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Reflections on teaching online during the pandemic

As the saying goes, “a change is as good as a rest”. This is how I view my experience of teaching online during the pandemic. Undoubtedly there are drawbacks – poor sound quality certainly being significant – but overall, online teaching has been an enjoyable and successful experience.

Pupils having more time to practise has been a game-changer. Stepping off the treadmill of endless extra-curricular activities has given many children, perhaps for the first time in their lives, the opportunity to be bored, along with the freedom and intrinsic motivation to make their own choices and make their own fun. Happily, many of my pupils have found this fun at the piano.

Online learning has required more independence with small things, such as writing their own practice notes. This has provided a useful point of repose and reflection at suitable points during the lesson, and a chance to ask questions. This process has evolved over the last 10 weeks - “what shall I write?” has mostly now been replaced by pupils spontaneously picking up their notebook when something seems important to note down – a valuable step on the road to becoming an independent learner.

I have found myself listening and observing much more intently. I’ve also noticed an improvement in my pupils’ concentration during this time – any wandering focus really shows in an online setting. Pupils who are prone to “clocking out” every so often need to stay far more alert in online lessons.

Experimenting with new repertoire is one of my favourite things about teaching piano, and I have done this even more during lockdown. Purchasing studio licenses for digital resources so I can share easily with my pupils has exposed us all to repertoire I might not have used otherwise (I’m a usually a fan of a hardcopy!).

I’ve become more aware of varying the pace and energy in lessons - all sorts of other ideas that I’ve tried once and forgotten about have finally been put to good use, which has been a lot of fun. I have noticed my pupils becoming more open to taking risks and making mistakes, perhaps because they have seen me doing it. There have been many “rubbish” moments when a new activity has bombed or there has been an IT fail (nearly always user-error!) but laughing together at the mini-disasters has strengthened our mutual trust and rapport.

I have become more patient, careful and detailed in my explanations. I have demonstrated far more and been much more focused on the clarity of my explanations, ensuring I have explained with attention to the score, the sound and the movements. I’m not sure I was this thorough before. As a result, I feel my pupils have been given more time and opportunity to get things right, setting up a virtuous cycle in the time between lessons.

Finally, as I begin to prepare the transition to the “new normal”, I feel this time has built better relationships with my studio families too. They have seen and appreciated the hard work that goes on in and between lessons. They have spent more time listening to their children play piano and hearing them improve. There have been many comments that piano is the highlight of the week, and how happy their children are after their lessons.

So whilst online lessons might initially have felt like a last resort and a huge effort, the experience has changed and invigorated the way I teach, and the way my pupils learn, for the better.


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