Tired of COVID-19 yet? As much as we’d all like to get back to normal, this virus continues to be a moving target.
Are you wondering how to proceed, considering the constantly evolving situation while being cautious and putting your and your students’ health and safety first?
What are your questions? Is it safe to teach in person? Without masks? Is it safe to plan recitals in person? Group lessons?
These questions are as relevant in a post-vaccine world as ever.
The truth is, the largest segment of the unvaccinated population worldwide is children. As vaccine rates climb, governments are making decisions to open up even as new strains of the virus continue to circulate widely, which leaves the youngest of our world completely vulnerable.
Young children are not immune. Children contract COVID-19, they get sick, they spread the disease to others, and yes, sadly, children can die.
As piano teachers, professionals who normally teach children, what can we do?
The truth of vaccines
First, get vaccinated.
It has been shown that the Covid-19 vaccines do several good things: the more who are vaccinated, the fewer people catch the disease, the fewer get sick, and even fewer end up critically ill in hospital or in the ICU or die, and the more workplaces can get back to [some kind of] normal.
However, vaccines only curtail Covid-19, they don’t prevent it completely. Vaccinated people might not get as sick, but they can still catch Covid-19 and can still spread it to others. Those others may also spread it further. Down the chain of spread someone may not be vaccinated and may become critically ill or worse. You don’t want this someone to be a child or elderly adult student who is in your professional care.
Small studio space
If your studio is too small to accommodate staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from your students, please continue to teach online. Even speaking releases droplets, which contain the COVID-19 virus. Even masks in this situation wouldn’t be much help.
Because of the time spent in close proximity to students in a small studio, the risk of exposure would be too high to teach in person.
Students’ homes (Itinerant teacher)
At this time, this is the highest-risk teaching set-up for the teacher. When you teach in students’ homes, you have no control over:
- the cleanliness of the homes.
- the distance you are able to keep during the lesson, home to home.
- who is in the home at around the time of the lesson, and how many other people to whom they have been exposed.
Itinerant teachers must also consider the added risk to the students with a teacher who travels home to home. It is simply not advisable to teach in others’ homes in a global pandemic. Please consider continuing to teach online.
Music school or academy
This teaching set-up poses a number of interesting challenges.
Is the waiting area big enough to accommodate distance between those who need to wait? How many different families must cross paths or occupy the same space before the air can clear? Is there a posted limit on the number of people who can be in the waiting area at any given time?
Are the instruction rooms large enough to accommodate 2 metres (6 feet) of distance between the instructor and the student? Is there a posted limit on the number of people here?
At this time, if proper accommodations cannot be made, it would be wise for music school owners to invest in fast internet and the technical infrastructure to enable online teaching.
Large home studio
If you have a large home studio and live with a family that doesn’t mind the risk of exposure to multiple people, you might consider teaching some or all of your students in person. (*Caveat: this option is applicable only if you have official direction from your government.) It is wise to follow these conditions on indoor activities:
- screening for symptoms (with the understanding some students may feel fine but still carry COVID-19)
- staying 2 metres (6 feet) apart from people not in your bubble
- no touching or sharing of materials
- continuing to wear masks, at least if the student is approached and perhaps for most or all of the lesson
- cleaning in very specific ways
- giving time between students to let any suspended droplets (from speaking) fall out of the air
- no singing
If you have the luxury of teaching in a large studio space, you may want to divide your studio into different groups of students:
- students who can listen to guidelines and follow rules. These students can sit still at the piano, limit what they touch, and respect wearing masks if and when this is needed. Consider teaching these children in person.
- students who can’t contain their energy, may touch multiple things in your house, may run into your house at large and make you chase them, or touch their faces, cough into their hands, pick their noses, etc. Consider continuing to teach these children online. The risks are simply too high, even if you have a large studio space.
- students with underlying health conditions, adult students who fall into a high-risk age demographic and children not eligible to be vaccinated. Consider continuing to teach these students online.
Is it safe to plan ahead for recitals in person?
At this time, COVID-19 is so changeable that it would seem to be impossible to plan in advance for a recital in person.
There is often news of gatherings in which there were a few unvaccinated in attendance who had COVID-19. The story follows the same arc: after the event dozens become sick, including children.
Because it seems to be an unpopular idea to ask for proof of vaccination, the only responsible decision that piano teachers can make at this time is to continue to hold recitals online.
Consider the guidelines
Are you following the guidelines set out by public health and your government? Have they mentioned piano teaching specifically? If you have the go-ahead to begin teaching in person again, remember this directive usually comes with the conditions listed above.
Because piano teaching is not considered an essential service and it is possible to keep teaching piano lessons online (whereas it isn’t possible to keep most of the rest of the economy going online), it may help the overall situation for music teachers to voluntarily keep teaching from a distance, online. Because music teaching can be online, maybe it’s best to keep it online.
Teaching piano falls within a grey area in the economy. Yes, we run small businesses. But does this mean that we should follow guidelines set out for other small businesses, like the guidelines for hairdressers? The fact is that we are also in the field of education. This involves small children. So, should our decisions fall in line with what school boards and daycares decide to do?
And what if government and public health make decisions based on adult vaccine numbers, not considering the vulnerable population of unvaccinated children? I’d encourage every private music teacher to at least follow public health guidelines and if you don’t feel they go far enough to protect children, make your own decision to take measures to keep them safe.
Question from a reader: I am curious if you know anything on the vaccine passport thing! It lists Music Lessons as non-essential, thus requiring a passport. But…. I’m not sure if it [pertains to] private in-home 1-on-1 lessons. They don’t go into detail. I’ve had several students ask. ~ Gina Potvin, NS. Answer: [Disclaimer: My answer is opinion only.] This is a great question! In Nova Scotia, my home province, our government is implementing a “proof of vaccination” policy. Piano lessons are listed as non-essential, so they fall in the category of activities that require proof of vaccination. This means that for a piano teacher to teach in person, we, as well as any person eligible to be vaccinated, must show their vaccination print-out. Following school policy, children who are not vaccinated may still be taught in person, depending on the comfort level of all concerned and with extra precautionary measures. Remember early in the pandemic when some were questioning whether mandatory masks were an infringement of personal rights? In time we got used to wearing masks as a symbol of protecting one another’s health. I expect the same will happen with vaccine passports. Being ready and willing to provide others with your COVID-19 vaccine record is a sign that you’re a team player and that you’ve got others’ backs.
Waivers and liability
Is it advisable (or enough) to ask parents and students to sign a waiver?
Waivers have questionable legal weight, and may not protect you. For example, if you are following public health directives to a T, you shouldn’t need a waiver. The legal responsibility falls on the government making the decisions.
If you aren’t following public health or the government’s requirements and try to use a waiver, it won’t protect you. If you are worried about waivers and liability, it might be best to teach online.
Accepting what is
We are living in this COVID-19 Period.
There is not going to be a deciding flip of a switch when we can all collectively revert to the way things were in December 2019.
There may be moments of respite, temporary easing off of restrictions, but for an extended, undefined period of time it is likely that it will be necessary to make accommodations for COVID-19, making sacrifices big and small in order to protect ourselves and those around us from the worst.
This post is my attempt to help us see past the vaccine numbers and to understand why it’s important to protect unvaccinated children. If governments unwisely decide to ease restrictions based only on adult vaccinations, it’s up to us to remember that children matter!
Please remember that together we can make personal decisions to create a human buffer zone around children to protect them. Make policies in your piano studio to keep the children in your life safe.
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I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching! ❤
Video of the Week
When Puppy has to Stay (Early Intermediate, Level 3). Here’s a piece about a puppy who has to stay at home and wait when the rest of the family is away. Young pianists may relate to how the puppy feels! Sometimes we miss our special people and want to see them again! The eSheet comes in two versions! With larger notes and lyrics and a streamlined version without lyrics. Want this piece? Check out the studio-licensed eSheet of When Puppy has to Stay in my shop!