Monday, March 23, 2020

NCSSM Zoom Classes Day 1

This morning I taught my first NCSSM residential class of the COVID-19 emergency. Some friends asked me to outline my approach to online music teaching as well as some thoughts about how I am approaching music class Zoom  instruction.

My first class was Classical Piano and Guitar. This is a multi-level, individualized, residential music class that I have taught for nearly 30 years at two different institutions. About 15 years ago, I flipped this classroom before many, if any, other instructors we're moving in this direction. So, all of my instructional videos for beginning guitar, beginning piano, and music theory are already available on YouTube. They were originally made for a closed circuit video service we had at NCSSM and eventually found their way to YouTube. My more intermediate and advanced students are provided or encouraged to find performance videos or recordings to use as examples as they learn new repertoire.  Additionally, I have been operating in this quasi-online, flipped environment for so many years that it was fairly seamless to move to Zoom instruction this week.

Let me first outline my priorities for the class.

First and foremost, I do not want this class to add any extra stress to my students' lives. I will not lose sight of the fact that this is an arts elective and should be an happy enrichment for students.   That there are many new stressors for kids at this time and I don't want to add to that. The arts should be an area of safety, breath, and always a different kind of rigor.

Second, I want the class to feel as normal as possible. Our normal classroom routine is to arrive in class, greet each other, and settle in while I take roll and outline the goals for the day. After that all of my students move to their individual workstations where they can begin their guitar or piano practice and class work for the day. Since it is independently paced, everyone is at a different place in the curriculum. (Some students are beginners, some are more intermediate, and some are very advanced. Since the classroom is flipped, everyone can receive my instruction online whenever they are ready for it. Everyone is used to this environment and we will continue this environment in the online format. I will start the Zoom meeting with everyone in the meeting and give my opening remarks and take roll. Following my remarks, students may leave the meeting and begin doing their work. I will remain in the meeting and they can click back in when they are ready for feedback, assessment, or have questions. The class meets 3 times per week and I have asked the students to click in for feedback at least twice per week.  In our face-to-face classroom, we all come back together for the last 5 minutes of class for closing remarks and often a impromptu performance. My Zoom classroom will be exactly the same. I have asked everyone to set an alarm on their phone for 5 minutes prior to the end of class in order to to click back in for closing remarks.  This worked really well today and I anticipate that it will continue to work throughout the rest of the term. It was a very normal day.

Third, I want students to be conscious of their personal musical goals on a daily basis. Much of this course is built on my students' interest in either learning to play an instrument or advancing their skills on that instrument.  It is, in fact, an elective credit and everyone truly desires to be in the class. The course builds a minimum of 150 minutes a practice time a week into their academic schedule.  That said, if one's personal goals are not clearly articulated and galvanized, it is very easy to stray off course. So, I often remind students to consider their goals at the beginning of class and to make sure that every moment of the class is pointed toward achieving those goals. This will be vital in our Zoom format.

So, today went pretty much as planned. I spent a good deal of extra time at the beginning of class checking in on every student. I wanted to hear their voice. I wanted them to be able to articulate what the last week has been like for them. I want them each to know that they are seen and heard by me and their friends and colleagues in the class. The relationships, to me, are the most important thing; especially now. My intention is to lead with relationships and caring with the knowledge that the content will take care of itself.

Today, once everyone had checked in and I reviewed my revised course expectations and went over some Zoom basics for this class, everyone clicked out of the meeting and went to work. Several clicked back in in order to play a song for me or ask important questions. 5 minutes before the end of class everyone came back in and I was able to send them off with a good word and positive thought.

I feel great about the class and I am looking forward to my Music History class at 3:15 this afternoon.

I will write another post about that course as well as one about my Orchestra in coming days. I hope this is helpful to some of you out there. I would love to hear from you as you begin working in the zoom music class environment.



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