I had a colleague comment the other day on a social medial post. I will never forget her quote:
“It’s like doing all the things you don’t love, and none of the things that you do.” ~Bacon
We’re both music teachers in different districts. I haven’t seen her in years, but I knew exactly what she meant.
I was told when I was in college getting my masters, that the field of music lended itself most naturally to authentic assessment. It was a tool the Ed Pyche program was pushing us to advocate using in our careers.
There isn’t a written test or assignment that can show the progress I’m looking for in my class.
When this pandemic started we were told our students did not have access to quality internet at home. We were to prepare packets of paper for two weeks of work to send home. That day I chose to do inventory in my classroom. What was more important than anything was that they had their instruments at home. I threw a packet together explaining how often and how much I wanted them to practice every week and a list of things they should already have to practice. But how could they do any of that without their materials?
The next couple weeks I spent more time doing inventory hoping most had picked up their belongings. I still had a list of students who hadn’t and made calls to each one. Some of them didn’t even know about the parent pick up days because they hadn’t received the phone call. Those parents, I was told, opted out of general announcements and only received emergency announcements.
The next packet I sent home outlined practice methods since I am no longer able to stand next to them while they play. I also included the first paper item they could return. A practice chart. This way they could do something most band teachers require but I never have before. I figure it would reinforce the request to practice. I helped set up the parent pick up tables that time as I had confirmed each instrument that was being picked up could be labeled and left out there this time.
Then we were told a technology survey was being performed and if they were there virtually to teach them. I have tried to line up my paper packet assignments and with my google classroom as much as possible. Google meet does not work for large group ensembles. Students can request a one on one lesson and it does work well for that.
I have created more virtual opportunities for help with practice in SmartMusic. This program is being offered for free through the end of the school year. I have had little interaction with this from students. It comes with its own practicality issues. My students are unable to receive the email to continue enrollment as the district blocks it. They have to use personal emails because of this. The program is not available for use on phones and requires a microphone to submit assignments. Our elementary students were not allowed to take their chrome books home so they do not all have access to the required equipment.
I am trying to figure out how to create a recruiting video for the next years incoming band students. I have asked students for help with this and have received little response. I wanted videos of students introducing the instruments of the band. I’m planning to make another round of calls to the students I think might be willing to help.
I also had an idea to have students send me a recording of them playing their part so I could layer it and have a virtual concert to share. Based on the responses so far I’m not sure this is a feasible goal at this point.
I had a lesson the other day where I realized a student had forgotten how to play eight notes evenly. Then a couple days later it happened again with another. This means these students have been practicing it wrong this entire time.
And then I had a lesson where I couldn’t see her fingers or take her instrument to look at the keys, but I knew it was broken. By the end of the lesson she agreed and realized a couple keys did not move when she pushed them. Coordinating repair is not easy at this point either. I’ve done it many times now. Thankfully our company has continued to offer loaners and been very cooperative.
Every two weeks I continue to pack my home office into my car to copy more packets. I’m not recovering much back.
And now we are told we are grading with an S or a U. Nothing in between. How do you fail kids during a time like this? Is it really their fault? But if I give them all S’s then am I showing this worked when it didn’t? I guess I have many phone calls to make in the near future.