Don’t Tone Yourself Down in Virtual Meetings3 min read
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You log in to your virtual classroom and with a thunderous joy you tell your students how excited you are to see them, and all you hear in response is a cricket in the living room of one of your students who forgot to mute his computer.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of virtual teaching is the disconnect not sharing physical space with your students creates. There is something inherently awkward about being passionate and energetic behind a computer screen, but not receiving any passion and energy in return. Part of the reason virtual teaching is so hard is that you can’t read the room the way you can in person. You can’t hear the laughs at your lame jokes, watch kids lean in during good stories, or see them smile when they make a connection with what you are teaching.
Of course this happens in a physical classroom sometimes. You get enthusiastic about something and your students just stare at you like you’re a piece of artwork they don’t understand. But at least in person, you can spot one or two kids out of thirty who are amused, and those small smiles can give you the boost you need to keep moving forward. However, in a virtual classroom, your students’ screens might not even be turned on, or their microphones are muted, or they’re just another square in a grid of thirty of them, or they’re sitting in a living room with family members around and they don’t want to show emotion.
It’s hard to put yourself out there and get nothing in return.
This can lead to the teacher ‘toning themselves down’ because there’s no payoff, thereby bringing less energy and enthusiasm to the virtual classroom. Not because you are out of energy (although it’s understandable if you are), but because it’s hard to put yourself out there with no reciprocation. Let me just tell you, as silly and awkward as it may feel sometimes, your passion and authenticity are what your students need right now. You might not always get the response you want or need, but that does not mean your students are not connecting with you. It just means you are not seeing the evidence of the connection in the same way as before.
However, trust the fact that just because there is a pandemic, kids still gravitate towards passionate people. Just because they are doing school from online, they still role their eyes in an endearing way when you drop a stupid pun. Just because they may not laugh out loud, doesn’t mean they don’t think you’re fun.
Don’t tone down; tone up.
Your students need you right now. They need the person who got into the education field because of a passion for them. Your kids want to smile during a pandemic, and get excited about the subject matter of your class. So while it may be more difficult transferring passion and energy through a computer screen, we need to do it now more than ever. What you’ll find is that the more you resist the temptation to tone yourself down, and instead ‘tone yourself up, bringing extra enthusiasm to overcome the virtual chasm, the more your students will match that tone and energy that you bring.