It sometimes seems everyone I talk with is learning to teach online. Our local university has restarted after spring break with online classes. Professors have been busy setting up their teaching and work spaces at home. Studio teachers are also setting up virtual studios and figuring out ways to connect with their students and keep them progressing.
As I write this preparing for an afternoon and evening of lessons, I am reminded of things that I enjoy about virtual lessons. Don't get me wrong, I miss meeting with my students in my studio, but there are several things that I really feel benefit both me and the student as I teach them in this new way, even if it is only temporary.
Seeing the student in their space tops the list for me. I get to see the instrument they are practicing on. It is fun to see its capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. I see how it is set up. I might have suggestions for the student they never even thought of. I can help a student who thought he had a keyboard without a damper pedal discover that it really is capable of having this pedal and purchasing a usable pedal would be a very small investment. I see what my students use for a bench and how it fits them. We talk about position a lot as we learn technique. Habits are formed at home. Sometimes it is the littlest discovery and suggestion that can make the biggest impact.
Another student has an electric keyboard with a lot of fun sounds. They explain how their child can only practice with the piano sound and use the fun sounds after practice. While I respect this discipline, I incorporate the fun sounds within the lesson and encourage their use in purposeful ways. There's no reason learning can't be fun, and if it will motivate the student to play their pieces with a fun sound as they practice, I'm all for it!
Another benefit is the fact that physical walls have been removed as we create a virtual space. I used to have contact with my students only at their lessons and in that physical studio space. With virtual lessons, I'm sending emails between lessons and they send messages to me. I have an advanced student who has texted me twice in the past week with great questions regarding her music. My students are learning more when it doesn't always have to happen in the scheduled slot.
I'm trying to be more creative as I want to keep students engaged. I'm creating videos and online theory practice. I'll utilize these tools long after the quarantine is lifted and I'm motivated to make more and keep growing in creativity.
Sometimes it takes something that really shakes up our routine to make us better teachers and to think about the things we do. Virtual lessons seem to have done that for me and I think I'll come out at the end of this a better teacher.