COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Defending Online Lessons

by Amy Turner

The Weekend Before Lesson Day
Coronavirus: Hey, I'm here. Going to disrupt your plans.
Piano Teacher:
Uh oh. Who are you? I can still have people in my home and teach piano lessons, right?
Coronavirus: Maybe for a while, but you might want to plan on feeling a life-altering, paralyzing fear of online lessons coming your way. Ready?
Piano Teacher: Online?! How can I teach without my student right next to me?
Coronavirus: Unless you want to lose students, you better start setting up that webcam.
Piano Teacher: Webcam?!!
Coronavirus: [scoffing, to Influenza] They think I'm the flu.
Influenza: [chuckles]
Piano Teacher: Well, aren't you? Don't I need to just send home the sick student and credit him/her for a week's lesson?
Coronavirus: I'm going to be around waaaaaay longer than Influenza. He takes summers off, remember? My summer's about to get started.
Piano Teacher: [deep breath] Okay. Online lessons. I can do this. I just set my iPhone right here on the ke... [phone falls to the floor, after banging bass keys on the way down].
Coronavirus: [snickers]
Piano Teacher: I'll try my iPad. [loading Zoom]
Zoom: This iPad is too old for me. I'm not compatible. I need something newer. Best Buy is open now, isn't it?
Piano Teacher: [polling Facebook Piano Teachers' Group] What platform do you use for online lessons?
Facebook Piano Teachers' Group: 1,778 replies, each with varying and heated opinions
Piano Teacher: [reaches for Ibuprofen]

Lesson Day
Piano Teacher: [calls first student on FaceTime]
FaceTime: You need to get in touch with someone? Oh, you need Google Duo for this one. Android and all...
Chromebook: I already have Google Duo installed! I can do it, but I'm too cumbersome to sit on your music stand.
Google Duo: Where's your ethernet cable? I'm going to be really pixel-y without that. Your student will look sort of like an amoeba, but, I can hear.
Ethernet Cable, from Upstairs: I'm up here! ...coiled up under your husband's pants in his closet! I knew one day you'd need me.
Router: How many feet long is your cord, Ethernet?
Ethernet Cable: Not long enough.
Ethernet Cable and Router: [guffaw]
Piano Teacher: [praying]
Coronavirus: Got that set up yet?

Real life is here, and it's different. Piano teachers everywhere are getting through the emotional paralysis of early this week when school was first cancelled, and we've successfully moved through a week (at least in western NC) of online lessons and varying levels of confidence in our craft. It's been weird, to say the least. But we care about all of you; children and adults alike.

To my surprise, I'm not throwing in the towel, and I'm writing in defense of online lessons. I have noticed the following; and you know, it's not awful! Online lessons force a teacher to speak more effectively, choosing her words carefully, to guide a student efficiently through a lesson. Students learn to listen carefully to direction, realizing that the teacher's hand/pencil is not present to assist. Teachers get a chance to see students' home instrument and environment as students are allowed to show off their practice space. Teachers very quickly discover what foundational materials need to be reviewed. Can the student count measures on her own or is that something you typically do for her in lessons? Is note-reading solid? Is the student sure that cows eat grass and boys deserve fudge? Or is it boys eat grass and cows deserve fudge? Students who have assisting parents or siblings who don't understand music must depend on their own knowledge to progress. And those onlooking parents/siblings? They might even learn something new!

It's exciting for a teacher to be on one end of a device, watching a student perform 100% on his/her own, by listening and practicing, really solidifying that keyboard technique and skill. Early this week I was emotionally exhausted, concerned about the technological capabilities of my home and the creative ability of my mind. But today is Friday, and I'm encouraged. Praying my increased confidence passes on to each student in the coming weeks and we have loads of FUN at the piano!

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