Facing the music
This is a strange time for everyone who normally attends school and the teachers are no exception.
While all teachers have had to adjust to this new reality, some subjects are harder to teach virtually than others.
Andrew Faller, Kasson-Mantorville’s vocal music teacher, who normally teaches large choir classes said distance teaching is a challenge and has caused him to change his curriculum.
“I wouldn't say that I'm really teaching "choir" now. The class I'm teaching is more like a general music class with a sub-concentration of vocal music,” he said. “It’s impossible to replicate the experience of making music in a large group of people virtually.”
However, he’s doing what he can to make the most out of this situation.
“I use Google hangouts to explain things to students, walk through technical problems or to tutor them on a project,” he said. “I've [also] been doing a lot of Loom and Screencastify videos and sending these out over email because sometimes it’s just nice to see somebody's face!”
Unfortunately, video vocal teaching has its disadvantages.
“Interacting with people over video is difficult. It’s hard to read the facial gesture cues, body language cues or tone of voice cues you get in in-person communication,” Faller said.
Due to those issues, they’ve pivoted to teaching different aspects of music education.
“We are able to teach other things, in other ways that we wouldn't have been able to do before. One of our goals this year was to teach the composition standard, which is an incredibly broad standard, and we have done a much better job with this because the large group performances cannot happen,” he said.
That silver lining does little to soften the blow the students and their teachers are experiencing after losing their spring concert.
“I’m very bummed because the coffeehouse concert we had been planning was going to be very cool. The theme was "A Day in the Life" and it was going to be all about what a high school students' day was like; school, sports, family, friends, work, etc. I had an awesome group of senior leaders who were ready to lead and to think that this isn't going to happen is a huge letdown,” Faller said.
He’s hopeful they’ll be able to hold some concerts next year, possibly in a different format.
Until then, he’s going to make do with the distance teaching and evaluation methods that are available.
“What we are doing is planning some end-of-year projects for the students. We are going to transition to a distance-performing model and cross our fingers that the technology works,” he said.
Overall, Faller enjoys some aspects of distance teaching, but would much rather be with his students.
“I like exploring new things and learning new tools and I've had to do a lot of that. I've gotten to see more of my two young kids and my wife because there's no evening rehearsals or concerts,” he said. “[However], those positives pale in comparison to the massive shift we've had to undergo to do our jobs and the utter lack of communication with the great students at K-M.”