It's Work/Worry Wednesday: Teaching Music Online, or, What About the Kids We Aren't Hearing From?

Whoah. When we woke Wednesday, we worked. And maybe we worried a little. Because things are complicated for so many of those kids at home who we teachers are trying to support. Instead of writing humor first thing this morning (eek, sorry!), I spent a couple hours creating a detailed proposal for school. How might we instrumental teachers keep our young music learners moving on their instruments at home?

A Beginner's Guide to Backyard Slacklining with Kids
A lifeline can be critical to anyone hanging on by a thread.
This is a worrying time for teachers, and I know no teacher who is just sitting on their couch playing along with Led Zeppelin records on their recorders. (Well, I know one. And she's hilarious.) In their pajamas or not, so many teachers are thinking constantly about their kids—their students. Loving them and missing them. Wondering how they can stay connected to them and keep them connected to their learning. The high achieving kids out there with organized parents are submitting fun videos recorded in their tidy living rooms in response to teacher prompts. But that's a small subset, and even that is dwindling every day. What about the other 100+ kids we're not hearing from?

Where are our kids? We're creating online materials as best we are able, but we are realistic, too. We're worrying about the kids who are home in abusive families. With depressed parents who vent their own trauma by belittling their kids all day. With alcoholics or addicts. With no food on the table. With parents with low self-esteem who just don't believe they can possibly teach, so they don't. Or so terrified about the pandemic that they can barely function. Some kids are home alone, because their parents have to work at the hospital or at the supermarket and there are no babysitters available, and they couldn't afford one anyway. Some (many) have no computers. Some parents can't read English, and their kids are barely only learning to read themselves. These kids are many. Many.

I don't know how to reach those kids yet. But I know that there's at least one of those kids who will be saved by music. And for that kid or kids, I will gladly spend my early waking hours making detailed planning documents, complete with links to support documents and a structured approach with room for individual teacher creativity. And I will gladly spend three hours a day making two-minute musical challenge videos for kids that get only a smattering of responses on Facebook. They aren't high-end production, but they're colorful, short, and simple, and the speaker has some degree of charisma and warmth (slightly more than zero). And my own kids don't get my attention during those two hours, but we are fortunate that there are two parents here, and you know what? The kids are alright.

These videos, this online learning we're working at: It won't ever replace school. But if nothing else, it is a lifeline. And a lifeline is critical to anyone hanging on by a thread.