Teaching from Home: Needs of the Students

After speaking to friends in Tokyo, Japan who have taught from home for the last five weeks or so, chatting with contacts in the collegiate admissions world, and observing UL Trombone and Low Brass Studio student needs while teaching online, I’ve compiled a few ideas that I think may help our latest form of teaching. The primary reflection from most of this is simple: this is not the way I usually teach. I’ve never taught this way, not even when teaching a large “lecture” class format. This is the reality for now.

This post is primarily intended for studio members of the UL Trombone and Low Brass Studio, although others may find it useful.

Breaks: When teaching a lesson online, take breaks! Screen time is tiring for all involved. Take some breaks to move around, stretch, BLINK, and be healthy about our learning environment. Just because a lesson can be 60 minutes long in person and remain engaging, doesn’t mean it is engaging online. My lessons are averaging 30-40 minutes so far. Most of the actual feedback to students is from watching videos of their assignments and commenting through a shared document. The lesson is working through specific issues and essentially catching up.

Student Privacy: Some students are taking lessons from their home, apartment, bedroom, or family common space. I’ve learned quickly to offer to a student that they turn the camera off if others are in the room and don’t want to be part of the lesson. I’ve asked students to provide a different background for the lesson (either by moving, or artificially through Zoom).

Dress: Just because we are at home, doesn’t mean we don’t need to dress the way we would at work. I’m trying to continue my normal work dress (it is hotter at home in SOLA- so short sleeves are fine). However, if I dress normally, students will too. Just because we are teaching from home doesn’t mean we can leave our pajamas on all day:)

Location: The location is important. Finding an environment that students feel comfortable playing and communicating in is important. I’ve noticed personality changes from students who are at home. Teachers “know more” about students and students “know more” about teachers when they are teaching from home. We have to take this into account and try to preserve some of the formal teacher/student relationship.

Peer Review: typically peer review happen ALL THE TIME in our studio; studio class, lessons, chamber music, large ensembles, rep class, etc. All of that is changing, primarily switching to simple review from me. I’m looking for ways to keep simple peer review. Some ideas:
Post a video to social media and ask for feedback
Send a trusted friend a video for feedback
Offer feedback to others
Provide feedback in context (I like this, I don’t like that, this great recording does it like this)
Peer to peer review of professional recordings

I think we have an opportunity to learn how to teach creatively from afar. This is not a permanent solution in the field, but I won’t ignore the artistic needs of the students.