Doom, Gloom and Zoom

doom gloom and zoom

Me, the week before last: “I DREAD online teaching!”

Me, last week: “I HATE online teaching!”

Me, this week: “I LOVE online teaching!”

Me, all of those weeks: “I’m EXHAUSTED.”

So, it has been rather a roller coaster ride. And every single piano I teacher I know is taking this ride along with me.

I thought I would equate my feelings of dread, hate and love with the ‘doom, gloom and zoom’ I put in the title. I’m not going to spend too long on the first two because, well, that would not be fun.

DREAD/DOOM

Most people don’t like change and I am certainly one of those! I like sticking to what I know and I don’t like the thought that every process and every resource I use will be turned upside down or made redundant. So the week I returned from overseas, when I realised that I would not be able to do in-person teaching, I was pretty worried. I didn’t have equipment. I didn’t know how I would teach posture and technique without touch. And I didn’t have the motivation to explore these things, because I was so worried.

HATE/GLOOM

Out of pure necessity, of course, I did organise myself enough to teach online. I offered all of my students a free lesson my first week back, to devote to tech setup, and so that I felt better about the fact that I wasn’t actually teaching them anything (even though I spent not only their lesson time but at least 50% more time on getting everything organised).

I was a little depressed at the end of this week of teaching. Quite apart from the steep learning curve that is all things online, some issues that really made me feel the ‘hate/gloom’ of online lessons were:

  • Disappointing sound quality, even with tweaking all possible options
  • Disappointing camera angles (didn’t really matter how fancy mine were if theirs were no good!)
  • Disappointing network connections a lot of the time

I just did NOT want to keep teaching this way. I wanted my in-person lessons back!

Also, the exhaustion was real. I think I was on edge the whole time, worrying about how I was going to deliver a decent piano lesson, and always acutely aware that this wasn’t an ideal scenario for optimum teaching.

LOVE/ZOOM

But then… the next week was soooooo much better! Here are the reasons why:

  • I stopped worrying about the things I couldn’t do and embraced all the new things I COULD do, such as having fun sharing the screen and annotating it
  • I embraced the mindset ‘it’s more about contact than content right now’. My dear friend and colleague Lindi Greenfield coined this phrase, and it really made me feel so much better. I focused on the fact that it is lovely to be able to simply maintain lessons during this time, and it doesn’t matter too much that we are not covering as much. Students simply need to see us smiling on that screen.
  • Online teaching is forcing me to really think about how to get concepts across. It’s amazing what can happen when you hone your verbal skills.
  • After finally getting it all set up, I am enjoying using the Tonara app with all students. It works fabulously as a virtual notebook as well as enabling direct communication. This is something I would never have sunk my teeth into normally (you remember how I don’t like change?!) but I’m so glad to have been forced into investing the time and energy to get to know it.
  • The parents are being sooooo lovely and helpful.
  • I am simply getting the hang of online teaching, so it all feels less new and less confronting. I am sure it will get less tiring. I guess this happens when you get used to anything, really!

Also, I figured out how to create ONE meeting ID that everyone could remember. I have a paid Zoom account so I could customise it1. I tried 987-654-3210 and of COURSE that was taken already. I then got the idea of using scale degree numbers. I couldn’t use anything that started on the tonic though, because the first digit may not be 1. So:

  • I tried 321-233-3222 – Mary Had a Little Lamb – TAKEN!
  • I tried 321-321-1122 – Hot Cross Buns – TAKEN!
  • I eventually settled on another famous tune 😊2

There is one other very important factor in all of this.

THIS. IS. ALL. TEMPORARY.

In-person teaching will come back. And when it does, I will be a MUCH better teacher. We all will!

  1. ‘Customise’ is a rather generous description by Zoom. It cannot be a word. It must be a 10-digit number, and it cannot start with 0 or 1, which ruled out using my phone number!
  2. Husband informed me that I should not put it in this blog post! Zoom has also now insisted on all meetings being password protected, so that’s good.
Samantha Coates

Samantha Coates is a professional pianist and teacher with over 25 years experience in both private and group tuition. She is the author and publisher of BlitzBooks, the music education series that has captured the imagination of students across Australia and transformed the teaching of music theory, sight reading and general knowledge.

6 thoughts on “Doom, Gloom and Zoom

  1. Joy Ellis says:

    I enjoyed reading this so much, thanks, Samantha. I was a little more extreme than you. I tried it; I didn’t charge people as I was learning how to “do” it. It took my whole life and a little bit more, and I decided, no, I’m not going to. I let everybody know I’d see them when we could resume face to face. Then I had a little think; some students asked if I would take them and I thought, “Oh for goodness sake, get over it and just do it”. So I did, and I have fewer students for a much shorter time, and I have NO TIME for anything else, just about! But it is getting more natural, and sometimes/most of the time; I enjoy it. Screen sharing and Tonara are two things I haven’t tried and will do so now, thanks for the little/big push!

  2. Deb Racklyeft says:

    Excellent articulation of the issues with online music lessons. As a member of an adult quintet unable to play as an ensemble, but who Zoom each week, I can endorse The philosophy that “contact is more important than content”.

  3. Michelle Bunn says:

    OMG thank you Samantha-I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me.!!!! The doom, gloom, & zoom that you mention is exactly the experience I’ve had. I woke up this morning wondering if I should send my students an “online lesson checklist” with everything you’ve listed, despite my very clear instructions to students and parents countless times already…..So I thank you for your advise and I am now ready to embrace your mindset of “contact rather than content” for the duration of online lessons.

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