10 Products to Make Your Online Teaching More Comfortable

If you’re not already teaching lessons online, many of us will be this week following Spring Break.

I think we can all agree that online teaching can take a little bit (or even a lot) more energy than in-person. Hopefully, the more we do it, the easier it will get!

To help you along the way, here are 10 products I love that can help make your next few weeks feel a little less stressful and a little more comfortable.

Remember, it’s the small things that can bring us joy in stressful times!

Here’s a quick reference guide – descriptions follow!

 

#1-4 Hydrate and Moisturize

Staying well-hydrated is always important for good health, but we may need to be even more conscious of it now. If we’re not intentionally conscious of it, we may tend to find ourselves talking a little louder than normal which leads to dry mouth and dehydration.

Consider keeping an electric kettle next to you for cups of tea or even warm lemon water. Chef’s Choice Electric Glass Kettle is good quality and well-priced.

 

One of my favorite teas is The Republic of Tea’s Spring Cherry Green Tea

 

The individual bags are convenient for on-the-go teaching.

Excess talking can also easily dry out the lips. Don’t forget a stash of chapstick! SW Basics Organic Beeswax Lip Balm

 

With everyone being more conscious of handwashing perhaps longer and more frequently than before, the skin on your hands may be suffering.

Keep this lovely-smelling EO Body Lotion, Coconut and Vanilla on your desk to enjoy after each hand-washing.

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Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Is you Inbox overloaded with emails titled “Person/company name’s response to COVID-19″?

Are you feeling a little bit like you’re in the Twilight Zone?

Do you just want to make it all go away and get back to normal?

Is one side of you glad to know that “we’re all in this together,” and another part of you tired of hearing the phrase already?

Yeah, me too.

 

Strong Declarations

Over the past week as posts on Facebook have ramped up regarding online lessons, we’re seeing success, generosity, and encouragement, but also escalating anxiety and even negativity.

Several posts popped up of people expressing their frustration with online lessons and in the heat of those frustrations, they declared them to be “worthless.”

Really?, I wondered…

Worthless? Continue reading

Implementing Incentives

The Struggle Is Was Real

To incentivize or not to incentivize. That is the question.

(Or maybe you’re simply wondering at the moment whether or not “incentivize” is actually a word? It is, by the way. 🙂 )

Do you struggle with implementing an incentive program?

Is it because you’re torn between the philosophy of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation or is it because it’s a struggle to be consistent in implementing something? (Or maybe a little of both?)

While there’s plenty of research supporting both sides of this age-old question of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, today I’ll be sharing my journey with (and support of) implementing incentives. Specifically:

  1. Why I struggled for years with implementing incentive programs.
  2. Four things I found an incentive program (and I) needed for long-term success.
  3. How others in the field helped inspire and develop my own philosophy regarding extrinsic rewards along the way.
  4. How short term rewards can turn into long-term joy including a specific example from my studio.

In a later post, I’ll get more specific with the incentive program I’ve been using with success for several years, and a list of popular prize box items.

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Books for Piano Teachers

Including My Top 3 Recommendations

Hey there!

I just wanted to mention something you may or may not know about.

Did you know there was a whole page devoted to books for piano teachers on Piano Pantry?

Check it out!

The page has been published for a couple of years but I'm not sure if I ever actually told you about it! Whoops!

You may have come across it, but if not, now you know! 🙂

It includes more than 30 books that can help you in your career as an independent music teacher.

I've divided them into seven categories to make your browsing easier:

  • Music Education and Teaching Inspiration
  • Music Business / Entrepreneurship for Independent Music Teachers
  • Elementary-Intermediate Piano Pedagogy & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Intermediate-Advanced Piano Technique & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Music Learning Theory (Introductions)
  • Music Learning Theory (In-Depth)
  • Faith and the Arts

 

Top Recommendations

In this post, besides letting you know about the Books for Piano Teachers page, I thought I would share more details on the three books I love the most.

Basically, if you were to only read three books on music teaching in your lifetime, I would recommend these three.

Read them. You won't regret it!

If you would like to read more details on each of these top books, read on!


If you just want to jump right to the page with 30 books, click here.


For the three books I'm highlighting in this post, I've included three things.

1. The book descriptions directly from Amazon. (Yes, I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will earn a small percentage if you purchase through the link but it won't cost you any more.)

2.  A statement on why I love the book.

3.  A listing of 6-7 of my favorite quotes/excerpts that I feel best define the content of the book.

 

#1 Intelligent Music Teaching

Intelligent Music Teaching:  Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction by Robert Duke

Description: In this collection of insightful essays, the author describes fundamental principles of human learning in the context of teaching music. Written in an engaging, conversational style, the individual essays outline the elements of intelligent, creative teaching. Duke effectively explains how teachers can meet the needs of individual students from a wide range of abilities by understanding more deeply how people learn. Teachers and interested parents alike will benefit from this informative and highly readable book.

Why I love it: The first sentence to the preface of this book says it all. "This collection of essays is not about how to each. It's about how to think about teaching and learning."

Favorite Quotes:

Teaching is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning. People can learn without being deliberately taught and a teacher can inform, instruct, explain, and demonstrate in the presence of students without the students' learning what the teacher intends to teach. (Page 10)

Learning to play or sing any scale, any exercise or any piece is never the real goal of music instruction...The real goal... is for students to become superb musicians, doing all of the things that superb musicians do, irrespective of what is being played or sung at the moment... The far-reaching goal remains the same from the first day of instruction to the time when the student reaches the highest levels of artistic musicianship. In this sense, the goals of the lesson plan never change, regardless of the skills or experience level of the students you're teaching. Only the contexts in which the goals are taught (i.e. the activities, the music) change over time. (Page 29)

Students need to learn to study effectively, to practice effectively, to think effectively. So, when and where will they learn that? In class, with us. Not by our telling them what to do when they're alone in a practice room or in a carrel in the library, but by our leading them through the very activities that we expect them to do on their own in our absence. (Page 61)

...the decisions of what to teach when are central to artistic teaching. (Page 103)

In order to become independent thinkers and doers, learners must eventually use information and skills in situations in which they have had little or no prior experience. (Page 141)

All of this suggests a redefinition of what it means to learn something. Much of what we learn as part of formal education is presented to us in very limited contexts, and we have few opportunities to practice applying what we know and can do in contexts beyond those in which the knowledge and skills are initially taught. But if the goal of educaton is that students learn to use knowledge and skills effectively in the future, even in unfamiliar circumstances, then transfer must be definited as the goal of instruction. The goal is no longer the acqusition of knowledge and skills but the application of knowledge and skills in situations that have not been taught explicitly. For the developing musician, the goal is no longer to play a given piece beautifully, but to play beautifully (period). (Page 157)

 

#2 The Ways Children Learn Music

The Ways Children Learn Music: An Introduction and Practical Guide to Music Learning Theory by Eric Bluestine

Description (from GIA):  The perfect introduction to Edwin E. Gordon's music learning theory!

With clear and compelling language, Eric Bluestine sheds light on the most vexing issues in music education—all the while drawing from the contributions of perhaps the most influential thinker in the field today, Edwin E. Gordon. In the process, Bluestine unlocks the mystery that frees a child’s mind to think on its own musical terms.

Why I love this book: Please don't let the fact that it's an "introduction to Music Learning Theory" deter you in any way! Even if you weren't necessarily looking to learn more about MLT, music teachers of every instrument and philosophy will get great value from and depth of understanding on how to teach music from this book.

In all my years of music education, this is the first book I read that really addressed how to teach "music." That is, how to understand the sound that music is and not just the symbols (a.k.a. music "notation") that we often define as teaching music.

Favorite Quotes:

I hold the elegantly simple belief that learning to understand music is its own reward. (Page xiv)

One of the basic tenets of Music Learning Theory is that children do not audiate intervals; they audiate functional tonal patterns made of intervals...In short, we don't audiate pitches, or even intervals. We audiate structured pitches, pitches that we organize into functional patterns that relate to a tonal center. (Page 42)

Music education could be separated into four topics. They are 1) the musical and pedagogical principles that give rise to Music Learning Theory "irrefutable truths about music and music education"; 2) Music Learning Theory itself; 3) learning methods; and 4) classroom teaching (techniques, musical examples, and materials).  Now, think about these in a pyramid shape with #1 as the larger foundation and #4 as the top of the pyramid. (Page 60)

The nature of Music Learning Theory is that one cannot use it directly. To use it, a music teacher must design a method based on it, and then use techniques, materials, and musical examples to get the method off the ground. (Page 75)

A child is not a miniature adult! (Page 88)

If we are to help our students to become independent musicians and musical thinkders - our most important task - then we must encourage them to generalize what they hear. (Page 149)

 

#3 Coffee with Ray

Coffee with Ray: A Simple Story with a Life Changing Message for Teachers and Parents by Nick Ambrosino

Description: Through the eyes of a simple piano teacher, learn the strategies to remove any self-made learning obstacles so that you can achieve all you put your mind too.

After ten years of teaching piano, Matt had become completely disillusioned with his career choice. Teaching was increasingly more frustrating, students were more difficult to motivate and coping with the stress had become much more challenging. He was on the verge of quitting until he decided to have a cup of coffee at a café suggested by his GPS. That’s where he met Ray and that’s when everything started to change.

An engaging, funny and thought-provoking parable, written as creative non-fiction, Coffee With Ray will introduce readers to revolutionary ways of communicating that will help make students become more accountable and teachers more skilled at facilitating learning.

Why I love the book: I especially love that this book is an easy read. It's simply a direct peek into the life of one teacher and is a beautiful example of how we can learn to be better at our profession by learning from others not in our profession. This would be a great summer read. It feels casual but is still directed toward being a better teacher.

Favorite Quotes:

Teachers tend to think about teaching a subject. When you redefine yourself as a facilitator, you become responsible for facilitating your student through the learning of how to teach himself. (Page 61)

Instead of telling my students what they should do, I offered suggestions and asked them to take responsibility for choosing goals that felt best for them. (Page 102)

I asked her what she had accomplished this week that she felt proud of (I found that to be a better and more effective way of starting the lesson than asking them if they had practiced.) (Page 102)

[The last four excerpts are focused on using "but" vs. "and".]

I like the way you made contact with that pitch, Mike, and now you’re ready to turn your back foot. (Page 74)

The point is that if you validate someone’s performance, as Dominic did, and then you use the word ‘but’ to create a change in the performance, the student never remembers what came before the ‘but.’ “If, however, you use the word ‘and’ as the invitation for change after the validation, the student feels he has earned the right to go onto the next part of his training and he will both remember the validation AND create the change. (Page 75)

You feel as though there is always something to fix. While that may be true, the word ‘but’ creates a feeling of ‘less than.’ It creates a closed condition for learning as well as an ‘undesirable’ feeling. The word ‘and,’ however, creates a feeling of greatness, of progress. It creates an opening for learning and that is a much more desirable feeling. (Page 76)

Everything you have ever accomplished was at one time outside of your comfort zone. Yet, by labeling it as hard you put a question mark on your ability to learn or accomplish it. By labeling it as new you never question your ability but, instead, actually acknowledge that you are capable. (Page 78)

 


Those are my three favorite books! Do you have any favorites? Share them in the comments!

 

My Reading Lists

If you would like to check out some of my posts on books I've read in previous years, check out these posts.

Recommended Reads: My 2016 Reading List
Recommended Reads: My 2017 Reading List

As you can see, I haven't kept up very well with publishing my annual reading list. However, I do include books I'm currently reading in my monthly "secret letter" which goes out at the end of every month.

If you would like to be on my mailing list so you can receive that monthly communication, you can sign up here.

Friday Finds

Teaching Tactics and Eye Tracking

 

1 – Spotify Playlist

Even if I didn’t play music at the beginning of my recital, I would still enjoy Sara’s recital mix playlists on Spotify. There’s a new one posted for 2018!

 

2 – It’s In the Sauce…or Not

Why yes, there is a difference between pizza sauce and pasta sauce and it’s a simple one.

 

3 – Teaching Tactics

Add these two to your teaching toolbox: Decorating the Cake: Helping Piano Students Play With Expression and Heart and We’re Not Robots: Helping Young Piano Students Get “Beyond The Notes”

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Friday Finds

Andragogy, Pedagogy, and a 19′ Piano

 

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Anytime I tell someone I have a Masters of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance everyone always looks at me with their head slightly cocked, and their eyes conveying their puzzlement. “Peda-what?” They say.

Do you ever get this? My husband and I always get a good chuckle. Awhile back he messaged me while he was at a conference excited that someone in the session he was attending had just clarified perfectly the term and he thought I might like to share with you:

“Andragogy” refers to methods and principles used in adult education. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρ- andr-, meaning “man”, and ἀγωγός agogos, meaning “leader of”; it literally means “leader of man”, whereas “pedagogy” literally means “leading children”.

Interesting!

 

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Super stinking cool. Check out this 19-foot piano.

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Teaching “Why’s” and “What’s”

Today I just felt like sharing a random reflection on a couple of teaching moments this week.

 

Student #1

A student in Piano Safari Level 3 was playing the three forms of the D minor scale. She played beautifully, hands separately at a nice pace of mm.=200 (quarter note). Before we moved on to the next exercise, I wanted to make sure she understood some of the why’s and what’s.

Why is it called the natural minor?
(Because it’s in it’s most natural “raw” state – using the same pitches as its related major).

Why do we change one note in the harmonic minor?
(So we can create a leading tone which makes the scale feel more like it leads back to the resting tone “home.”  This also makes our Dominant (V) chord major rather than minor.)

What notes are altered in the ascending melodic minor scale?
(The 6th and the 7th, making the scale start sounding minor but finishing sounding major).

What scale do we essentially play as we descend in the melodic minor?
(The natural minor scale)

I ask a lot of the same questions every time we study new keys.

At first, the questions are completely new, and I’m mostly telling and explaining.

After a few key studies, they seem to recall that they know the answer, they just can’t articulate it in full – this is where “teacher mode” comes in. Ask the question and pause to give them a minute to think. They will often begin to answer but stumble like they can’t get the words out. At this point, I begin stating the answer and they sort of “join in” as they’re shaking their head in recollection.

Eventually, they can articulate it completely on their own.

 

Student #2

A student is working on a praise hit, “One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)” from Alfred’s Praise Hit’s Complete, Book 2.

There’s a scalar passage leading into the beginning of a phrase. She’s hopping her fingers, rather than crossing under, causing a break in the phrase. I have her circle the finger number where she needs to cross under, and ask:

Why should we not hop here?
(Student: “because the music tells us to use finger three.”)
While this is true, the more important reason and I demonstrate to the student… Would we sing it like this?

“This one…” INSERT A DRAMATIC BIG BREATH  “…thing remains.”?

The student always gets a chuckle when they realize how silly that sounds. Point made.

 

Execution is not the only goal, make sure they understand (and can articulate) WHY – the bigger picture.

Friday Finds: Bubble Wrap Voicing and Triscuits

pumpkin-spice-triscuits-med

Brought to you by “Amy’s lunch on Tuesday.”

My intrigue with the limited edition Pumpkin Spice Triscuit was rewarded when I found they were quite tasty! They have just the right amount of seasoning, and while they held their own all alone, they would be awesome with a cranberry cheese ball or some sharp cheddar. Well, everything goes with sharp cheddar in my opinion!

This recommendation is of my accord. Triscuits is not paying me to proclaim their goodness.

 

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Creative practice trackers. The piano key layout is a nice touch too.

 

2

Bubble wrap to teach voicing – brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, Christopher Fisher!

 

3

While I believe in letting students “take a break” over the holidays if they want, encouraging holiday practice by having students get autographs from those for whom they performed is a fun idea. Even if they don’t “practice,” keeping them playing is the most important thing, and our students can never get enough performance opportunities.

 

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pe-2-pedal-extenderThe PE-2 Pedal Extender from DPH Music Arts is put to a lot of work in my studio. I would buy it over and over again.

They are having a Thanksgiving Promotion -20% off until 11/27/2016.  Order online at dphmusicarts.com/store  to get the discount.

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Piano Teacher Adventure 

MLT in Boston

Where to begin…

It all started with a foggy early morning departure from my home in Indiana. I gently woke my husband to say our goodbyes, anticipating the two weeks we were about to be away from each other – the longest time ever.

John Denver’s words seem to fit the scene,

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say good-bye.

But the dawn is breaking, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waiting he’s blowing his horn. Already, I’m so lonesome, I could die.

So kiss me and smile for me. Tell me that you’ll wait for me. Hold me like you’ll never let me go.

Of course, I didn’t leave on a jet plane, just my trusty 2007 Ford Focus. Off I went to pick up my partner in crime.

Joy Morin of ColorInMyPiano.com

joy-amy-driving-to-boston

 

We Made it!

After a long 16-hour day on the road full of traffic jams and several hours of intense downpouring rain, we made it to our Air B’nB.

Bright and early the next morning we weaved our way through traffic and the bumpy, crooked streets of Boston to find our home for the next ten days.

Brookline Music School, our awesome host.

IMG_1898

We were both lucky to receive Teacher Enrichment Grants through Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) to attend a piano certification course/professional development workshop put on by the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML).

Dr. Gordon’s work was not about the best ways to teach music, but how we learn, thus impacting the way we teach.

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FaceTime Lesson

Around 11:45 today, I received a call from the mother of my 1:00 student. She wanted to check with me as “M” had been complaining of a sore throat and said she was feeling a little achy. Although she didn’t have a temperature or seem sick otherwise, the mother wanted to see what I wanted to do. Thank you! I was grateful to her for being considerate of my health. She knew I would be traveling for the next week and wanted to be especially cautious.

At first, I suggested I would do a video lesson for her; I have been trying this for the first time this year and have had good feedback from parents. (I still need to figure out a better way to record videos other than with my iPhone but that’s another conversation). It then dawned on me that I had not yet replenished my Piano Adventures 3A studio copy. It makes it hard to do a video lesson without the music they are working on!

Then I remembered I updated my policy this year to read:

Students who are ill should not come to piano lessons. I reserve the right to send a student home if they arrive sick. If students are only mildly ill, please contact me and we can do a FaceTime lesson or I can record a short video assignment for them during their regularly schedule lesson time.

I had yet to try FaceTime with a student so we decided to go for it and I’m so glad we did – we all agreed it was a great success! The mom held the phone and was able to maneuver around as I needed. We were able to cover all the material we normally do during her 45-minute lesson. Mom dropped by the studio about 30 minutes later on her way to Walmart to pick up new sight-reading cards, a fresh assignment sheet and a few other things.

Yea for technology keeping me healthy!

facetime-collage