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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Our "New Normal" in Elementary General Music Class

After over 18 months of teaching through a pandemic, I think I expected this school year to be "back to normal". Many aspects of my music teaching look more like pre-pandemic teaching than they did 6 months ago, for sure, but they are definitely not fully back to the way things used to be! I can't list them all in a single post but here are some things that are different now compared to my pre-pandemic teaching that I expect is now my "new normal".

1. one-to-one student devices

If there's one good thing that has come from the pandemic it's the warp-speed development of our district's technology infrastructure. Before the pandemic I used DonorsChoose to get 3 Chromebooks for my students to share in my classroom and I thought I was fancy. Now I can have students bring their own devices to class and there are so many more possibilities for what I can do, especially with my older students! This has opened up a whole new world of options for in-class learning.

2. technology integration

This is similar to my first point but worth mentioning separately: my students and I have all become much more adept with the technology we have. I had used Google Slides before, but not until the pandemic did I learn how to embed audio and video (and trim the videos to the clip I want), use drag and drop worksheets, explore the full capabilities of SongMaker, or start using rhythm play-along videos to practice reading new rhythms. My teaching is so much more streamlined now that I know how to put everything I need in one place, and my lessons are so much more varied with all the new options I have for addressing pitch and rhythm concepts.

3. personal amplification

The 2020-21 school year was the first year in my entire teaching career I did not lose my voice, and I attribute that to masks keeping us from all getting colds as much, and my personal amplification system that I got to be heard through my mask. I am definitely still using my voice amplification system right now since we are still masked, but I plan to continue using it most of the time even when we're done with regular mask wearing. It is so helpful not only for saving my voice by not projecting but also for getting the attention of a rowdy group quickly without raising my voice.

4. ear training

When we couldn't sing in class last fall, I had to focus more on aural skills for learning solfege concepts. I was shocked at how good my students got at aurally identifying pitches with the extra practice! Of course I am thrilled to now be able to sing them too, but I am committed to maintaining more regular opportunities for focusing on aural skills from now on.

5. family communication

During the pandemic I traded in my handwritten "happy notes" that I gave students for direct messages to families via Class Dojo, and I saw tremendous benefits from that regular, positive interaction directly with families. I have gone back to the handwritten notes this year because I know my students like having something physical to keep, but I am committed to maintaining regular, positive communication with families by sharing updates through Class Dojo. 

6. home office

I have had a desk in my bedroom since I moved into my own place 8 years ago, but I never sat at it to do anything- it was my "junk drawer". During our shutdown and periods of full distance learning, I had to set up a decent workspace for myself- I finally got an office chair, cleaned up my desk to make it useable, and put it facing the front window with the best view. It has made all the time I spend here on my blog, and doing schoolwork at home, so much more pleasant, which has improved my mental health tremendously.

7. communication with colleagues

Last school year our district made sure we had extra planning time, including common planning time with colleagues, and it was a game-changer. We all know in elementary music it's rare to have an opportunity to collaborate with other elementary music teachers! This year we don't have common planning time anymore but we have found ways to still collaborate weekly and plan all of our lessons together. And with our 9 elementary schools being so spread out, having the ability to use zoom has made meetings with colleagues much more convenient. I'm talking to other teachers in my department more than I ever have before!

What things have become your "new normal" this year? I know the pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, and many of those effects will be felt for years to come. 

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