Teaching in Lockdown
A classical guitar teacher in lockdown
In March 2020 the government announced the first lockdown and instrumental teaching came to an abrupt end. Nearly a year later, traditional face-to-face lessons are still not back to normal. I managed one term of school lessons wearing a visor and face mask, cleaning music stands and chairs between each lesson. I asked pupils to obey Covid safety procedures and took care to follow them myself too. But just as I was getting used to the new regime, it all came to a sudden end with another lockdown. I sometimes wonder if we will ever be back to normal.
A year ago I hadn’t heard of Zoom, and FaceTime was just an unused app on my phone; my fine musical education in the 70s and 80s didn’t include technology more sophisticated than the Sony Walkman! Things soon changed, my professional association stepped in and advised members about online teaching, explaining everything from how Zoom works to online safeguarding. Other advice included tips like remembering to make sure that you and the pupil are using the same edition of the music. I’ve been doing that ever since and my days seem as busy as before the pandemic.
Online teaching has proved to be quite different to face-to-face lessons, but it’s been enjoyable nonetheless. Once, before I was used to it and from force of habit, when a pupil needed a pencil I offered him mine, momentarily forgetting that I was about ten miles away. Another time my dog heard voices, ran into my study and knocked the music stand over. For the young pupil at the other end of the call it was the funniest thing that had ever happened in a music lesson!
I’m quite used to it now, pupils are continuing to take grade exams, which are also online, others have recorded their progress as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and some have been preparing for A level and GCSE practical papers while wondering if the exams will actually take place. The one area though that has really suffered and doesn’t fit well with online learning, is ensemble work. Just as our choir hasn’t been able to meet for nearly a year, school music ensembles have suffered a similar fate and as some colleagues of mine have said “The heart of the school is missing”.
Our present young generation will always be ‘the Covid generation’, their education has been seriously disrupted by the pandemic and they will doubtless spend many years paying higher taxes as the national debt will be with us for many years. I have been pleased to help my students continue with their guitar studies during such a difficult time.