4 Tips For Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Like many of you, the pandemic has my family doing life in new ways. I’ve learned to teach online piano lessons, church was moved to livestream, taking care of our grandparents began to involve grocery trips, and hugs between anyone outside of the house seem to be a thing of the past.

One of the biggest changes has been my husband’s job. He works for Cleveland city schools and runs the planning center (think a room that is a cross between detention and counseling) in one of the K-8 schools.

So far this year Cleveland has been all online. So what job was he given? In a bizarre turn of events, he became the music teacher. My husband – who has played almost every sport known to man but only lasted for 2 weeks playing the trumpet in school – is now the online music teacher 😉 yes, I was shocked… but I have been proud of him and the way he has stepped up!

As we all have, he had to modify his thinking and expectations for his job. And he has taught me some valuable lessons in the process. So today I wanted to encourage you, not by saying that non-musicians should always begin teaching music, but rather that whoever you are, we can work through the obstacles life hands us and make life a learning process of resilience for both us and our students!

Valuable Lesson #1:

He doesn’t work alone.

The school assigned a part-time sub to this music class as well. This sub also has no music experience. But the two of them work really well together! They bounce ideas off of each other and make sure the tech glitches are smoothed over. This teamwork has created a solid atmosphere for the students to become apart of when they log into class.

Do you have people you are able to bounce questions off of and learn from to further your teaching? If not, find them! Online is a great place to find supportive groups in the piano teaching field right now.

Valuable Lesson #2

He has committed to learn something new.

Jesse picked up guitar and began online lessons back in the spring when everything was shut down and there was nothing to do. He continued lessons through the summer and now plays the guitar at the beginning of each class as the kids enter the online classroom. They know they’ve entered music class! And they kids have even remarked as they hear him getting better. He has committed to learning new things along with his students!

What have you picked up and learned lately? It could be music related or a completely new hobby, but it is critical that you remember what you are asking your students to do – and that you experience what it’s like to learn new things along with them 😊

Valuable Lesson #3

He has consistently showed up.

When the kids first saw who their music teachers were, they were as surprised as the teachers themselves! But each week both Jesse and the sub show up and teach the kids something new about music. The kids are engaged and know that a safe space is waiting for them.

In the middle of a pandemic, showing up and being consistent with your students can mean so much more than the actual agenda for any given day.

Valuable Lesson #4

He uses material the kids can relate to.

Jesse’s music classes have been full of everything from Beethoven to the student’s music choices. They talk about what the songs are saying and how the style portrays a feeling. They talk about the instruments they hear. And the kids are able to CONNECT to the music in ways they maybe hadn’t before 😊  

This is a big one. Do I want more students to learn Bach and Beethoven? Of course. Do I introduce them to jazz and lead sheets? Every single one. But above all, do I make sure they are always playing something they enjoy and can relate to? Yes! There’s always a balance. My students are required to learn scales whether they want to or not. But my students also know that if they work through the repertoire they don’t like, they will also be playing things they enjoy!

Hopefully this inspires you to break out of your tired, old routine. Or maybe a tired, new routine that has been set due to the way life seemed to dramatically change overnight. But the next time you feel that you are unqualified for what’s ahead, remember my husband is teaching a music class. And that you too, can forge ahead and be the best teacher for your students in this moment!

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