Just Keep Spinning Those Plates

We’re all in this together!

The musical theatre director in me can’t hear the above missive without thinking about the infamous “High School Musical.” Sadly, these words now hold a totally different emotion especially as we are on day 2 of yet another week of socially-distanced teaching.

So, here is my question for this week: What’s the best way for me to tailor the content I’m supposed to be teaching (specifically, choral music) to my students without completely diluting the message?

Don’t pay attention to the zeitgeist in the corner.

Virtual Choir? Sure…let’s try that. Opportunities for reflection? Yes, please…I’d like to use that one, too. Which one is best? Is there actually one that is best?

Flashback to the sage words of one of my first conducting professors: Teach the ensemble in front of you. They live in the moment. With your help, they have been developing their own culture and community. Don’t try to make them into someone else’s ensemble. Teach them and love them where they are.

They’re coming late (and are probably being dragged) to the online-learning party.

I’ve been living he life of an online learner for the past four years. As a result, I’m using a lens colored with practical experiences to view our transition to socially-distant education. My students are typical adolescents. A number of them are dealing with the grief that comes with losing rites of passage they’ll never regain: spring musical, spring concert, prom(s), baccalaureate Mass, commencement, parties…so much. Regardless of their year in school, I continue to seek insight into what they’re experiencing and what will best get them through this mess that is already defining us.

Minnesota State U published a piece that I’ve been trying to keep at the forefront of my efforts as an ensemble director. I believe it could be applicable to teachers of any discipline. In a nutshell, here are the 7 points that I’m trying to get my students to embrace:

  1. Be persistent: Don’t give up when things get tough just because your teacher might be in another zip code.
  2. Manage your time (intentionally): You will not be graded on your video game prowess.
  3. Communicate well (it is a 2-way street): Stay on top of messages from your teachers. Have a question? Reach out to them!
  4. Develop your tech chops: Come on, people! Can we say, “TikTok” and “Instagram?” You’ve got this!
  5. Read well…write better: Grammar and spelling count.
  6. Keep your eyes on the prize…a strong and honest finish: These are terrible times. They just are. We all need the support of our school community (formally and informally) in order to get through this. If you feel yourself getting into an emotional slump, reach out to people who will help reset your perspective on schoolwork.
  7. Take time to develop a good learning environment: Kitchen tables don’t always work…neither does hanging out in your room with the door closed. Find the best place to get your work done!

Will all of this help my students and me get through this unscathed? I surely hope it will. We’re just doing our best to keep on keeping on. I really hope they’re journaling because they’re going to have a lot of interesting life experiences to share with the young’ns who will follow in their footsteps.

Until next week, I hope you and yours are all doing well and staying healthy.

Published by Just call me Nan.

A musician/educator who is sustained by the love of a great family and wonderful friends. Lover of peace and animals.

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