"I've never been so exhausted, after teaching online lessons all week!"
That has been a common observation from teaching colleagues around the world, as they adjust to a new way of doing things over the last few weeks.
Personally, I find it to be a sneaky kind of exhaustion. I'm entering my third week of teaching all my private students online. In some ways, I feel like I'm simply keeping the same routine, just teaching the classes online instead of in person. No big deal! But then I'll realize that things aren't really so normal.
For example, on Monday I taught my very first online Suzuki group class via Zoom. It went very well. We played some pieces, played some games, listened to each other play solos and simply enjoyed seeing each other's familiar faces for the first time in several weeks. Job well done, everyone seemed pretty happy and connected, playing together. I could relax, go over some notes, think about next week's lessons. Whew!
That night, though, I had an epic stress dream about teaching an online group lesson. The lesson was to start in about five minutes, and I was trying to get on the Internet. However, the technology I was using was from somewhere around the late 1980s. I was sitting at a giant, clunky computer in a school lab, looking at a slate-gray screen full of code. I was trying to connect to the Internet, before the World Wide Web, and nobody could help me. Meanwhile, the time was ticking and I was five minutes late, then 10 minutes late, 15 minutes late.... What would my students think? I was madly trying to figure it out, over and over, to no avail whatsoever!
My studio belies the whole idea of "normalcy" as well. On one hand, I've tried to make things feel as "normal" as possible for my students. I purposely set up my computer so that when students see me for their online lessons, they'll see me at approximately the same angle as they would have, had they been here in person. I'm in the same corner, at my desk.
However, it doesn't feel particularly normal for me.
My computer is up on a table, on a box, in the middle of the room. I have a studio light on me, so they can see me. And beyond that, the rest of the room has turned into a mad sewing house where I'm making cloth face masks for my family and friends to wear to the rare trips to the grocery store. On the couch where parents normally sit are scissors, a cutting board, all the scraps of cotton I could find from several decades of sewing projects and every inch of elastic and binding tape I could find, going back to my grandmother's collection. I've set up my sewing machine so that I can sit on top of the wicker chest where my students normally put their violins. The sewing is a fine distraction for me; but it's certainly a reminder of why we're all marooned in our homes.
It's all exhausting. So is the advice. One one hand, it's incredibly helpful; for example, someone simply gave me all the settings I needed to change on Zoom, a platform that automatically perceives the sounds coming from a violin as "background noise." Change the settings, and you can actually hear the violin. And teachers have filled social media channels with wonderful ideas, creative ways to handle teaching, out-of-the box ways to look at all this.
But that can be overwhelming. Read too much advice, and you might think that you need to learn a half-dozen other technologies, to make special videos, to turn your studio into a sound stage, buy a fancy microphone, start special chats with students, post PDF's, try teaching in a clown suit, make special signage...All good ideas - but they can become intimidating when they come at you all at once. And considering how fast everyone had to switch gears, it was inevitable that this information would come as a barrage.
All I can say is, step back. Do it the way you do it. Don't get intimidated. Keep it simple and keep it YOU. Start with the idea of connecting with your students, the specific people that they are, and then take it from there. We'll get through this, and maybe learn a few things in the process!
You might also like:
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.