Making a Difference from a Distance is something we have to get used to. As we now reach the end of term, we look back on weeks of distance learning. So what have we learnt from this season that can take us into the next one? What has gone well and what needs improving? How will we approach life in the new normal?
But Making a Difference from a Distance will most likely continue in September. The key point is that we can make a difference as we step into a new way of thinking and teaching. And whilst 1 metre isn’t far, it is something we need to consider
Reflection is part of everyday life for a teacher. Self reflection occurs after every lesson in order that we to make progress. Students are also accustomed to this and reflect on work regularly.
Let’s start with my failings during this season, the things that on reflection have not gone well:
- I worried too much at the start.
- At times I allowed myself to feel bad for not doing enough.
- My thoughts were often overwhelmed with things I might try and do or should try and do.
- The targets I set for myself were not particularly realistic.
- At times I allowed myself to forget that we are all in this together.
- I tried to attend every zoom call and webinar as I felt I should be trying to learn more.
But I think I got some things right and here are some of the things I can positively reflect on:
- I focussed 100% on my students.
- All students in Year 10 & 12 received a clear plan for the term with clear deadlines and topics
- Lessons have been sacred and I have delivered live lessons to Year 10 & 12 since day one.
- More of my focus has gone to my own family – which sounds awful, but teacher life is full-on.
- I started to properly learn the electric guitar.
- Connecting with colleagues up and down the country through MTA, Facebook groups and Twitter has been invaluable!
- Listening Deliberately to more music
Making a Difference
My firmest conclusion in terms of my own teaching is that I believe I have made a difference. Having met with students online every week I feel that they have enjoyed the lessons I have offered. I don’t think I have been amazing all the time. I also don’t think I have solved all their problems. But I have made a difference. And I think you have made a difference too!
I don’t want you to read this as me bragging. Me, I am nothing special and I am not saying I am wonderful. In many ways I am wanting to encourage you that you have done the same – made a difference.
Every lesson we set, teach and deliver makes a difference. Our students love hearing from us, chatting to us in our lessons and getting feedback. Making a difference isn’t about solving all the problems in the world. It is about that moment, that one hour lesson where you turn up and give them something to learn.
Making a difference is why we all got into teaching, isn’t it? Surely that was a motivator for you at some point on your journey. The process is fairly brutal with all the paperwork and observations. But the light at the end of the tunnel is always that you will get to shape some minds and lives at the end of it.
Do you believe you make a difference?
If not then please take it from me that you do.
Will your students always tell you?
No, they won’t. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t believe it and know it deep down.
And the key point is that whatever happens, we can & will continue to make a difference in September.
From a Distance
Over that years I have taught 100s of amazing students. During lockdown I started to get them to appear on Instagram with me. I would interview them and my current students would hopefully get inspired! I had a whole range of students, some who went on to study music, some who didn’t. Instagram live has given me the ability to make a Virtual Music Room every day at 11am on Twitter. Students can virtually gather and feel a little bit like they are together – Instagram @windsormusic. We have all been spread out, but we have come together on Instagram live!
Distance Learning has now became fairly normal and I am used to the process. I have found that the combination of students speaking into their laptop mics as well as writing in the comments works well. As music is playing in a lesson, students can write ideas down and share them with everyone as the music plays. And I think it works well. Lessons have focussed on music and how we listen to music. Set works have been discussed and unpacked in new and inventive ways. Quizzes have helped to test knowledge in a fun and engaging way. Students have taken pride in their work as they share it online.
And there has been so much on offer in way of online resources and software. I am so grateful to the companies that have made resource freely available during this time – do see my Corona Virus blog for more details.
Loving you from a Distance
Livvy Beer is one of my former students. At the start of lockdown she wrote a song which has got me thinking about Making a Difference from a Distance. Not only am I proud to have worked with her, but I am big fan of how hard she is working on her music. No credit can be taken for Livvy, she is a star on her own! But I am glad she has kept in touch and she continues to inspire me with her songwriting.
The song is called “Loving you from a Distance” and it is a song that reflects on how we have had to approach love and compassion during this crisis. I am not linking the word Love to our classrooms as that is inappropriate language, but I hope that you get the point. Do listen to her song as I think it is great. Livvy is studying Song Writing at Music at Leeds College of Music and I hope that her song brings you some joy as you read this. I am sure she would be happy to come and visit your school or speak to your students on zoom about songwriting – she is great!
My reflections have therefore brought me to the summer. September is not far away and I am convinced that in the new normal I can make a difference. It will be distant. No more massed rehearsals, well not for a while anyway. It is unlikely I will be walking around my classroom peering over the shoulders of students as they work. I will be at the front my classroom, or maybe in some random classroom in the school. There will be more distance between me and my students.
But I can still teach them, and I will be in the same room as them! I can inspire them, get them listening, thinkings, discussing and learning. At last I can play examples to them on the piano – I can’t wait for that. I can look into their eyes and view their body language as I play them a piece of music.
If I can make a difference online, then I can make a difference when I am with them in the same room!
I have already blogged about One Metre Music teaching and shared some ideas about the classroom. But I wanted to add to those thoughts. Planning is key, but we do know that already. We are not going to be in a situation that is normal when September comes. So we need to plan what we are going to do before the new year starts.
- What music are you going to listen to in preparation for teaching your classes in September?
- Are there any books you could read on Teaching Pedagogy that might give you some new ideas?
- Music Teaching from a distance will involve more discussion based learning. Are you ready for this?
- How passionate are you feeling about teaching? I think passion and inspiration will be the fuel we need to use. What could you do to top up your passion for music teaching.
- Are you ready with online learning resources, software and good practise? I am sure you are, but what could you do if you don’t feel entirely prepared?
Do I have all the answers? No. But I am simply planning within the constraints I have been given so far. Passion is key and it will help us and help our students. We make a difference when we care about what we are teaching. Our students need to see this passion from day one! My Instagram live sessions every day have always been about a passion for teaching!
The P Word
And yet I always get worried when I use the P word. I feel like it gets peoples backs up a bit. Passion is something I have always try to maintain in my life, but I am not always passionate about what I do. Some classes are hard, some topics don’t work. But to be honest with you, I am not ashamed that I am passionate about my job. I guess I could say I am motivated. I feel like a runner on the starting blocks, but I have been waiting for the race to start for over 100 days now!
The Greatest Job
Teaching is the greatest job in the world!
“Yeah yeah James, we have heard that before”
And I get that it isn’t always easy and it does have an unusual amount of pressure at times. But it is great because we do, we have and we can continue to make a difference to young people. Let that be your motivation as you prepare for September. Every problem has a solution, and every mountain can be climbed. We mustn’t let the endless stream of government rhetoric get in the way of things. We as teachers know what we need to do. And if we stick to the guidelines and let passion and love for the job guide us, then we can’t go wrong.
So, get ready for the new year, it will be a rollercoaster. But then 100+ days in lockdown hasn’t exactly been a gentle river cruise has it. I feel like I have been on the Tea-Cup ride for weeks and weeks. But I have come to the conclusion, I have made a Difference from a Distance and I want to continue to do that in September. The front of my classroom might become more of a home to me, but I can’t wait to be facing my students in the same room! And you will make a difference in September too, whatever your setting or situation!
Enjoy the Summer
All the best for the coming days and weeks. And for goodness sake take a break over the summer. I am happy to suggest some good books, great listening and wonderful meals! You will make more of a difference if you are rested, re-energised and ready to go! Get some distance from all of this stuff if you can. But then please do know that you are going to make such a Difference to the lives of so many young people. It doesn’t matter that it won’t be the same as last year, they will just be pleased to get back to some kind of normal!
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