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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What I've Learned from Distance Teaching

With the school year officially over for me, I'm taking some time to reflect and wow, do I need it. This has been quite the year. Although I overall despise the way this year ended with schools closed for the last 3 months, I also managed to gain some valuable learning that I hope to take with me as we move forward (whatever that may look like)!

1. Flipgrid is amazing

I had heard of Flipgrid before school closures but had never really looked into it. Now it is possibly my favorite tech tool of all time! For the first few weeks of online teaching, our district did not allow us to accept video submissions from students at all. When we got permission to use things like Flipgrid for video submissions for our assignments, it was a game changer! Being able to see students' faces and hear their voices was wonderful, but beyond that, having evidence that they were actually participating and learning was amazing. 

The more I used it, the more I realized just how powerful of a tool it really was for music teaching. I had shy students whose voices I can barely hear in class making videos of themselves singing confidently and expressively. Students showing off instruments in their houses I didn't know they had (let alone knew how to play), and showing off skills I didn't know they had either, from beatboxing to cartwheels. 

I can see huge benefits for this tool even when I am fully back in the classroom, from giving students more opportunities to perform for me individually at home instead of having to sit through every student's performance in class, to giving more hesitant performers an alternative way to show their learning, and even giving students a platform to share their musical interests with me beyond what our limited class time would allow.

2. Ring lights really do make a difference

I have made plenty of videos over the years for Organized Chaos, but I have resisted any urge to buy any special videotaping equipment (besides stealing my parents' old tripod). When making videos of myself became my primary way of communicating with and teaching my students, I decided it was time to try a ring light, and now I see what everyone was saying. It made an instant difference in the quality. 

3. Our schedules really do create barriers for our students

Of course, I've always been frustrated with my 30-minute, back-to-back classes. This experience has confirmed how limiting that hectic schedule really is for my students. One of the benefits that came out of distance learning was getting to have "conversations" via comments in my google classrooms with those students who every now and then ask to tell me about their grandma's birthday this weekend but are quiet and respectful enough to say OK when I tell them not right now and then forget to ask them later. I've been able to see my students play the toy guitar their uncle gave them for their birthday that they kept saying they wanted to show me but never got the chance. We need time in our day to give students the individual attention they deserve.

4. I love my (normal) job

Maybe this goes without saying but this experience has definitely reaffirmed how much I love what I do. And what I do is work with children and make music together in community. Yes, there were some moments of true joy and new learning that came out of this, but this has been a true reminder of why I love what I do: my students. I miss them, I miss learning and experiencing music with them, and I can't wait for the day we can do all of that together, in the same room, again someday- better than before because of what we've learned!

What are your take-away's from distance learning? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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