Sunday, January 2, 2022

The New Year's Dilemma

The 8 days between December 25 and January 1 are a paradox of adding and subtracting. They start with a festival of giving and getting, prodded by endless promotions for things we may not need but surely must want. They end with tips for getting rid of clutter, especially things we may have wanted but never needed. It's the pushmi-pullyu of holiday seasons.

Out with the old and in with the new, as though the old is always inferior and the new always a major improvement. No doubt, there are new and improved items and ideas that come into our lives, and we embrace them. They are advantageous, unmarred, efficient, and just plain fun. But what about the tried and true aspects of our teaching lives? Do they need to be whisked away with the old year?

When I read what other teachers are considering for their studios as the old year passes, I sense the familiar judgments creeping in. There are the "I shoulds" and "I need tos" in the conversation. Maybe these are key motivators for enduring the dark months of the teaching year, and that is fine. What I encourage teachers to do is to list what works
as a healthy foundation for building in new ideas.

Let's face it - it's been a hard two years for teachers at all levels. For those unacquainted with technology beyond the basics, the learning curve has been steep. And those who did their very best to maintain all aspects of their teaching, regardless of how difficult that was, adding even more can be daunting. What goes? What stays? What gets added in?

Perhaps a better question is: what gets reconfigured? During the height of online teaching, I made the decision to drop paper and pencil theory because it was too difficult for both teacher and students. Instead, I used every opportunity to examine current assignments for theoretical concepts. I also went to simple tools like flash cards that could pop up on students' screens without problems. Theory didn't go away. It got reconfigured.

I also worked with Piano Moves: A Student Companion ( as a way to approach technique online. While I rarely put my hands on my piano students to teach movement, even those few opportunities to do so were lost in the ethernet. This was a replacement that worked very well. No hands-on required. I didn't lose the value of teaching movement. I reconfigured it.

If you are feeling the cultural pressure to do something brand new at this time of the year, I recommend that you start by assessing what already works. Give yourself a pat on the back for implementing useful approaches in your teaching. Then look at whether you need to eliminate clutter from your teaching, add new ideas, or simply reconfigure what is already good.