Early last year, I received an energetic batch of pre-twinkle students in my studio. All of the students and parents were on board to embark on their cello learning journey until March, 2020, when the Covid-19 shut down happened. Almost all 6 of my pre-twinklers have learned the basics, including a proper set up for their bow hold on either a wooden dowel or a Twinkle bow. Their parents were just about to take a breath to relax because they finally felt at ease with getting all the cello basics under their belt. Suddenly, the abrupt change to a distanced and online teaching environment presented an unexpected test to them about EVERYTHING they had learned from assisting their children to hold the cello and bow to guiding their home practice accurately. A completely new and unprecedented kind of challenge was thrown ahead of me, the teacher and the parents, and I knew I had to act quickly before everything fell apart.
To help my student parents cope with this devastating situation, I went through numerous sleepless nights to look for solutions. Not only the students, but their parents also needed a place where they could feel uplifted and most importantly not isolated, to ensure that learning was still taking place..The main ideas I came up with were:
Create a Safe Space
Connection Without the Barrier of the Screen
Communicate Through Music Simultaneously
For private lessons, I dropped off bags of “practice toys” at each student’s house and created more tactile games by using those toys to help them relax and strengthen their fingers and arms. These ideas of applying toys to home practice were soon later developed into the SOS online seminar, "Tactile Knowledge Teaching", and a supplementary teacher training course for the Suzuki Association of the Americas- "Strategies for Teaching Your Beginners online and In Person". (Click HERE to the future offering of "Tactile Knowledge Teaching" for online and in person")
For group classes and parent meetings, I increased my bi-weekly group classes to weekly and parent education with no extra charge for three months. I also spent no less than 100 hours recording tutorials and demonstration videos to share with students to make up for the poor audio and video quality of the online lessons.
With the increased amount of group class, parents and students appreciated tremendously to be able to see each other's face and chat and play together to a certain degree- "it's better than none", a phrase I remember using a lot. With the additional meetup with the parents which I scheduled after 7:30 pm or 8:00 pm when children were more or less in their quiet, almost bed-time mode, parents could focus on their personal feeling and release any concerns. I had a silly image that I am a captain of a boat sailing through the dark and unknown sea., at least for the first 3 to 5 months. I was constantly challenged by the limit of not being able to do hands-on with my students but gradually I was surprised and overjoyed by the success of students and parents understanding what I tried to convey to them through the computer screen. All of them continued to thrive during this difficult time. I started organizing some play-ins with masks and in distance on my driveway. (If you are interested in my next book 1 cello teacher training course, hosted by the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute, you may click HERE.)
If you are interested in learning new tricks for Book 1 and beyond, please visit HERE.