Top Tips for returning to face-to-face piano lessons

Are you one of the many thousands of teachers who are tentatively starting to return to face-to-face piano lessons? Many members of The Community have just started and I’ve been getting some top tips from them.

face-to-face piano

The choice of when to return to face-to-face piano teaching is a very personal one. I decided to stay online until two weeks after my second jab. This will mean that the last three-four weeks of the summer term should see the return of most of my students to my teaching studio. That is if all the available data is pointing in the right direction!

The prospect of teaching the piano face-to-face again is an exciting one although there’s lots to consider before it becomes a reality. I’m really grateful therefore to all The Community members who have shared their experiences to help create this blog.

PREPARING THE STUDIO FOR FACE-TO-FACE PIANO LESSONS

Everyone has a different set-up for their teaching studio so it’s down to you as an individual to work out the best options. It is essential however that everyone carries out a risk assessment. Even if you did one last year it’s worth revisiting in light of the current Government guidelines. Here are some things we think you should consider.

  • Do you have one piano or two? Having two keyboards available makes demonstrating and duet playing a breeze however it’s not feasible for some teachers due to space or cost.
  • Either way, you will need to clean the keyboard regularly. Avoid anything with alcohol as regular use of this will damage the keys.
  • Consider using a one-way system if possible with students arriving at one door and departing through another.
  • If the teaching room isn’t large enough to observe the 2-metre rule invest in a perspex screen. There are many available on Amazon. Here’s a company in the UK called Solo Press that has a reasonably priced perspex screen. Jeni Warder, from Keys Piano School has even found a playful aspect to the screens:

We also have the pop-up screens between all the pianos and one corner has 2 screens at 90* and makes a little box -the children think is hilarious when they get put in “jail”

  • Invest in plenty of sanitisers. You’ll need one at the point of entry, another in the teaching room, one for your own use and possibly one for departure.
  • Cover any surface students will have contact with. A recyclable paper towel (such as used by hairdressers) can be placed on the piano stool for each one.
  • Students should bring their own ‘piano pencils’ to lessons as they will need to continue to write fingering etc. on their music.
  • An alternative is to have an individual pack of resources for every student, each one in its own individual container or bag. Clearly named you can wipe down the container/bag to put it away after the lesson. Melissa Horne suggests:

Each child has a named tin “retro/vintage” with their own name and stickers to contain their own pencil and pens

  • Make it clear to parents that they can’t drop and go. They must remain close by in case of emergencies.
  • Communicate clearly with parents what to expect. For example, make sure the parents know which door to pick up from! Anastasia Cunningham recommends:

Get everyone to sign up to the Covid policies you put in place – at least that way you know they’ve read them!

  • Do some research into a demisting spray. These are being used widely in self-catering accommodation and schools. Angie Tse has been testing a spray called Ramsol:

It’s a non-alcohol biocidal spray (mist/ fog) that cleans the whole room – in 30 seconds, sanitises and kills virus/ bacteria (including Coronavirus).  Safe on skin, hard and soft surfaces.  It’s been used in schools, commercial premises, hotels, airplanes etc.). Having tested it there is no smell, no residue, did not discolour anything, dries extremely fast! BEST of all, it is BRITISH-MADE!

PREPARING YOURSELF FOR FACE-TO-FACE PIANO LESSONS

Back in March 2020 many piano teachers found the initial move to online lessons exhausting. New ways of working are always tiring as new systems are found or remembered. Alongside the joy of seeing our students face-to-face again will come a lot of emotion – prepare to feel exhausted again by the end of your first week!

Here’s a few other things suggested by the Community to look after yourself:

  • Start to do a regular Lateral Flow test. You can have two done per week. For teachers and students in secondary schools, these are already part of their weekly routine.
  • If you teach adult students ask them to also do the test before coming to the lesson.
  • Allow yourself time between lessons to de-mist the room and sanitise the keyboard. Either allow a 15-minute buffer or make lessons 25 minutes long. According to Claire Bowes, parents will understand:

We also reduced lesson time by 5 minutes to allow for cleaning of everything between lessons. This is the only way i could think of scheduling cleaning time without expecting tutors to work longer days. Nobody has objected to this.

  • Buy yourself some hand cream! All the sanitising tends to leave hands quite rough so regular application of hand cream is a must.

DURING FACE-TO-FACE LESSONS

After the first tentative week back teaching face-to-face, I’m sure you will quickly regain your confidence and momentum. Here are some thoughts to help you on the way.

  • Get everyone to wait outside until you bring them in. Open all doors yourself. Clare Spencer uses the following routine:

I will require students to wait outside, until I call them in. Remove shoes, sanitize hands and let me open doors for them.

  • Keep the windows open to allow for maximum ventilation. Given this chilly Spring here in the UK this will probably mean everyone wrapping up warmly with coats and scarves!
  • Maintain social distancing at all times. Invest in some ‘pointy sticks’ so that you can point out features on the students’ music. Here’s a selection from Amazon.
  • Remember at all times that music should not be shared or exchanged. Have something alternative activity ready just in case…
  • Plan to include something attention-grabbing and playful in every lesson. For example, might be one of Sharon’s fun ideas with scales or Sally’s musicianship games.
  • Smile, smile, smile and spend as much time as possible making music!

Finally, Maggie Whitton suggests:

Laugh and jump around. Just cos you can!

 

With many thanks to all The Curious Piano Teachers who contributed to this blog post: Rachel Ramsay, Heather McFadden of Ballymena School of Music, Jeni Warder, Claire Bowes, Melissa Horne, Susan Anderson, Maggie Whitton, Julie Cooper, Anastasia Cunningham, Clare Spencer, Melanie Grieveson, Kelli Stegman, Angie Tse.

This blog post was compiled by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers

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