Guest Post by Dr. Jeffrey M. Tedford | Also, catch Dr. Tedford, each week, on MusTech.Net LIVE! along with Amy M. Burns and Dr. Joseph M. Pisano
Dr. Jeffrey M. Tedford is the Chair of the Department of Music and Director of Orchestras at Grove City College, which is located one hour north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition, he is the President of the Pennsylvania-Delaware String Teachers Association, a state chapter of the American String Teachers Association.
Communication During Isolation
As we find ourselves isolated from our students, peers, friends, and others, it is very easy to log into our computer, record or present our lessons, and then log off. Many of us find the increased time in front of a screen to be disheartening and more difficult than we imagined. Others find themselves longing for human interaction and a return to our classrooms and rehearsals so we can make music in real-time with our students. If we are feeling this way imagine how our students are feeling. Some of them initially enjoyed a little bit more freedom and screen time; however, after a few weeks, they too are probably longing for human interaction, structured schedules, laughing, and making music with others. In these times, it is essential for teachers and administrators to communicate with consistency in order to create connection and provide a sense of hope for our students and their parents and guardians.
Consistency – “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? When will it be done?” – Mark Cuban and Beck Bamberger
As leaders in our classrooms, we are used to providing direction and feedback to students and their parents through daily interaction, emails, and other communication methods. We have learned how to be clear and concise when providing feedback and direction to students, but these skills are even more important in online/distance learning models. We usually start each class with announcements or goals. We must maintain a consistent message of what students and their parents can expect each day or week, what they need to accomplish, and how we are going to assess the work. It is also important for us to be concise. Students and their parents are getting more electronic communication than ever before, and some are having a hard time filtering through the information. We need to help them craft a routine so they know when to expect our communication and the sequence of class activities for the day/week.
In addition, for consistency, we need to be concise. Our electronic communications and videos need to be organized with good flow that allows students to focus despite the distractions that may be around them at home. By being consistent and concise, we will enable students to focus on the task at hand before they tune out. Dorothy Sarnoff, an opera singer, once stated “Make sure you have stopped speaking before your audience has stopped listening.”
Connection – “Won’t you be my neighbor?” – Mr. Rogers
Many of us remember Mr. Rogers and how he inspired a generation to be creative, curious, and positive. How did Mr. Rogers create a connection with so many children when he was not physically with us? He had a positive message, obviously cared about children, and was engaging. We have an opportunity to be positive, show our compassion, and be engaging with our students and their parents during COVID-19. How much time do parents typically spend in the music, art, or PE classroom? This is our chance to connect with parents and families in a way that we have never done before.
The opportunity for us to create videos of us talking, singing, performing, and teaching is a beautiful moment to connect with our students and their families. When we watch a television show or movie, we connect with certain characters because we learn about their backstory, their personalities, and how they work. In the same way, we can create a genuine connection by producing our own videos and teaching demonstrations. Parents are now watching us teach musical concepts or demonstrate musical skills in our homes, and this means with real distractions; this shows us to be genuine, creative, and compassionate. If we show videos and slideshows created by others or say “go here and watch this video and respond,” we are missing an opportunity to connect with families. Our videos may not be as refined as a professional music company, but our presentation will be genuine and will show students and our community who we are. These connections will help us to navigate the current and post COVID-19 world.
Hope – “Here Comes The Sun” – The Beatles
We all hope for a better tomorrow and, again, as a profession, we need to lead. We have all had our ups and downs with online/distance education. It is very hard some days to get up and walk to the living room, which serves as a playroom, a lunchroom, a breakroom, and now, the office. How many students are keeping track of the number of times the dog barks in the background during a lesson? Or how many times the internet freezes? There are distractions, but it is our responsibility to provide hope that we will continue to make music and continue to be creative artists throughout COVID-19 and after.
There is a desire in all of us to hope. Mat and Savanna Shaw published their first video on March 6. In this video, they sang “The Prayer” because Savanna wanted to keep in touch with her choir friends from school. Since March 6, the video has had over five million views on YouTube and millions more on Facebook. They have continued to produce videos that “bring hope to millions of people in a time when hope is a rare commodity.” The response to their efforts shows that the world is seeking hope and a positive message. Music is a tool that we use to bring people together, even when we cannot physically be together. As music teachers, we can inspire this generation to continue being creative, to continue to be artists, and to continue to hope for a better tomorrow.
Dr. Jeffrey Tedford is the Chair of the Department of Music at Grove City College where he also serves as the Director of Orchestral Activities. He conducts the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras and teaches a variety of methods and conducting courses. His orchestras have performed at state and national conferences and have produced two recordings available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms.
In addition to his work at Grove City College, Dr. Tedford is the President of the Pennsylvania-Delaware String Teachers Association (PADESTA) and was the organization’s Orchestra Director of the Year in 2017. From 2003-2011 he was the Director of Orchestras at Williamsport Area High School where he conducted three string orchestras and the Millionaire Strolling Strings and received the 2010-2011 WAHS Teacher of the Year Award.
*Featured Image credit: ccpixs.com