There are so many restrictions to teaching music in the time of COVID-19, since both singing and playing instruments carry a higher risk of transmission. For singing, kids are required to be 12 feet apart instead of 6 feet apart and, of course, masked. I am a singer myself and have always used a lot of singing in my teaching practice. Singing to present a musical idea is off-limits right now, at least in-person.
Instead, I’ve tried to reinvent how to teach musical concepts and skills to my students. How can we use our bodies as an instrument? We have been focusing a lot on rhythm, body percussion and movement: clapping, stomping, tapping and snapping. It shows them even now that “I can be a musician, I can be a creator.”
Sometimes my in-person classes have as few as two students and different students react in different ways. Some of my older students may feel very exposed in a smaller setting. But then sometimes they surprise you, too, and come out with creativity that maybe they wouldn’t have shown with 25 other kids in the room.
When I’m in-person, I really have to be on: Check in, be personal, let the kids know that I care about them on a daily basis, be smiling, be excited to be there. I want to make it pleasant and welcome for them, make it clear I’m happy that they’re here. It can be an effort to be cheerful when there’s sometimes not a lot of cheer in the world right now. We’re asking kids to grow up very fast and be responsible in ways many of them are not ready for. But I’m hopeful for the future. Kids are resilient and we all have to be tough.
There’s been so much uncertainty this school year. We don’t know from day to day whether we are in-person or remote. It’s all adjustments, all day, but that’s what teachers always do: Adjust, react, reinvent, reconsider — all to provide learning experiences that our children deserve.
— as told to reporter Marlow Murphy