With no end in sight for the pandemic, most schools conducted classes all or partially online this semester, making it particularly difficult for music teachers to teach to their full extent.
According to Zachary Nelson, the instrumental music teacher at Carrollton Elementary School, the biggest concern for most music teachers before the school year was whether they would be able to teach music at all.
Once he learned that they could, Nelson said he had to figure out how he was going to teach instrumental music virtually. His students have their own instruments, but Nelson wondered how to instruct them on the proper handling and maintenance of that instrument without being there to physically guide their hands to the right position.
Fortunately, the music department in Prince George’s County communicated with teachers on how they should approach their classes. Nelson’s students Zoom call with him in small groups and play one at a time instead of all together because of the video lag.
This way of teaching is more challenging for middle and high school teachers, Nelson said, because they have bigger programs that require larger classes. In order to get around the challenge, students record themselves playing their instruments and send it to their teachers.
“Usually, the video quality is better,” Nelson said. “We can more closely see how they’re holding the instrument.”
Nelson also said the video recordings provide better sound quality and a chance for feedback because they can listen to the same thing multiple times over and catch multiple things.
Nelson’s students found themselves overwhelmed at the beginning of the school year, especially because the spring semester was more relaxed due to a lack of formal grades.
“It takes a lot of effort on everybody’s part to make sure that we’re all moving in the same direction and not leaving anyone behind,” Nelson said.