Lost Dreams Found During the Pandemic

Online Chess Lesson in Progress

The pandemic has been an interesting time for my online tutoring business. Being a full-time in-person (even during this past school year) academic elementary teacher (ten years in New York City and five in Tennessee), I try to keep my online tutoring topics related to my other passions and hobbies, such as piano and chess.

I’ve also been tutoring online since 2012, so I am used to the ins and outs of virtual teaching, and the monthly or so inquiries from new students on those two topics.

About a month into the lock-downs, my phone started buzzing noticeably more with inquiries about taking both piano and chess lessons. Overall, requests increased about 300 percent. In addition, for the first time, people were asking for lessons twice weekly instead of just once.

Also, the number of adults from around the country looking for these lessons increased about 75 percent. Older people expressed a wish to add to whatever they might remember from childhood lessons, and some started these topics from scratch.

Under pre-pandemic conditions, all piano teachers knew the struggle of convincing most families to prioritize music lessons over sports and dance. Certainly, the plight of chess teachers was the same. But since most of those other activities temporarily vanished, the influx continued to grow along with many individuals’ ongoing availability.

I found it both inspiring and touching that introspection led so many to reach out for creative outlets related to the arts to fill their time and perhaps also make previously lost dreams come true. It signifies the fact that there are many interests people would like to visit, but when over-scheduled, they are helpless to do anything about it. Once they “found time”, they recognized this void and took action.

During lessons, naturally I chat with my students and we get to know each other a bit. It’s been sad to see the loneliness in some of the children, who express missing being apart from their classmates and in-person teachers. One seven-year old boy, a chess student in this case, shared how it made him upset when he kept hearing the phrase, “We’re all in this together”. He said, “We are NOT together. That’s the whole problem.” I certainly couldn’t argue with that insight, so I complimented him on his analytical thinking and lent my heartfelt sympathy.

So, during the past year which held all sorts of turmoil, I’ve given numerous piano and chess lessons to adults near the fires in California, those within cities under great duress, and to those under quarantine or in serious lock-down mode.

I’m also a certified life coach, and one particular tool I use, the Balance Wheel of Life. reveals most new clients to be sorely lacking in the “Hobbies” or “Creativity” section. This pandemic uptick in requests shows that people, when given a chance to reflect, are indeed aware of what is lacking in their life without external guidance.

As things have begun to open up, the flow of requests is normalizing, and many no longer can fit these luxuries in their schedules. People are going out and getting busy again; team sports and group activities are back. A more standard work schedule is returning for many. Once again, chess and music will play “second fiddle”.

But I found it uplifting that for that not-so-brief, crazy time, people were looking inside themselves. The passion and need for artistic outlets showed. We can rest assured that the connection to music and creative thinking is still built into our design, regardless if at times it lies dormant or hidden.

It’s just that “time” thing…

Stay healthy and safe!

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