Forging genuine and enduring connections with students has always been paramount in music education, but it’s never been more important than it is today in the age of the coronavirus. Kids need emotional support and a solid educational foundation they can rely on during this time of uncertainty. They need to laugh, share their feelings with teachers they trust, and to find joy and empowerment in music. The challenge for music educators is facilitating these sort of crucial interactions with their students remotely through the internet. While emotionally connecting online is something your kids are almost certainly used to, many music educators aren’t. But with the pandemic forcing countless classrooms around the world online this fall, learning to meaningfully connect with your kids is mandatory if you want to engage your class and support your students.
Get tech issues out of the way first
Tech-related mishaps like drops in your internet connection or your devices not allowing you to hear or see your students clearly will make it much harder to emotionally connect with your kids. You’ll get the most out of working with your students if you discover and address tech issues before your remote classes and not during them. Test your tech out before you video conference with your students, and consider using vocal and instrumental mics, speakers, and device stands to help your online classes run smoothly.
Focus on energy and positivity in a helpful and genuine way
The novelty of taking music classes online quickly wears off for both students and teachers. To compensate for this, take advantage of every opportunity you can to be positive and energetic during your online classes. Even the sulkiest of middle schoolers respond to enthusiasm, though none would readily admit it. The catch is that your energy and positivity needs to be genuine if you want to create meaningful connections with your students online. Kids can typically spot fake better than adults, so you’ll need to dig deep to deliver genuine positive and enthusiasm while teaching music online.
To transform online music classes into events your students will look forward to and engage with, you’ll need to advocate for music more than you already do during in-person classes. Keep the focus on music being fun and empowering. Use humor to make your students feel comfortable, and don’t be afraid to get self-deprecating and silly to lighten the mood.
Find ways to make your kids feel special
Inside jokes, compliments, and calling out individual students whenever you can to dispense praise are ways to make your kids feel special during online music classes. Learning in front of a computer can feel isolating and cold, which is why letting your kids know than they’re known, seen, and appreciated is so important during online learning. Depending on the age and musical experience level of your students, musical accomplishments might not be the cause for making each and every one of your kids feel special, so get creative when you need to by using humor, silliness, and anything else you can think of.
Prioritize connecting with your students
As educators, we’re understandably obsessed with giving our students the tools they need to thrive as musicians. But when it comes to teaching remotely, connecting with your students often has to happen before kids take you and the work you’re doing with them seriously. In the same way you plan and prioritize going through exercises and covering material from your lesson plan, prioritize connecting with your students. Check in with them throughout class, ask how they’re doing, and try your best to find meaningful points of connection, whether it’s your kids’ favorite band or the day’s weather. Your students might not know it, but your efforts will help them to thrive in remote teaching settings.
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