Gains from the Pandemic
The 2020–2021 school year is coming to end here in California, and it has been a long one! I had a conversation with a parent last week about lessons during the pandemic. She was very concerned that her child had lost skills during this year of online education. I will be the first to admit there have been some aspects of music and piano playing that are a challenge to teach online to beginning students, for example, maintaining a steady rhythmic pulse and forming a proper hand position. But honestly, I think the students that have persevered through this year's challenges and changes have gained an enormous skill that isn't frequently taught—adaptability.
I know that I don't want to tackle teaching young kids adaptability. Learning to play the piano is hard enough, let alone adding changing variables. Obtaining the skill of adaptability is hard and frustrating for both the student and the teacher. Yet, this is a life skill on which we, as teachers, probably should be focusing, as it benefits students both professionally and personally for the rest of their lives. And, the easiest time to learn adaptability is when you're a kid!
After some growing pains, I have watched my young students take charge of their learning and gain pride in their playing during this pandemic. They now write their own assignment sheets. They mark up their music with fingerings, missed accidentals, and hand position changes. They learn how to really listen to my words to make changes in their playing. They use the metronome well. They assess their own work by listening to their playing on videos. We also now have online group lessons to play music for each other as well as play online history and theory games.
Most importantly, with students that have continued lessons during the pandemic, we have the momentum to move forward. As I told the parent above, you might not see the substantial progress that the student has made this year. But, I see substantial potential. This year will affect six years down the road, and then, you will definitely notice the difference. As the other parent said in the same conversation, "Education has compound interest." With learning to play the piano, you have to play the long game. So, what have we learned through the pandemic? We've learned how to adapt, play the long game, and have fun with music while we're doing it!