This article comes from piano teacher and author Megan, who is here to give her thoughts and advice to other teachers trying to figure out their next steps during this pandemic.
It’s hard to make any kind of plans right now, but it’s especially hard for piano teachers to look ahead as we think about what a new school year of piano lessons might bring.
News seems to be changing on a daily basis and there is a lot to take into consideration to keep our students safe, to minimize risk to ourselves and our own families and to do what’s best for the greater community.
Here are ways that piano lessons will likely look different in the coming school year and things to consider while offering piano lessons during a pandemic.
Most piano teachers are accustomed to teaching a rush of students in the after school hours. Sometimes we have daytime responsibilities in schools or with adults or homeschool students. But, with the possibility of schools changing their schedules, we might have to completely re-think our teaching hours.
For example, some kids might be at their physical school only part time which could free them up for piano lessons at different times of the day than the usual after school times.
Some students might be on a rotating schedule that’s not exactly the same each week.
Parents may be relying on new childcare options that have their kids unavailable until after working hours.
Schools may be limiting extracurricular activities within the school, so that may change a piano teacher’s role within a school if you teach piano lessons or work with a music department at a school.
Some school calendars are changing which could affect the predictable flow of most school years.
As you make your 2020-2021 schedule, there might be a need to start with one schedule and adjust to another new schedule as the year goes on.
In some ways, this year’s altered schedule may work in our favor to open up new teaching hours. However, it will definitely bring new challenges and unprecedented scheduling issues.
There’s a pretty wide spectrum of how teachers are approaching piano lessons. Some teachers are staying all online, while others are business as usual. There’s definitely no right or wrong answer for how to go about piano lessons right now. Where you are located and your own comfort level with working closely with others are important factors to consider.
As the teacher, you first have to decide how comfortable you are being in close proximity to your students. But, you also need to consider how your students feel about it. It is possible to practice social distancing while teaching piano. Teaching from a second piano or keyboard 6+ feet away from your student makes it easy to demonstrate without sharing their space. Or, just sitting or standing at a distance from your student still gives you a good opportunity to offer feedback and give advice.
Teaching out of your home, in a public space or in students’ homes will all affect how you might choose to format your lessons.
If you teach group piano classes, you’ll have to consider if it makes sense to gather groups of students together. Is there enough space for everyone to keep a safe distance? Are students using a lot of shared equipment and supplies? How long are your students together?
Teaching completely online is definitely a safe option to fall back on. And, you could always use a hybrid approach that includes some in-person lessons and some online lessons.
Here are some safety precautions that you could observe:
- Teacher and student wearing masks
- Practicing social distancing
- Washing hands or using hand sanitizer before touching piano
- Eliminating shared supplies
- Installing a plexiglass barrier between the student and teacher
- Allowing time to wipe down piano keys and high-touch areas after each lesson
- Allowing time in between lessons to decrease student traffic
- Asking parents and siblings to wait outside
Also, think outside the box to see if you can rearrange your space or purpose another space to better suit this situation. For example, in my own studio, I’m using a window between my kitchen and sunroom to offer “porch piano lessons.”
While it’s not ideal to be in the main living area of my home instead of my dedicated teaching space, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to keep things as safe as possible for my students and my family. You can read more about my set up and see pictures of it here.
As you’re making your plan for the coming months of piano lessons, communication will be key. As the teacher, you get to make the calls for the type of environment you would like to work in.
Once you have decided which schedules, formats and safety protocols to follow, clearly communicate your plan to your students so that they know what to expect from piano lessons. Reassess as the weeks and months roll by to make sure that your plan still makes sense. Take time in piano lessons to teach your students new procedures and expectations.
The 2020-2021 school year will definitely go down in history as one of the most unique years. But, who knows, it could also help us become more innovative, flexible and effective teachers!
If you’re interested in learning more about teaching piano lessons online, be sure to visit our related blog post!