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  • Writer's pictureDiane Hidy

I'm guessing all day long

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Dear Diane,

I would love your thoughts on whether you think it’s productive for Ella to keep taking piano lessons over Zoom versus waiting until the “world opens up” again —when she can resume in-person lessons. I can see she's dragging during her classes, and she’s lost the enthusiasm for piano that she once had.  (I can also see how much more work it is for you just to get her to warm up.) I didn’t want to bring it up before because I feared that she would lose the progress she’s made with you.  But now I’m wondering if she’s young enough and early enough in her lessons that she can make up any lost ground easily.  I would just love your professional opinion — especially as I know you are seeing so many children though this bizarre time and you might have some insight on Ella. Many Thanks! — Julia

Dear Julia,

I understand your concerns, and though it probably won't really make you feel any better, almost all parents are having these exact situations with their kids.

First of all, there's no right answer. Kids are struggling. Their online classes are exhausting them in ways that we can only imagine. Even if we're suddenly forced to do our work online, we're adults. We've lived our entire lives in the "normal" world, so we have words for things like Zoom fatigue, and we know even when we can't see another person's body language what it might look like if we could.

All of my students have had days where they have rebelled in one way or another. One mother signed onto her ten-year-old son's Zoom lesson only to confess that he was curled up in a fetal position on the couch in the piano room and refused to stand up.

Another little girl had behaved herself perfectly all day only to announce at 5:15 pm when it was time for her lesson that she simply was not planning to emerge from her room. She was done for the day.

I feel done for the day lots of days long before I'm done for the day.

Kids feel that even more than we do because they don't have an adult's perspective and ability to refile unusual experiences as out-of-the ordinary. They sometimes think that things are their fault when they're anything but.

Second, Ella will be just fine if she takes a break from piano and if she doesn't. It won't impact her life adversely either way, and there's no big master plan that we can all know if we just think hard enough about it. All we can do is guess.

That's what's so frustrating about this period of time. We're all guessing all day long every day.

That said, I also think it's important that we hang in there with our kids. Understanding that while one week they may look like piano lessons are a terrible idea, the next week they may be capable of being inspired and reconnecting with both their teacher and the music which they love. It might be harder than usual, and the ups and downs will be more dramatic, but it's life as usual with children — with the volume turned up. 

Down days can look like doomed days. Up days look like normal days used to look, but we're suspicious of them because we know they may not last. 

My advice is not to give up on the things where children have any chance of real, personal connection with their teachers. In these days when they're forced to be isolated from their friends, distanced from their teachers (many of whom by this time they may not have even met in real life) their connections with people like their beloved piano teachers can be more meaningful, even if it doesn't look like it on some days.

Don't let a week or even two or three that look dreary make you believe that they aren't interested. They might be unable to express interest in anything, so music looks like just one more thing to add onto an already exhausting day. 

Let's try to find a lesson time when Ella has had enough time to let down and maybe do something outside before her lesson. Even fifteen minutes of walking in the trees near your house can help her feel refreshed and ready to try something different. I'd try to do something physical to give her a break from the online day she's already had and see if that helps. We tagged her piano lesson this week onto an already exhausting day that she's just barely getting used to.

Mostly, Julia, just don't get discouraged. It's a sucky time to be a parent. The days are long and the hours seem endless when your kid can't do normal things. But let's not give up right now unless we have a lot more real indication that there's no joy in music for Ella right now. If in another few weeks it seems like there's no happiness, then let's take a break. But for now, let's see if we can reschedule and reconnect her to the music that we know she loves. Sound like a plan?

Love, Diane

Need help teaching online? Check out my latest series of pieces All Cooped Up designed especially to make your job easier and kids happier!

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