The current pandemic is making a huge impact on the different areas of our lives. Regardless of age, race, and social status, people have to learn to adapt in order to survive the unpredictable. People's adaptation and coping mechanisms led to making choices from escape, isolation, or opportunities.
As an educator, I have felt the impact of the situation on my students, parents, and professional community. How will everyone make the shift? How can we leverage emotions to increase positivity?
In the beginning, I have experienced all these mixed emotions of being physically apart from my students. It was like a dead end, with no detour that can lead us back to that path of possibilities.
And the journey begins… I found the detours through a student who was once lost, but with parental guidance, she was able to pursue her passion and interest in music, despite the circumstances. The journey never became a solitary endeavor because another student joined in and took the challenge of making a collaborative online music performance. I truly believe that we all have choices. While some of us would choose to remain trapped in the situation, others have thought of ways to reconnect with the world and themselves through creative output or go on a personal mission to be part of something that can help. For my students and I, we all made a choice to focus on what really matters.
Going through this journey myself made me think through the process of learning, not only in the context of learning music, but learning in general where the use of technology is amplified.
How can I support students' personal projects and interests when some learning pathways have been curved by the circumstances?
This was one of my biggest challenges in the beginning. How will I communicate the most essential details of the lesson which were usually supported by physical gestures, actual on the spot demonstration, real-time observations, and feedback under normal learning environment and conditions? Do we just find a substitute or do we need to reinvent the entire communication process? How did I win through all the connectivity lags that made learning disrupted, dragging, tedious, and a complex process for all?
Hans Christian Anderson quoted "When words fail, music speaks." Sounds true but a hard reality when you are limited by the capabilities of what the mic, audio recorder or instrument can translate and communicate. How much detail can it capture? How keen are we as teachers in noticing these details that can mean a significant change. My learning takeaways were:
When words, visuals, and audio fail, use the power of our own body to communicate and express
I meant to emphasize the literal use of our own body to feel what is being communicated to us in the music. Regardless of age, there is no easier way to define and describe those expressive elements of music than through our own body, from the hands, arms, feet, and just about the whole body. Our body has its own natural way of responding to music. Restricting movement even in just one part of the body will make the entire mechanism tense. There is a whole science on this that makes it even more interesting. We all know how tension affects our cognitive and motor skills learning. So why not play, move, and imagine!
Trust the unremarkable power of asynchronous learning. It does work with good instructional design.
This is the most essential tool for me. Here, I get to see all the details that my students and I need to improve on. These details would include most of what I want to see so I can give clear feedback.
I have trained my students and parents to angle their video in such a way that I can see every motion that they make when playing different passages of the music. I do believe that most of the challenges would stem from poor or underdeveloped techniques. Learning all about the notes and playing them is only the beginning. I'd always emphasize the importance of good tone production in expressing the soul, language, and emotions of any music. Creating these sound nuances are made possible with a lot of perseverance and hard work. It is a never-ending learning journey, not to solely perfect a craft but to express it.
Asynchronous learning should not be perceived as a homework or a task that needs to be completed for the sake of compliance. It is our role as teachers to communicate a clear message to our parents and the students that these are all valid and reliable tools to ensure that learning progresses.
Relationship and Communication are Partners
Developing relationship is a nut to crack at the beginning especially to incoming new students. I guess it is a bit easier with students who I have personally spent time with. But still, I had to make an active participation and consistent effort to be able to sustain or grow that relationship not only with them but with their parents as well. Contributing factors in nurturing relationships include:
I take the time to make sure that I will be there anytime that they want to seek help or just
talk and share random conversations that may possibly connect us through.