Retiring from full-time church music at the end of 2016 gave me the opportunity to open a small piano studio for beginning and intermediate students. During the pandemic I have transitioned to weekly online lessons for one student and occasional lessons for another. I am in awe of the ways HMTA members have adapted their studios to accommodate and continue to offer excellent instruction. The HMTA September meeting provided inspiration, hope and a great deal of helpful information.
“Come quick!! I can see his bone!!”
My older son was calling to us from the top of a tin-roofed shed, where he was sitting with my 7-year-old son, who was badly injured. For a few moments I sat frozen to the chair I was sitting in, hoping that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. It was. He had split open his shin on the razor-sharp edge of the roof and the wound was deep. Definitely needed stitches. Fast-forward to 1 month later and thankfully he is all healed up, and back to climbing!
But the simple truth is that growing up is hard. Pursuing new adventures and climbing to new heights can be painful. Growth is hard. It’s easier--and safer--
to keep things just as they are. Sometimes we resist it, or try as hard as we can
to ignore it. Sometimes we can feel frozen to our chairs.
When, as a collective society, have we been called to grow in the way that we have in these past several months? Since quarantine began in March we have been forced to change, learn, adapt, and evolve. Let’s all admit it--it’s been painful. The death toll has been shocking, and grievous.
Additionally, there have been job losses, schools canceled and most of us are wrestling with new vocational realities. The simple task of mask-wearing can feel like a sweaty chore. Those of us with kids at home have a new kind of juggling to do while balancing work. In contrast to our chaotic household, I can only imagine how lonely single people must feel, quarantining at home alone.
And of course, as teachers, we are called to grow. If we stay rooted to our seats--frozen in fear--we will lose our student base and income potential. However, moving into a technology-rich experience for some of us feels like an uphill climb. So many new skills to learn!
These past several months I have felt overwhelmed, annoyed, angry, weary, and sometimes, simply lost. At times the same feelings are mirrored in my students’ faces through the laptop screen. We are all learning as we go. However, there is hope to be found: in a lesson that goes surprisingly well, a student’s laughter, a parent who expresses their gratitude in a heartfelt email, a method book completed.
It is in times like these that I am grateful for researcher, writer, and professor Carol Dweck, and her crucial principle of Growth Mindset. According to Dweck,
“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
A growth mindset establishes that everything we already know has the potential for additional growth and development. Conversely, a fixed mindset is based on the belief that we are limited by what we know already; our knowledge, intellect and gifts are already set. Fixed.
How do we apply this valuable principle on a moment-to-moment basis as we grapple with the ever-changing realities of a global pandemic? One concept that I find refreshingly applicable is in Dweck’s recommendation of applying 2 words:
These tiny words provide a powerful reminder that we may not know how to do this particular thing - yet. The word yet imbues a challenge with enormous potential, and the narrative changes from an “I can’t do it!” tantrum, to a world of possibility. Here are a few examples.
“I don’t know how to share my screen on Zoom.”
A growth mindset re-writes the narrative to:
“I don’t know how to share my screen on Zoom . . . yet.”
This second option means that I have the opportunity to give myself the gift of learning. I have time to learn this; who can I ask? Is there be a simple answer online, perhaps a YouTube tutorial?
“I don’t know how to create a WhatsApp recital.”
Actually, “I don’t know how to create a WhatsApp recital . . . yet. I will learn. I can do this!
“I don’t know how to use the notation software NoteRush . . . yet.”
“I haven’t hosted a FaceBook Live Event . . . yet.”
The word “yet” takes us from the debilitating place of “I can’t,” to an exhilarating “I can and I will!” Don’t we all need some more of that, right now?!
The kind of changes we are experiencing these days are truly unprecedented; at times we ache right down to our bones for the ways that we are being cracked apart and forced to learn and evolve. We certainly are being forced to adapt, and grow. Hopefully, in the future, we will feel grateful for the new technological skills we’ve absorbed.
I for one have learned to embrace many of the realities of online teaching. For instance, without this unique experience, I never would have bought a new recording app called A Cappella and collaborated on some small projects (or recorded Heart ‘n Soul for 8 hands, all by myself!)
Let’s not sit frozen to our chairs in fear. Let’s learn new online skills and continue to give ourselves permission for growth in the mantra, “not yet.”
As for my son, his stitches are out, his leg is all healed up and he’s climbing higher than ever.
Kathryn Koslowsky Schmidt
Canadian pianist, Kathryn Koslowsky Schmidt has a DMA from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver). She divides her time between teaching, gigging and parenting her 2 wild boys in Harrisonburg, VA.
Anddd we have a blog!
Very excited to be able to have this space for HMTA members and local community members to share thoughts relating to modern music teaching, encouraging students, inspiring artistry, and navigating issues that we all face.
In this unprecedented time of online instruction, virtual interaction, and electronic and tech creativity, there has never been a better time to share and communicate practical and inspirational tips with our colleagues and peers!
What relevant topics would you love to see discussed on the blog? Drop us a line if you'd like to be a contributor!