TEACHING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS ONLINE. HOW TO MAKE IT WORK.
Online piano lessons have been going on for a while, long before the current epidemic. However, now even the teachers who never believed in online teaching found themselves obliged to do it. The mere existence of many music schools and piano studios depend now on the ability of the teachers to be flexible and able to quickly change, both inside and out. Being one of those teachers who strongly believed in a face to face teaching, I went through an inward struggle, and I found myself making quick decisions and had no option but to adapt to the new situation to enable my studio to survive this turmoil.
In the beginning, the same as everyone else, I believed that this will be a quick unsettling wave that will quickly subside. However, the time has shown how mistaken I was, and this situation is here to stay, at least for a while.
Once I started teaching online and since I teach many students with special educational needs, I was constantly asked whether children who have special educational needs are capable to do their lessons online. These questions were wrapped in a lot of doubt and disbelief in the ability of these children. I totally believe that all students deserve to have the same opportunity to continue their education, especially during these times regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Let's not leave anyone behind.
Positive aspects of online piano lessons
A. Continue learning
The most obvious benefit is to keep on learning and prevent the frustrating regression that will happen after long periods of interruption.
Comparing my students who agreed to take their lessons online with those who stopped during the first period of 3 months lockdown is huge. Not only did the ones who stopped their lessons did not move forward in their books, but they also regressed many steps backward due to lack of practice and detachment.
B. Some students work better online!
One surprising thing which I never expected to see, is that some of my most difficult and fidgety students were the best students online! They magically became focused in front of the screen listening to every word and the lessons ended up being were more productive online than they were in person.
C. Get the chance to assess their instrument and give feedback
You will get a chance to look at the students' instruments and their practice environment, this will give you a deeper understanding and explanations of some of the problems your students may go through giving you a chance to help them sort these problems out. Such as the placement of the piano, height of the piano stool, the suitability of the keyboard the students have, and if the piano is properly tuned or not, and other similar issues.
D. Scheduling flexibility
Online lessons are easier to schedule for students. There is no commute, parents don't need to drive. Much fewer no-shows, cancellations, and rescheduling.
Some challenges to expect during your online lessons
Communication problems and feelings of isolation, in addition to the technical problems and low sound quality, are the two main difficulties that you will definitely go through a few times during online lessons.
For younger children, difficulty concentrating and staying on task is another roadblock to expect. Make sure to always ask that the parent stays nearby for help.
More work and preparation is needed to make online lessons work.
How to make it work as best as possible
A. Have all resources and links ready and within reach
Being very organized and well prepared is very crucial to make online teaching work. All books have to be within reach; it will also help if you have some of them scanned on your laptop to share it with your student while explaining theoretical concepts.
B. Show your face
A big part of our communication happens through facial expression. It is easier for the student to understand what you are saying if they can see your face. Look directly into the camera as much as possible to keep your students engaged.
C. Use technology to show your keyboard:
It is very helpful to both you and your student to show your keyboard when need to demonstrate something. You can do this by connecting your MIDI keyboard to your laptop and sharing your screen. Classroom Maestro is easy to use and very effective.
D. Give very specific instruction for practice and the next lesson preparation
It is very helpful to ask your students to keep a notebook nearby to write down the date of the lesson and the assignment they need to work on during the week. This is especially important if there is no parent nearby during the online lessons since you can’t do it yourself.
E. Make it predictable
Break down the lessons as closely as possible to what your students were used to before you had to go online. Before you start the lesson explain what you will be doing and talk about the plan. At the end of the lesson give the student an idea of what they will be working on during their next lesson.
F. Ask the parent to stay close by
Even if the parents have never attended any of your lessons before, this will give them the opportunity to be more involved. Their presence is essential during the online lesson as your students will most probably need help with adjusting the seat, securing the connection, finding the books, and many other things that will come up during the lessons which you never anticipated.