Clarinet, Clarinet Teachers and Professors, Practicing, Teaching

Porch Lessons

Are your eyes and brain fatigued from looking at a screen while teaching music lessons online for hours? Are you done with saying “what”? Are your ears burnt out, trying to listen through space for nuances in sound, articulation and technique that just cannot be heard? Maybe you feel like this music teacher.

Yeah, me too.  

While I am super-grateful for video conferencing programs that have allowed me to teach remotely, it is not the same as teaching in person. Sure, there are slick programs that promise great learning online, but for high-level work on a musical instrument NOTHING comes close to lessons in person. 

A couple of weeks ago a student sighed and said “Mrs. Haskell, I just wish I could see you.” 

Broke my heart. My students have been troupers, sending me recordings several times a week, smiling at every lesson, practicing incredibly well and improving….but I hear from parents who say their children are suffering in subtle ways. We humans are meant for relationship. In person! 

So I began to think about safe ways I could bring my local students back into my studio. Put up plastic sheeting? Open the windows? Fans/no fans? Air purifier? (I could find no residential air purifier that filters viruses). Nothing seemed safe enough, until I thought about our porch. It’s not huge but unless it’s pouring down rain, might I be able to continue lessons safely outside on our porch for a few months? I asked a nurse friend and studied CDC guidelines for distancing outside to come up with a plan. 

Then I asked each parent and every student what they thought. All were excited at the possibility. We agreed I would stay 10-12 feet away and would wear a mask. So I set up a chair and music stand outside, wiping down each surface. I added wipes for students too, and masks if someone felt safer that way…..though obviously not during playing! All surfaces would be wiped down between students. Here is the result, with my student Sam (who learns everything in a week — yes, really):

Look at that smile!
Not everyone has the luxury of a porch. But if you do have a porch or patio that is big enough to social  distance according to CDC guidelines, I can tell you that Porch Lessons are much more effective than online private teaching. Porch Lessons are now my interim way of teaching until further notice. 

In a few weeks I will write with an update. Happy teaching and may the world be restored soon.

5 thoughts on “Porch Lessons”

  1. Great idea! I live in Chicago but maybe I can figure out a way to do outdoor lessons somewhere once things start opening up. My chamber group is already talking about outdoor rehearsals… 🙃

  2. Diana, love this post!! I have been doing the same in our backyard, over ten feet apart. I wholly agree: nothing against virtual teaching, but it ain’t the same. The smiles come out much more in person.

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