Lara Duncan is a young country singer who teaches vocal training. As we talk, I can hear the “on hold” music of Centrelink in the background as she tries to register for the JobKeeper payment.
The move to online working over the past three months has been more difficult for some people than others. For those who teach the performing arts, adapting has been particularly challenging. As Duncan says:
“The shift online has been really hard.”
“It involves a lot more planning, and a lot more work to try and adapt the classes so they can be done without us [sitting] next to the students, guiding them along.”
Like many teachers, she has embraced Zoom, but has struggled at times with teaching digitally.
“I’m not great with technology for someone my age,” she laughs. “But the kids that do want to keep learning are pushing themselves, which makes the work I’m doing that much easier.”
Some of the studios Duncan works for have shut down, or lost many of their students. Which is why she’s hanging on the phone to Centrelink.
The dance teaching community has created digital workshops for students who are missing their regular dance training.
However, performing arts that involve physical movement have found the shift to online teaching especially difficult.
Kirsten Auditor, a dance teacher from the NSW Central Coast, says: “Honestly, I feel like online teaching is even more exhausting than in person.
“We have to be 100 per cent on 100 per cent of the time to keep the kids engaged, and that can be really hard.”
Auditor adds: “Available space also makes things difficult, as lots of the kids are dancing in their bedrooms and can’t really go as full out as they would in the studio.
“But the determination of the students to continue their training is really admirable and makes me really proud as a teacher.”
Amber Virtue, a Sydney drama teacher, believes the online learning platforms created for performing arts helped to relieve the tedium for students stuck at home.
Before schools returned to face-to-face learning, she says, drama was “important to continue delivering to kids sitting in front of laptops all day … It offered them a fun, creative break from their studies.”