A peripatetic music teacher doesn’t have a regular team to work with, just several fleeting combinations of people. Each week I have a few brief, but meaningful, adult interactions – the school administrator who always has a smile and takes the time, even though I know she’s too busy for words, or the manager who makes a friendly phone call to check in. I imagine they have no clue about how positively they affect me.
For the last two weeks everyone’s seemed intent on making the school routine as normal as possible – as quickly as possible. It’s reassuring. In my full classes, the children have slipped right back in, more or less where they left off. At least they haven’t forgotten everything – mostly – although they would be further ahead in a normal year – a small detail in my music lessons compared to their schooling as a whole, no doubt.
Pleasingly, the majority of my classes seem at least vaguely familiar with their instruments. In the lockdowns I’ve made video lessons and posted them online. The classes receive a link in their virtual classroom and I have no idea who is watching what. I’ve just had to have faith. So it’s a relief to see that they’re doing OK. As always, a few have pushed ahead and are playing pretty nicely.
As for my one-to-one students, by now most of the half-hearted ones have dropped out and I’m only teaching youngsters who are well-engaged. One teenager, when he came to me, had been reluctant to use any of the established methods for reading and remembering music. Instead, he’d devised his own unique method, “helped” by his previous “teacher”. Unsurprisingly, I was unable even to figure out how the system even worked. He’s been very keen to learn a particular piece, which he plays along with his brother, using a piano book. We’d used a compromise approach online, where I taught him by ear and he wrote it in his little notebook using his method (he still thinks he’s fooled me into thinking he was reading the music). On returning to school I found we’d built some trust and I gently nudged him towards learning the note names and using the notation to remember them. In two lessons he was able to read a couple of lines of the music on his own. I’m fairly confident that he’ll be able to learn the whole thing independently over the school holidays.
Teaching moment of the week
The cheeky kid in a class, who usually finds a way to push it just a little too far at least once per lesson.
Me: I’ve been playing this guitar for 40 years.
The Class in chorus (as always): How old are you?
Me: 360. I got the guitar when I was 320.
Cheeky kid: You look a lot older.
… Shocked silence. He even looked a touch worried.
… I laughed.
Me: I say that all the time and you’ve just given the best answer.