How I Started a New Beginner Online
Just before the pandemic hit, I had arranged to start lessons with a new student, a 7-year-old beginner without any prior music experience. Fully expecting that the family would want to wait until the coronavirus blew over, I reached out to them to discuss options. To my surprise, they were 100% onboard with online lessons. I had taught plenty of beginners this age, but this would be uncharted territory for me.
While I thought this was not the ideal learning situation, they were still just as excited to start violin lessons! They simply couldn’t wait any longer! Like children everywhere, they were getting used to this format of learning in all of their subjects. I owed it to them to give it my best try, and I think we were all pleasantly surprised. As my beginner student got into the groove of lessons, one of the things I struggled with was not being able to be a hands-on teacher. In person, it is quick and easy to just reach over and make an adjustment to a student’s violin position or bow angle. Through distance learning, I quickly discovered the need to adapt and rely on the parent. In lessons, I had to teach the parent to “be my hands” so they could make those "oh-so-important" adjustments to their child’s positioning. If you are considering enrolling your child in online lessons, you might be asking yourself, “How will this experience be different than in-person lessons?” or “Is it best to just wait until everything returns to normal?” Here are a few things I’ve learned (so far) and what you can expect if you decide to give online lessons a try:
Parents have always been a vital part of the Suzuki triangle, but this has never been more true than it is now. When lessons are online, the same expectations apply concerning your involvement as a Suzuki parent. Plan on attending the lessons and learning right along with your child by taking notes, pictures, and videos. If you're unable to be in the same room as your child, you can attend virtually from another location! We may need to devote a little extra time to “parent education” to make sure you have all the tools you need to properly help your child.
Remember that progress may be slow, and that is okay! Cultivating a love of music during lessons is of utmost importance during this time. I want my students to eagerly anticipate lessons and practice time as the most fun part of their day. If your child is excited about learning an instrument right now, take advantage of that excitement and the motivation that comes along with it.
If screen time is an issue, or your child is a young beginner who has difficulty focusing in this format, we can work together to find a solution. Some beginning students may have more success with two 15-minute lessons per week or one 15-minute lesson followed up by a practice video from their teacher.
Nothing replaces the experience of having a lesson together in person, but there are some really cool things we can do together online. From screen sharing and whiteboards, to breakout rooms and fun apps for learning music theory, the possibilities are endless. I’ve come to realize that this is such an exciting time to be teaching and learning.
Above all, remember that this is only temporary. The choices we are making now will keep us safe and, hopefully, allow us to get back to seeing each other in person very soon. I am so proud of this creative, smart, and nurturing community of students, families, and teachers!