School is out, so stress levels go down, and schedules lighten….right? Not really. At least, not for teachers that continue to teach in those lazy, hazy days of summer. It can be a unique challenge to maintain student progress when schedules are in flux. Teachers are tasked with planning the curriculum around a long string of vacations and stay-away summer camps, or forsake progress until the fall. While I do not recommend remote lessons for more than two consecutive months, they can be valuable for shorter absences of three to four weeks as students are trying to maintain consistency and forward progress in lessons. Nevertheless, logistical concerns abound. Here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have the right candidate for a flipped classroom scenario? – While age is usually a good indicator of student independence, maturity knows no age limitations. Whether the student is an adult or a small child, the student must manage their workload or have a parent/guardian that can ensure projects and assignments are completed on time. They should be a self-starter, and reliable. Capable students are those that generally show up on-time, and with a consistent level of adequate preparedness from week to week.
- Does the student have technological skills commensurate to the task? – much of this is going to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but a student that can use a recording device and upload a video to the web usually has sufficient techno-smarts to succeed in a remote classroom setting. If your student has difficulty checking their email, this might not be the best option for them.
- Will they have access to their instrument and does their housing have noise restrictions? – The first one seems like a no-brainer, right? Not really, make sure your student is going to have the same access to their instrument they would normally have. The idea is to sustain the level of progress from a remote location. This requires the student to practice as much as they normally would. Along the same lines, ask your student about their accommodations. Will they be staying in a hotel? If so, students should be mindful of noise restrictions and tenant complaints. I was travelling around for grad-school auditions a few years ago and tried to practice in my hotel room leading up to my audition. Not five minutes later, I received a call from the front desk saying they had complaints about “really loud music”. Now, I was practicing my cello with a heavy-duty mute, not blasting Kendrick Lamar. That was the end of that. If practicing at your summer abode is not an option, you will need to secure an additional practice space.
- Will they have access to the internet? – The concept of flipping the classroom relies on access to technology. Be mindful of this when formulating a plan for your student. Many summer homes are purposefully “unplugged”. If this is your student’s situation, they will need access to a data plan. Remind them to be aware of data usage. If you are using Skype or Facetime, be aware that it can drain your data quickly. If increasing their data plan is not an option, consider planning your information sharing through email or Youtube.
- Are YOU willing to do extra planning and work? – The remote classroom requires an extended level of preparation. In addition to logistical considerations, consider how you will disseminate the information you would normally discuss in-person. How does that change your delivery? Will you be preparing videos or presentations in advance? Will your student be able to see and hear what is necessary to learn a concept? Do you have the equipment you need? Consider the amount of work you will need to do in addition to traditional lesson planning and determine in advance if this is the best option for you and the student.