Positive Wins and Lessons Learned Teaching Online

Be Our Guest, Lesson resources, Misc., Musings, Technology, Tips

Earlier this week I asked my email subscribers to let me know how they were doing and to share with me something positive they have learned or experienced during their time of distance learning so far with their students. As happy tears shed from my eyes reading each email, I was overwhelmed by the response and realize very quickly that I couldn’t keep this information to myself. 

I did my best to organize everything into main subjects. I hope you enjoy reading this collaboration of positive wins and lessons learned from music teachers from all around the world as I have…


  • I am learning that I actually am capable of teaching in a video style format. 
  • I’ve learned although I’m technically challenged, I CAN do Zoom and FaceTime. 
  • I’ve learned that I can scan music and assignments from my Notes app, how to use Zoom and set up a daily repeating meeting, I’ve been pushed to record an intro of myself…
  • I’ve enjoyed learning how to teach in a new way. At times it’s overwhelming, but I try to stay positive. 
  • I have learned more about how to utilize technology in my everyday classroom for when we return!
  • I have learned more about digital video platforms in the past two weeks than I have in the whole time I’ve been teaching as I prepare instructional videos for my kiddos.
  • I have learned that my students CAN still progress while doing online lessons. 
  • I have learned how to do zoom meetings so I can still connect with others.
  • Even though newer technology scares me, we are making it work. I know a lot more this week than I did three weeks ago!  It’s going to work okay until we can get back to in person lessons!
  • I was surprised how transitioning to virtual teaching was easier than I thought. It was something I never thought I’d do and now I can see it in my future even when life goes back to normal 
  • This has forced me to learn how to do online lessons, now I will be ready to do make ups and snow days online when things go back to “normal”. 
  • I’ve learned I’m not too old to learn something (or a lot of somethings) new.  I’m doing well, teaching all 38 of my students online using either Facetime, Zoom, Skype or Messenger, whatever works.  
  • In all honesty, I am really enjoying this new adventure. I have learned I CAN do this!!
  • I now have confidence in knowing/remembering how best to set up my ipad stand for camera angles to work best. (The first week I HAD to mark the spot with masking tape – ha ha!). Simple.
  • I started online lessons three weeks ago, and I found that even in my 50’s, I can adapt well, and serve my students!


  • Everyone is pulling for everyone and just being so gracious and forgiving right now. 
  • I feel like I’m a pretty creative teacher, but it is forcing me to think outside the box and ask for help from colleagues when I need suggestions or help. Piano teachers are a wonderful community! 

Continued Connection

  • I’ve been able to connect with some students already who have chosen to check out the music page and say hello. It’s been nice seeing that they are doing well and I’m looking forward to connecting with them as we do this distance learning thing!
  • Two siblings emailed me videos of them playing their piano songs they loved ( Mary Poppins & Tomorrow).
  • I’ve learned that we all need connections. Connections between people, loved ones, friends, teachers and students, neighbors…. even strangers (who become friends)…we need connections! And I’m so grateful for them!
  • I am trying to post videos of different activities and songs for my students to play along with. The students love the video and the interaction when I show them live.


  • No matter how unseemly it feels, the kids love any kind of game played…so giving up precious teaching moments has been rewarding!
  • I have been using your resources and sending them to students in packets. They have been a great extra activity and something for them to do off the bench!
  • Make each week a SPIRIT week with themes-just finished Disney week & moving on to Sports week -seeing the students in Mickey Ears or T-shirts brought joy & gave them something fun to share with me that week!
  • Seeing pictures of how creative the moms have been to set up the device so I can see the students hands and maybe their face, too.
  • I created an incentive program for students to have low-tech, low-data contact with the studio, to keep music in their daily lives and a reason to be at the piano still. It has made a difference!
  • I am making adapted books for my students.

Family and Personal Time

  • A positive thing from this experience is that at least I have more time to be with my two girls and I get to sing and read more with them.
  • I’ve also been happy to spend time with my own kids and be present with them. 
  • Getting yard work done is awesome!
  • I’ve started working out and playing piano again so that’s a big plus!

Finding Humor

  • I learned to put a smile on my student’s face by putting their pass stickers on my forehead! 
  • One positive thing about online piano lessons is no students and their siblings and parents using my bathroom! 
  • I get to see the priceless expressions on my students’ faces as they play. I see joy, silliness, “oops, I made a mistake” and my favorite, pride when they accomplish something!  When I sit beside them or stand behind them, I miss all those expressions that are very telling to how they are feeling about their music and their playing!! It’s been a window into them.
  •  I actually enjoyed not having to clean as much for students coming to the house!

Gratitude and Appreciation

  • My love for my students has been re-enforced during this crazy time.  I miss them so much, but I love being able to see them each week and still teach them.  We are so blessed that we are able to still continue with lessons!
  • One thing I’ve gained is being thankful for technology! Had this happened 10-15 years ago, it would not be as easy to continue lessons online. Today most people in my area have devices and internet in their homes. I have 32 of my 35 students continuing lessons online.
  • I’m just so pleased and feel privileged to keep teaching and actually thriving with online lessons.  I didn’t think an aging gal like me could do it but with all the online help and great manipulatives I’ve collected over the past couple years, I’m able to engage my students and help them continue their piano learning AND keep something familiar in routine and relationship.
  • One positive thing I have learned is that kids do really welcome the presence of THE ARTS in this time!
  • I’m enjoying the positive reinforcement from my studio families about how important I am to them. The response I’ve received is nothing but positive. It is obvious my families feel I am a positive presence in their lives and it’s been wonderful to feel that positive energy! 
  • Parents are so grateful that I am attempting to keep some kind of routine going for their kiddos. 
  • I am so pleased how supportive parents have been through this. Many are much more appreciative of the work teachers do every day after our students have had only 1 week of distance learning . 

Helpful Tips

  • Think of your communication as passing the mic. Only one person can speak at a time.”
  • One other would be giving very specific instructions – play to measure 9 or play m. 9-16 and then stop.
  • I found that a personal phone call to each parent explaining the benefits for their child is what made all of my students stay with me and my on line lessons.  I have had some very good feedback from parents thanking me and telling me that I was right, that it is benefiting their child.  

Helpful Tools

  • Best thing I’ve noticed is when using Tonara, everyone can see who is on the Leaderboard…..so it has brought out a competitive streak in some of my students…AND my adult students! Because of this, ALL my students have been practicing. I guess noone wants to be “that student who doesn’t practice”, lol.  What a great and sneaky tool!  I’ll definitely implement something like this once we go back to regular lessons!
  • I am starting to get more familiar with using zoom and am looking forward to trying it out with my classes next week. 
  • I talk less loudly with earbuds in than if I just use the computer audio.
  • We learned very quickly that we needed to exchange videos in order to hear dynamics in more advanced repertoire. I created a shared google folder for them to upload their larger videos.  They’ve been able to simply text me shorter videos. These videos are so revealing to both to student and teacher.  I love that I can pause and comment, pause and rewind, and give them quick and accurate feedback….I think from now on, I will require video exchange in the two weeks before every performance.
  • One thing that helps me a lot in online Zoom Lessons is to have Keynotes ( power points ) created ahead of time that I can bring up and use as one might use a a white board. I have trouble writing on the Zoom white board with any clarity. Creating clear graphics and samples of a concept or MARK UPS of music ahead of time allows me to communicate more clearly. I simply share my screen and ask them to follow where my arrow is pointing and also lots of check in questions to be sure they are following. So much easier than trying to film my white/magnet board or write on that crummy Zoom Whiteboard.
  • I have learned some new technologies, Like google classroom, and feel pretty good about it! 
  • One HUGE positive outcome from this global tragedy is that I have faced my fears, thanks to your course on online teaching. Out of all of the tutorials I have watched so far, yours resonated with me the most, and me actually feel like I could do it! I have enjoyed making video lessons the most, and am still working out bugs on the real time lessons. I have dipped into new technology, and see what a blessing it really is! We will continue to teach on! Thank you for your generous guidance, and resources!! 
  • I have learned how to use Tonara!!!! All my students are on the app.  I upload videos for them.   I had a contest and some of the students are so motivated by the leaderboard. They are in groups as they are in the studio competing and texting each other and asking me questions. I especially enjoy the teen group. 
  • Marco Polo allows me to send a quick reminder  video after  where they can see my hands more easily, and I think it will be an effective way to send teacher duets or improv backtracks since we can’t enjoy those in real time. 
  • I am very glad that I paid for your course.  I viewed many other free videos to help teachers start their online teaching, but your course is the one that I followed and used.  You gave very valuable and usable information, and I believe that is why my lessons are going so well.  


  • I’ve learned a lot researching Zoom, ideas for online fun, and watching webinars of my favorite teachers
  • I ask more questions instead of doing so much for the students
  • I’ve learned a lot about teaching without contact – through Zoom and Google Meet and have done a lot of professional development workshops online.
  • I teach beginning orchestra and I have learned soooooooo much in the past 2 weeks.   Most of them have to do with computer skills:  All Google skills…..the only thing I had ever used was email.  I’ve learned how to cut, paste, copy and insert.  I’ve joined 4 Facebook Groups.  I made my first ever Video for my kids.  I just completed my 3rd Activity Grid (choice board?)  I figured out how to find all the things I had downloaded over the years which had just “disappeared” on my computer.  I could go on and on.  The biggest thing that I have learned is how serous music teachers are about sharing their materials and ideas and advice.  Thank them all for me!
  • I am loving learning about new technology!
  • I actually think it’s a great skill to hone, teaching online. Having to do this for everyone gives me practice.
  • I am learning a different way to listen to my students. Even though I am watching them on the screen …watching their hands (can see some better than others)  but my ears are really perked up as I am listening to each student play their scales…repertoire etc.  So far…this experience has been enjoyable for me and by the way my students are responding they appear to be enjoying a little change of pace.
  • One thing I’ve learned through all of this so far is your plain ol’ basic: how to use Zoom and Facetime. I’d never used any type of thing like that before (still haven’t used Skype).  I was also happy to learn how to connect a separate device into Zoom to show another angle. Yay!

More Practicing

  • I notice they are much more focused during their lessons, and practicing more!!  
  • I think my students are practicing more than ever. 


  • Time goes faster than ever so having their music in my hands expedites the process by not having them to walk to the camera every time we change a song!
  • Organization was always important but I find I need to be super organized with lessons since remote teaching is “strangely more intimate” in that I cannot really step away and look for something while teaching like I might have. If I look away for a second I will have lost the student. 
  • My best teaching tip is to have all your books and teaching materials ready to go. If you’re using Zoom, take photos of every piece and theory page you think you’ll use that day. That way you can bring them up on the computer screen when you need them.

Practice Environment

  • I now know which kids need a gentle nudge from me to parents when this is over to GET THEIR PIANO TUNED! OR worse yet, get a FULL 88-keys! Ugh…quite revealing…questions I didn’t know I needed to ask! Set your student up for success!!
  • I think a positive thing is learning what our students are using to practice! Gives a new understanding to differences when they come to me.
  • I’ve enjoyed getting to see the students piano/keyboard at home and learned some need tuning or to adjust the height of how they sit.
  • I also know I need to encourage many to get their instrument tuned and a couple need to upgrade out of their keyboard to an acoustic. 
  • The best thing about teaching online is that I’ve gotten to see where my students are practicing. I know who needs to hire a tuner, who is practicing alone in the basement and who has to practice with all their siblings playing in the living room


  • Take care of your voice doing all of the online lessons-you will naturally want to speak louder….be aware.
  • I am also learning that self-care during this time is going to be vital for my physical and mental and emotional stability!


  • I remember watching Mr. Rogers with my kids and how he would always show up with one item that had to do with the lesson of the day. I’ve tried doing this and it works! The little ones are totally engaged and want to know what I will have at each lesson!  Who knew!
  • I didn’t want to teach online so I am sending my students a lot of music sheets online and getting videos from them to let them know where to change places in the pieces.
  •  I’ve learned that I don’t need to recreate the wheel to make this work. Just modify what I already know and do and keep moving forward.
  • Even with just an iPad, I CAN do this! Don’t have all the bells and whistles, but it doesn’t matter…I can see and hear my students. 
  • I believe that we have to keep it simple right now for parents and for the students.  We as teachers are not the only ones who are afraid, and very stressed.  The kids and their parents are too. So, we need to make it a pleasant experience.  If I try to teach too much, I lose their attention. I am doing a combination of videos sent back and forth, and zoom chats. They send me a video of them playing all of their songs, and I evaluate the songs, and take notes on what I want to say. I also, already have planned out their assignments for next week before their Zoom chat. Right at their scheduled lesson time, we have a Zoom chat for 10 minutes. I talk about everything I loved about their performances and I play a little game of some sort with them. Then after we hang up from our video chat, I record teaching videos for each of their songs and send them out.  If I could not pass them on a song, I don’t talk about the negatives during our Zoom chat.  I just teach them in the teaching video how to improve and pass it off next time.  That way, the Zoom chat is positive, short and enjoyable.  I think a full 30 minute Zoom lesson could be a little much. Maybe in normal times, it would be fine, but right now, I think parents and students are feeling a little lost and maybe even ‘on edge’. Keeping up with their piano lessons and having regular appointments and deadlines, helps give them some normalcy and keeps them grounded.
  • My biggest tip in all of this turmoil is to keep it simple. 
  • It’s best to keep things simple because it’s possible to have all the set up/equipment done right and not engage the student! 
  • My lesson learned is that I have to keep it simple and get through less material, but I can make them focus on more in that one song. 

Slow Down

  • I’ve learned that I need to relax, talk slower and take time to breathe while I’m teaching online. Since slowing down and taking time to breathe, I’m still tired, but able to manage my fuller days of 7 in a row or so.
  • One thing I have learned during online lessons is not to cram so much into one lesson and to just slow down to adjust to the student’s pace.
  • Now that that has been going on for a couple of weeks, I am enjoying the slowness of this time.  That is what I’m learning-slowing.  Life was too busy, too much running around, too much on the agenda.  We have been forced to stay in, to spend time in our “shelter”, and even the teaching of lessons through video has slowed down due to just a slight delay because everyone is using the internet.  We are now on spring break, which was a scheduled break from piano, and so I’m looking forward to even more slowing. 

Parent and Sibling Involvement

  • Parents have been great helping their kids.
  • One huge positive me is the parents who are reaching out to show me their children making music at home. Makes my heart soar!
  • Parents & siblings turn into loving in-person student teachers that hold pages, point to notes, & help co-teach my online lessons 
  • Siblings played a duet together ( older sibling on teacher part; younger on student part)
  • Parents are much more involved!
  • My parents are rock stars.  For the most part, everyone has been ready to go when I dial up and some are holding the “camera” and listen in and show me the music, if I need to see.
  • This process is making parents involved in the piano process and everyone has an instrument that is accessible.


A big thank you to everyone who contributed your positive wins and lessons learned! Mary T, Claire C, Dave T, Krista D, Teri B, Lori F, Dawn K, Priscilla H, Christina C, Deboarah S, Jennifer H, Juliana G, Debra D, Kim M, Sharon E, Pam M, Natasha V, Catha M, Donna R, Tiffany M, Sue M, Tessa A, Becca H, Heather B, Angela R, Deirdre S, DB, Juanita S, Diane C, Melissa B, Marla M, Teresa P, Karen V, Amy R, Leigh S, Christina A, Michelle M, Chrissy A, Ruth M, Emlily S, Laura B, Kristi R, Jennifer S, Linda R, Jolynn H, Marie M, Kristine K, Mardi S, Pamela F, Heidi N, Deb F, Kellie M, Donna S, Julie A, Debbie M, Chris M, Diana M, Saundra R, Kelley K, Betsy B, Gillian B, Karen R, Stephanie S, Stephen and Maria, Sharon M, Jo P, Glynda M, Monica L, Anna O, Marti A, Emily F

If you have a positive win or lessons learned that you would like to share, PLEASE comment below. We would all love to hear it! 


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