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« Strengthened by our experience of the first lockdown, how are we going to approach the third act, in conditions which are different for continued school activities, with some having in-person activities? What can we learn from this rather difficult and constraining situation? After feeling strongly disappointed when the second lockdown was announced, which led to the cancellation of my concerts, I wonder how we can work and strengthen the sense of our mission as teaching musicians.
As a teacher of the clarinet class at the Clermont-Ferrand Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional (CRR) for 25 years, I would like to share some examples of my teaching experience since the lockdown. »
"When it comes to making someone learn something, it is not a matter of carrying out an action but of establishing a relationship first." (Martine Chifflot)
« During the lockdown in March 2020, unaware of the spread and effects of this disease, I wished to pass on to my students most of what I knew, in case I died from Covid 19. Educational commitment has become more essential than ever due to the relationship with the student and the teaching conditions.
► The telephone has been my main communication tool. Some students were in areas with a weak network or little computer equipment. The poor quality and numerous interruptions of the video were resolved by using mobile or fixed telephone calls (which emits less harmful waves and frees up the computers mobilised by parental teleworking). Listening allows the message to be more well-received, as video calls create the possibility of distraction due to visual stimuli. The listeners concentrate more to the audio message and its meaning. Without the image, the student is listened to more attentively, they play longer, and they become more aware of what they are playing and producing. They become more of an actor, explain what they are going to play, how they have worked, and take charge of the session. The student receives more of the teacher’s undivided attention. Completing written reports and homework allows both the student and teacher to improve their analytical and writing skills which allow opportunities for growth and analysis from both the teachers and students. This other temporality is a time for improving these skills.
Musical learning has revealed its true nature: a moment of construction of the person and the acquired knowledge, enriched by the real pleasure of learning, even before worrying about the result.
► In addition, courses taught by video calls were very useful, especially for the younger students, who need visual examples and important postural corrections.
► The videos made by the students (for the 3rd cycle amateur exams or external competitions) allowed a better mastery of the tools and an objective awareness of their performance and image. All this has generated a lot of work, progress, motivation, and exciting exchanges.»
« Multiple connections have been forged or strengthened with parents, colleagues and the institution.
The relationship with the parents was improved because of their awareness of our profession and our pedagogy during this period. Some parents extended the course with a conversation, and these exchanges helped create new opportunities and dialogues.
We discovered the learning conditions of the students (a fellow pianist noticed that their student was playing on a piano tuned half-step below the norm). Some play in spaces with too much echo and reverberation, which wears out their ears and their surroundings. In fact, I addressed the topic of hearing protection and listed acoustic solutions (absorbent materials, sound curtains, anti-vibration mats, mutes in the bell, etc.).
We had discussions with our colleagues about our doubts, about the conditions of de-confinement, in accordance with the sanitary protocol. The teachers' association of our conservatory has taken a position on the practicalities of enforcing these when school resumes.
Since the start of the school year, our teacher meetings organised by discipline have focused on the assessment of our experience and on teaching conditions, with a view to a possible second lockdown. Our classrooms are equipped with a computer and, more recently, with a webcam and an I.T. team to ensure that we are able to provide a distance learning approach in our workplace.»
« When classes resumed at the conservatory, the protocol of the sanitary rules was very strict and stressful for everyone. During the first lessons, the students were very intimidated, and we no longer dared to look at each other through the plexiglass panel and the distance that separated us. Yet we were so happy to meet "in person". I could see how much the students had missed the spontaneity and energy felt in real time and the pleasure of playing together. It is impossible to replace this lively, warm, and concrete atmosphere. However, it will be important to find sufficient replacements which we will try to use during this second lockdown. The content, the methods, and the culture transmitted can be modified during these difficult learning conditions, but the essential thing is to put the pedagogical relationship at the centre of our teaching.
Philosopher Martine Chifflot poignantly reminds us that:
“The teacher is the one who accompanies the child. This accompaniment is at all times. He/she reassures by driving on the right path. He/she embraces the contours of difficulties. He/she is alert and concerned about others.” (Autorité et Pédagogie, 2018)
The fact that we had not attended any of the courses “in the presence” of others, or had no concrete links, made us realise just how important this is. It is this immediate, personalised and attentive feedback that the student expects from the teachers, and this can never be totally replaced, even by the best YouTube tutorials. The student also becomes aware of the importance of art and, more broadly, of culture. It is this universal Culture that connects them with Humanity in its most positive aspects.
The loss of socio-affective bonds can lead to isolation, dropping out, abandonment, fear of action, passivity, and despair. Our human ties have been strengthened to adapt to these new conditions, and this is our greatest enrichment.»
A new experience
« For this second lockdown, conditions will vary, with students in flexible classrooms and those in the 3rd cycle perhaps being in-person while others will experience different forms of teaching.
Here again, students and teachers will be in the same restrictive situation and will have to respect imposed rules. Strengthened by our experiences, we can create and invent new ways of working (improvisation, oral memorisation, invention, etc.) and technological resources (WhatsApp group in the classroom, school software, such as the Chabriette at the Clermont CRR, etc.) while maintaining our pedagogical objectives and good methods.
To alleviate an anxiety-provoking situation, we can encourage students to improvise more, to express themselves, or to invent. This release of feelings can be an outlet or a way of self-expression, conscious or not.
In order to maintain morale and school spirit, it is possible to:
- Create a mentorship between younger and older students so that they can exchange and give each other advice.
- Create a WhatsApp group of the class, make appointments to listen to each other like an online audition on YouTube.
- Stay connected through a love of art (offer the group their favourite song, favourite artist, a contemplated landscape or their animal mascot, etc.).
- Create interclass projects, rehearse (through video editing and multitracks).
- Listen to the concerts of the teachers of the conservatory's season, which are livestreamed or available online.
If the students signs up for future classes, it is because we were able to maintain an exceptional relationship with them and they realised that: "One can live without music… but not so well", as Jankélévitch wrote. We have the opportunity to bring happy moments to our audiences because of our passion for music.
I hope to be able to go through this period positively to transform this difficult situation into a new pedagogical experience that is sufficiently rewarding, both humanly and artistically.
I hope that we can share our different approaches among fellow musicians. I would like to thank Maison Selmer, and more particularly Stéphane Gentil, for having asked me to give this testimony. »
October 30, 2020