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An Open Letter to Students and Parents

March 23, 2020

 
Band and Orchestra students - per my previous emails, please enroll in the appropriate SmartMusic class.  AP Music Theory students planning on taking the AP Music Theory exam - please start to utilize the resources I've provided.  Although nothing is mandatory at this point, I do anticipate a shift toward graded distance learning in the near future.  I encourage you to use this time to familiarize yourself with these online resources.  If you have questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me at JRSteve@carrollk12.org.
 
The following letter is from David Pope, Professor of Saxophone at James Madison University.  I share it with you because I agree with him 100% and can't write any more eloquently than he already has.

I miss you and hope that you and your family are doing well.

Best,
Mr. Steve
_________________________________

 

Dear Students,

 

In these difficult times, I wanted to reach out to students everywhere.  While I can't speak for everyone in my profession, I think that many of us are unified in our efforts, and in our concerns.  We are in this together and we will have to collaborate in new ways, but please know that your teachers and professors are thinking about you all the time.

First of all, I have to confess that I despise online teaching.  I got into this profession because I love working closely with individuals and small groups.  One of my former students, Bill Whitney, put it so well when he wrote to me that much of what we do is about "vibe" and "sharing the air" with our students.  I have always politely refused requests for online lessons and encouraged students to instead seek in-person lessons with the best teacher in their location.  Many a morning, I have walked to campus with a smile on my face as I contemplated the teaching ahead.  I love my work and I am devastated to lose this wonderful piece of my life for the foreseeable future.  The sense of loss is almost unbearable.  I can only be grateful that I can continue to work from home and that my financial security is in place, at least for now.

As much as I hate the idea of teaching online, we all have a responsibility to give you the high quality teaching that you deserve.  It isn't going to be the same, but we will find ways to connect with you.  I'm working hard on selecting readings, making listening lists, and planning short video presentations to augment our online lessons.  In some ways, we will cover areas that we haven't fully explored before.  I am thinking every day about topics that I have always wanted to approach, but didn't have time because we were so busy preparing for performances, recitals, and juries.  This can be a truly unique opportunity to do something different that is just as valuable as our usual routines.

I am also very focused on avoiding any "square peg"  substitutions.  If it doesn't make sense, or if it isn't working, I won't do it.  I am not going to go through the motions.  Our interactions will be precious from now on and I want to give you valuable content and instruction.  I am also very aware that everyone has a different situation at home.  I am going to be as flexible as possible.  If you have extenuating circumstances, be sure to tell your teachers.  We are here for you, but we aren't mind readers.  Tell us about your specific situations so that we can help.

This was the toughest year on record for mental health issues among students.  We are all thinking about mental health right now, including our own!  This isolation is going to be hard on us.  Patience and kindness are more important than ever.  (Remember that many of your teachers are trying to do all of this while caring for our own families, and in many cases, home schooling our own children.)  Try to have a schedule,  to set goals, and to do your work.  If you can safely go outside, get some fresh air every day.  Try to eat well and exercise.  Also, make time to do things that you love.  Read that book that you have been putting off.  Watch your favorite movie.  Listen to the music that makes you feel deeply.  Take time to contemplate, but try to avoid cycles of worry and anxiety.  I'm going to have to try to follow my own advice on this one!

Humans are pretty amazing.  Our ability to adapt has made our species so successful.  We will get through this, and I fully expect that I will learn things in this period of online teaching that will make me better when we return to in-person meetings.  Until then, please know that while this isn't going to be the same, we will make the most of every situation.  No amount of reading blogs and taking webinars is going to make me a master distance teacher in the coming weeks, but I am going to do my very best because it is what you deserve, and that is my promise to you.

With love and respect,

David Pope
Professor of Saxophone
James Madison University

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