This week I thought I’d feature someone who’s been doing lots of videos that even other teachers are using. My friend Vicky is a music teacher who posts videos that other people can use or watch for ideas. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at the OAKE National Conference in March a week before all the craziness started with the pandemic. It’s always fun to meet my online friends in person and she’s such a sweetheart I thought she would be a great person to talk about what’s she’s been doing for online teaching.
You can see Vicky’s work on her YouTube Channel which is found here. So now, on to Vicky!
What was an uncomfortable learning curve last spring has become the norm for many of us as we begin a new school year using virtual, remote, asynchronous, and synchronous teaching. Back in the spring we quickly learned to connect with our students using live virtual teaching or recording videos, or both.
While I have mourned the loss of in-person interaction with both my students and my fellow music teachers at workshops and conferences, I have noticed some wonderful things that came out of this challenging time.
I was thrilled to be involved in the start-up of The Singing Space, a Facebook group created by Meg Tietz, for teachers to share videos of themselves singing songs that would bring comfort to children through music. Without witnessing this heartfelt outpouring of videos from teachers from all over the world, I doubt I would have been brave enough to share my own videos. But I jumped right in during Spring Break, with simple videos of my favorite songs to share with students.
This is a vulnerable time for us, putting our teaching out there for others to see. I might feel comfortable picking up a ukulele and strumming along as I sing to children, but having to do this in a video for other teachers to see is a different story. This gives me compassion for my fellow teachers. I know that what comes easily for me may not be the same for another, and vice versa. Making a goof in class in front of children is a daily occurrence, but when it happens on a video it becomes a different thing—do I let it go or do I re-do or edit that goof out? How polished does this video teaching need to be, since other teachers–and administrators– are watching? I think many of you might be nodding your head in recognition of these feelings! As I began to make more videos for use with my students and as the time away from school stretched to nine weeks, I came up with some ideas:
Be engaging, but be yourself. I decided that what I wanted for my students is for their teacher to talk to them the same way I would talk to them in class. I want to engage them, but I still want to talk to them in a conversational way. I choose not to add much besides just me talking to them, singing, playing an instrument, following song dots, following other notation like a map, movement to music… the same things I would do in class with them.
Plan ways for the students to be actively involved. This can be as simple as asking a question and waiting as if you’re listening to the students respond. It can be saying, “Raise your hand if you know this song.” It can be inviting the students to antiphon while you sing a song, asking students to stand up and act out a song, or do a folk dance. I am aware of how difficult it must be for our students to sit in front of a screen and not interact with other children and teachers. We can bring activity into our students’ lives through music class.
Hand-drawn and homemade can be preferable. I know that I have tech literally at my fingertips, and I marvel at all of the beautiful and polished creations I see out there. But in my classroom I’ve always valued hand-drawn materials, have always preferred their homemade look. So I’ve continued that with my teaching videos. Holding up something I’ve drawn and asking students to follow it, to track song dots or solfege or bridge notation, seems more like what I would do in class with them. It seems more intimate to me to have hand-drawn materials. It’s just another way for my personality to come through the screen to connect to my students.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please reach out if you want to share.
You can contact Vicky here.
Vicky Suarez is an Elementary Music Specialist at Shepard Elementary in Plano, Texas, where she teaches music in grades K-5 and also directs a choir of 4th and 5th graders. Vicky has a Bachelor of Music from The University of Texas at Arlington and a Master of Music from Southern Methodist University. She holds Level 3 Orff Certification as well as certification in SongWorks. Vicky is on the faculty of the SongWorks Certification Courses which are offered at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls each summer. This summer she’ll be teaching SongWorks Level 1 at SMU as well. She’s the immediate past president of SongWorks Educators Association, and is also involved with Sigma Alpha Iota and Alpha Delta Kappa. She enjoys reading, cooking, and riding her bike. Vicky and husband Rob live in Richardson, Texas.
Hope this was helpful and thanks Vicky for writing this!