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  • Writer's pictureWendy Higdon

Tips for Teaching Band in a COVID World that Nobody Told You About

The global pandemic has changed nearly everything about how we live our daily lives. It is overwhelming how much we need to consider to ensure the safety of our students and ourselves as schools begin to reopen their buildings. While information is constantly changing and the research is ongoing, here are a few tips that you probably haven't thought about for your in-person start!

Find comfortable, well-fitting masks. If they make a fashion statement, even better! Wearing a mask for eight hours a day is quite different from wearing one for a trip to the store. Comfort is key! My go-to mask at the moment is from the Snaptotes store on Etsy. They are washable, have a filter pocket (with filters included), adjustable straps, and come in a variety of sizes. And they have lots of fun designs for kids, men, and women.

Consider teaching with a microphone. A mask will muffle your voice, and it is exhausting trying to project so students can understand you. Using amplification is a game changer! I repurposed a mic pack from our auditorium, fitted it with a headset microphone, and ran it through our sound system in the band room. Here's a link to the one I am using. Don't forget to invest in rechargeable batteries and a charger.

Face shields are helpful during some teaching situations. While face shields have their limitations, sometimes students need to be able to see your face as you teach embouchure, breathing, and other fundamental skills.

Gaffers tape in neon colors! Gaffers tape comes up from the floor without leaving behind residue which makes it perfect for marking arrows for one way traffic patterns in instrument storage areas, and for marking off the required distancing between chairs. This is the tape I purchased for my room.

Invest in a good, personalized teacher planner. My school is currently running a hybrid schedule on top of a block schedule, five days a week. One group could be on a red day learning at home, while another is on a blue day learning at school, with

teachers providing lessons for both simultaneously. I cannot tell you how many times in the last three weeks I thought my head would explode from trying to figure out what day in the schedule we were on! I checked out several customizable planners before settling on Plum Planner. Having now experienced a couple weeks of school under our hybrid schedule, I wish I could go back and re-do some things in my design -- like making my headings by hybrid group, rather than class -- but this thing is the life preserver keeping me from drowning right now!

Put EVERYTHING in your LMS. We utilize Canvas as our learning management system, and while it's fair to say my relationship with it is more "hate" than "love," I'm thankful that I have been putting both our in-person and at-home lessons in Canvas each day. Not only does this allow our 100% virtual students to keep up with what is happening in band, but as hybrid students move in and out of quarantine and isolation, they can keep up as well. Some of the things I place in Canvas include:

  • Daily agenda with hyperlinks for in-person lessons

  • Assignments, requirements, and hyperlinks for at-home lessons

  • Videos that demonstrate, teach, or lead specific skills and warm-ups

  • PDFs of all handouts, exercises, music, etc.

  • SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) focused activities

Place your seating charts in Google Drive or another location in the cloud. If your principal calls you at 9 p.m. on a Saturday because there was a positive case and contract tracing needs to happen, you don't want to be driving to school to check your seating chart to see who was within 6 feet of that person. You will need to have 24/7 access to all seating charts. An added advantage of Google Drive is that a history of edits is kept, so you can go back and look at previous versions if you need to.

Adjust Your Expectations. My students, quite frankly, still seem traumatized from all that they have been through these past months. While they have been absolutely amazing in terms of following safety protocols, they are not the same children I left in March. They are quieter, more serious, less animated. While most of them say they are "fine," I know better. We are taking time every week for building relationships and checking on their social and emotional needs, and if that takes a little away from musical instruction, well. . . so be it. I am leaning heavily on some of Scott Lang's offerings to assist me including:

Give Yourself Permission. . .

Give yourself permission to fail. . . to rest. . . to cry. . . to take a day off. . . to have an extra piece of chocolate. . . whatever it is that your mind or body needs, give yourself permission. Teachers have always been heroes, but right now the weight and the workload is more than ever before. We can do it - we are doing it, but it is not sustainable for the long term. Please, take care of yourselves, dear teachers.

Sending you my absolute best wishes for good health and joyful music making.

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