Things I’ve Learned After 4 Weeks of Zoom Teaching…and other thoughts

Having been home for 6 weeks now since my university announced we would move to “remote classes” I have learned a few things I thought I would share. I’m not sure why I think anyone gives a damn about what I’ve learned but Imma write my blog post anyway. Let’s begin:

PRE-REMOTE LEARNING

In the middle of my Marching Band Techniques course on March 11 the email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., announcements began. First it was WGI cancelling championships. I watched the face of one of my students morph into one of such sadness and hopelessness I was at a complete loss of what to say. The whole class was silent. I wish I had words at that moment to ease their minds but I’m not so sure I did. I tried to get the class back on track and managed to do so for a whopping 5 minutes. That was when the university’s alert system took over. We were all on our own computers (why? because the shit storm called A/V in the classroom I use was no longer working…as it wasn’t all semester long but up until that point I was able to “fix” for our class, but I digress…) watching the end of Star of Indiana’s 1991 “Roman Images” (you drum corps nerds know the one and why we were watching it) when everyone’s phone and other device went off with a university alert. Classes were suspended beginning at 5pm and were cancelled for the next two days. Spring break was moved up from March 28th to March 14th.

Cue panic.

We chatted, dismissed, and went our separate ways, not really knowing what to expect but ever hopeful this would be a temporary situation and things would get back to normal in a week or two. Again, I digress…

It became clear that the students were on spring break and we, the faculty, were in “get your shit together now” mode. We had one week to translate all of our classes into online experiences. This is something that one would take the summer months (at the very least) to create ONE online course. Cue the other superheroes. As the first few days rolled by and we were all frantically racing back and forth to campus to “liberate” equipment from our offices, etc.–before the full lockdown was put into effect–we were given a SECOND week of spring break to get said shit together. (During this time I also dealt with shopping for myself, ordering ridiculous amounts of cat and dog food online because of my special needs pup Joe who needs prescription food, and checking in on family in northern NJ and NYC…not having my own children made my world a tad easier to navigate, but still…chaos at best.)

Home desk area complete. Drinkware appropriate for situation.

WEEK 1 – COORDINATING ONLINE TEACHING W/LIFE

  • Remember to send your recurring zoom links to the students;
  • Zoom schedules are NOT in calendar order on the small window but ARE in the My Meetings window;
  • Expect crappy internet connections either because yours sucks or the students have 8 other people online in their homes at the same time;
  • Note to self: Dogs MUST be upstairs in the bedroom;
  • The class that meets over Pet Designated Dinner Time is going to be humorous for the first two times and then a giant pain in the ass;
  • Note to self: remove the booze from the credenza behind your work station…..

WEEK 2 – MAKING PROGRESS

  • Zoom lessons are all scheduled using recurring link and waiting rooms.
    • Shift from 3 lessons and 2 classes to 17 MBTech lessons and 1 class–Symphonic Band complete for the semester – but hey, I’ve got a full studio!
  • Combining MBTech and MPTech for common topics has sparked interesting conversations about the future of our courses. Cool!
  • Organizing life with work is still a challenge.
  • Personal: remember to start the car once a week (thanks for teaching me that Dad);
  • Personal: remember to drink lots of water;
  • Personal: remember to stand up, stretch, and walk around every 30 minutes;
  • Personal: remember to lock the bloody kitten in the bathroom during mid-afternoons!

WEEK 3 – IN A GROOVE w/Pros & Cons

  • Finally got this Zoom thing figured out and but loathe talking into a void when the students are muted.
  • Personal vs work schedule organized: mornings/evenings = personal; afternoons = work.
    • Work = productive
    • Personal = a whole lot of wasted time. One can only clean the house and do laundry so often. Color by Number app is therapeutic; the news sucks you down into an abyss filled with every post-apocalyptic novel you’re ever read, filling your thoughts with “If society completely falls apart, which neighbors’ homes might have a stockpile of canned goods I can pillage?”
  • Personal: stopped drinking booze. No seriously, I did. The world is clearly coming to an end.

WEEK 4 – PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE W/OUT KNOWING WHAT IT WILL BE

  • MBTech can be taught as an online course – just need to identify the best scanning app for students to use and the best way to submit each handwritten drill page;
  • MBTech II-Pyware is perfect for online teaching;
  • Zoom Q&A session set for admitted students – recruitment begins;
  • Personal: best purchase two years ago was my Peloton. 1625 miles logged since January 1;
  • Personal: filled the car with gas on March 12th–still have 1/2 a tank;
  • Personal: neighborhood gossip is at an all time high.

IN SUMMARY–

  • We are in the early stages of this situation.
  • We will not return to normal–we will have a new normal to learn to navigate.
  • Making music with others will never be replaced by technology.
  • Human interaction is critical to a person’s health and wellbeing.
  • My “children” are the best.

Stay safe and be well everyone.