even when singing.
My first online recital had 100% engagement. Normally I get about half of my pupils wanting to perform live, and virtually none of my adult pupils ever want to get involved in concerts. Let them choose between playing live or sending you a video beforehand for you to share from your screen. One of my pupils has always point-blank refused to play in concerts and she took part by sending in a video, even though she couldn’t attend the concert itself.
One brilliant bonus of performing online is that you can invite family and friends from far afield who would never have been able to see the live show. We used the chat feature in Zoom to post positive and supportive comments. It was lovely.
Connection is Everything
The strength of your internet connection has become the difference between a great lesson and a frustrating waste of time. If you find you or a pupil has terrible wi-fi, try an ethernet cable. Directly plugging into your router can do wonders for the strength of your connection.
Human connection is important too. Take time to discuss how the week has gone, not just in terms of their practice. Find ways to play together (your student needs to be muted) or play games. A laugh can go a long way during a pandemic.
Figurenotes lends itself to creativity, and this is no different online. Grab household items in Figurenotes colours and compose with them. Share screens and use the Figurenotes software to do some composing or arranging – a great way to sneak some stealth theory in. Try using the whiteboard feature, or Google Jamboard, to draw graphic scores in Figurenotes colours and play them. Wherever you can find colour, you can compose and improvise. Remember those homemade instruments mentioned in Fiona Sharp’s excellent blog? Endless fun and a way to entertain the kids during school closures and cancelled clubs.
Improve Your Skills
This is a great time to build on the skills you have and take a training course, as most are online and don’t require travel. Getting stuck into skill development is much more beneficial to both your mental health and job satisfaction than completing Netflix. There are plenty available. Our new online course, Figurenotes Online: Developing Your Practice, is ideal for emerging and established musicians, teachers, and music practitioners. You’ll learn how to make your work more accessible, inclusive, and fun! The groups will be kept nice and small in order to focus on your needs and help develop resources that fit your setting and style. You can find out more here: https://figurenotes.org/new-online-training/