COVID-19 Overwhelm & Questions

Have you been overwhelmed with advice for teaching during COVID-19? I keep imagining all of us as Harry Potter, when hundreds of Hogwarts Letters were raining down on him from owls. And how, despite all of those letters, he wasn’t able to open a single one. 

I haven’t been in the classroom for years, and even I found myself unsubscribing to countless lists to try to contain my mountainous inbox. I’m betting your experience was even more overwhelming and frustrating than mine. I can only imagine. That’s why, in my last newsletter, I asked the following questions:

  • What can I do to help you during this time? 
  • What questions do you have for me?
  • What is running through your mind as you scramble to create lessons for your students?

I’m going to attempt to respond to some of those questions and concerns today (if I’m able). I’m also going to encourage you to add your own questions and concerns HERE for future blog posts.


Our school is out indefinitely- the unknown is anxiety producing

I’m feeling really worried because I have a one year old daughter and my husband works for the Dept. of Welfare and was just reclassified as “necessary”, so he is at an office with 200 people everyday.

As a minor control freak (what music teacher isn’t), the lack of control in this situation means that in addition to not being able to relax (all my relaxation activities involve travel or human interaction), my stress level is still at “crazy time” school level. As a result, by 4 in the afternoon, I am fried. I sincerely hope we become a more compassionate society at the end of this.

Please know that your feelings are valid. As many have said before, we’re living in unprecedented times. Nothing about our situation is normal. If you struggle with thinking about your feelings as being right or wrong (as I often do), here’s a quote to help shift your perspective:

People really struggle with the question of whether their feelings are right or wrong. Wrong question! Feelings are neither—they just are. Imagine saying that you feel hot. Can someone tell you that you’re wrong? That you’re not feeling hot? Of course not. They might argue that it isn’t hot, particularly if you’re sharing a bed together. But indeed, if you feel hot, you feel hot.

Mel Schwarts L.C.S.W.

So please know that you’re not alone with your concerns. I don’t have any answers, but I do have tools. Multiple research studies show that journaling can have positive effects on your health. You can find some great tips on journaling HERE. Personally, I’m a fan of Penzu, which is a free online journaling app.


I’m NO expert in online teaching. However, I am someone who’s worked from home exclusively for the past five years. So when I have a tech problem, I usually have to find the solution on my own. As a consequence, I’ve learned lots of little tips and tricks along the way, some of which I hope will be useful to you.

The following are some reader questions concerning teaching from home:

Struggling to find music ideas/lessons to send home that are not online – less than 10% of our K-6 school has online access.

Choice Boards

You’re going to get sick of hearing me talk about choice boards by the end of this post, but I love their simplicity. I love the idea of choice boards so much that I created one that can be edited to fit your needs. You can edit each week to include your instructions along with different activities, then print it out (or email it). I also created a Google Slides version that comes along with the download. You can download both for free HERE.

Summer Activity Packet

Several years ago, before COVID-19 was a thing, I created a packet of music activities that could be completed over the summer. My goal was simply to keep students musically active during summer break. If you think this would be helpful to your students, you can find it HERE.

I could use ready-made “cheat sheets” on things like taking a screenshot on various devices, plans with instructions, not just a list of websites, including the hang-ups the kids will experience. I’d love a list of videos of quality YouTube videos of qualified/talented people singing storybooks.

Cheat Sheets

Personally, attempting to create cheat sheets is a frustration of mine as well. I’m a helper by nature, and it’s difficult to provide easy answers without also asking a million questions in return (which I’m sure is aggravating to the recipient as well). For example, I can’t troubleshoot tech issues without knowing what kind of computer a teacher is using (mac or PC), what programs they’re using (Google Slides, PowerPoint, etc.), whether or not they have the specific tools needed for certain jobs (Acrobat Pro, Photoshop, etc.), what browser they’re using (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) and the list goes on.

Thankfully, there are several groups on Facebook dedicated to teaching online during the pandemic and providing a cheat sheet of sorts. In this case, the search function is your best friend. Chances are, your question has already been asked and answered by someone else who has the exact same equipment as you. The groups are easy to join, and welcome all tech-related questions. You can join a group HERE and HERE.

Singing Storybooks

As for talented people singing storybooks, my friend Jennifer from SingtoKids has a fantastic Youtube Channel with several storybooks and lessons for younger students (with new videos each week). You can watch one of her latest videos, “Jenny Jenkins”, HERE. If you join E-Learning in Music Education, they have a thread with 142 suggestions for storybooks on Youtube. You can find the comment thread HERE.

I teach general music/ vocal/ choral. Since my lessons during the normal school year are mostly oral and aural, along with movement , how can I create lessons for my students to send on line? I am not great at technology but can get some tech support from school. Any ideas?

Watch the Experts

This is one of those questions that I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to answer fully, especially when I know there are so many choral/vocal teachers out there who are learning through experience. My friend Dale Duncan has been sharing fantastic videos on how he’s adjusting to teaching choir virtually. You can watch his videos HERE.

Young Kids Submitting Work

How can I create easy ways that the younger kids can submit e-learning work? Especially kindergarten students who cannot read much. I don’t want to burden their parents as well.

You can probably guess how I’m going to answer this one. Yep…choice boards. Choice boards allow flexibility for both child and caregiver. For kindergarten, the easier the better. For example, sing a song out loud to one of your stuffed animals or another toy of your choice. Or ask your parent to sing you a song they remember from their childhood. Just don’t be surprised if your students return next year knowing all the words to the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

How to Easily Create a Choice Board That Students Can Submit

  • Open the choice board in Google Slides (I’m going to use the free template I created for this example)
  • Click File > Make a Copy > Entire presentation > Label the new copy with the date you want it completed > OK
  • Click the Shape Tool > shapes > rectangle > then click and drag to create your shape
  • Click on the shape > Fill Color Tool (paint bucket icon) > Choose Transparent
  • Click on the shape > Border Color Tool (pen icon) > Choose Red (or any other contrasting color)
  • Make sure the shape is still selected > Border Weight Tool (three lines next to the pen icon) > 4px (or larger)
  • Click the shape again, and copy and paste the shape until you have the same number as activities required
  • Drag and drop the shapes onto the top right or left corner of the board
  • Each time a student completes an activity, they’ll drag one of the shapes over that activity, signifying that they have completed it

If you’re looking for something more complex (but still relatively easy), check out this amazing Google Slides presentation that my friend Angie shared in a Facebook Group recently. You can download the presentation HERE.

Submission of the completed work will depend largely on the platform you’re using. With so many different platforms available, I don’t have answers for each one. But again, check the Facebook Groups above if you have any questions. I’ve also found that the online chat/help desks are way more responsive than you’d expect. If all else fails, find the company’s social media feeds and tag them in your question. <– This was how I was able to resolve a Safeshare issue in a single day.