Updated: Dec 16, 2020
I never wanted to be a teacher.
Okay, scratch that. I think I went through a phase around second grade when I did want to be a teacher.
And... then again, in graduate school, I thought I might one day teach higher level journalism classes.
But, to be honest with myself, I don't have the angel wings necessary to be a good teacher.
The best teachers have the patience of saint (not me).
The best teachers are compassionate and caring (sort of, but depends on my mood).
The best teachers feel a calling to teach (.... *crickets*...)
So in early 2020, to my dismay, I was suddenly homeschooling my three children in 5th grade, 2nd grade and preschool. Wha?!
I do have a type-A need to organize and plan, so I dove in head-first.
We did lessons, we did worksheets, we had a theme every week... I schooled those kids.
What was promised to be 2-3 weeks of learning from home quickly lasted until the end of May.
Summer came and I tried to continue some sort of structure.
We had Math Mondays, Travel Tuesdays, Wacky Wednesdays, Thinking Thursdays and Fun Fridays. We crafted, we created, we studied. We learned writing from authors and drawing from artists ... all online. I was frankly astonished at the amount of resources out there for students to learn.
I couldn't help but imagine what my days at home would have looked like had we been stuck learning at home when I was young. I guess I would have become really good at The Price Is Right. That's all that was available on TV when I stayed home from school.
Fall came and we found out we weren't going back to school for the new year. We scrambled to set up some more stable at-home learning spaces. We bought new computers, headphones and other accessories and hunkered down for a long 'virtual' school year.
My older daughters are in a good routine now, 10 months later. I'm still pseudo-teaching my preschooler. But every day I'm in awe of teachers.
I can't think of another profession that has had to pivot so drastically in such a short amount of time to cope during this pandemic. Some are teaching virtual and in-person classes AT. THE. SAME. TIME. I still don't understand how.
I also noticed that while most teachers are EXCELLENT at explaining topics and answering questions, etc., most are definitely not experienced at being on camera.
If this is how you look on camera, let's talk.
Like most professions that have had to make these massive overhauls to how they work, teachers are focused on their students, which is exactly where your focus should be.
However, the students are looking to YOU to set the tone.
You can put in hours and hours of time making creative lesson plans and loading videos to google classroom, but when you are on a live stream or recorded video with your students, it matters how you look.
Do you look like you are talking to them from your guest room closet? Maybe you are?
Is your lighting bad? Do you look more like you are on facetime with your niece instead of in a professional setting?
Do you cringe when your camera turns on or you hear your voice recorded?
While these things aren't your number one priority, they absolutely have an affect on the message you are sending. I bet your real classroom looks inviting and polished. Does your home office?
How can you expect your students to show up in a professional way if you aren't even wearing pants?
Maybe they can't see you well, or worse yet, hear what you are saying? These things may seem like small potatoes, but they add up to an overall feeling you project to your students.
I reached out to some of my favorite teachers to ask if this was a pain point for them. I talked to current and former teachers, some I had in school and some friends who teach now. I heard the same thing from all of them -- teaching online is a PAIN in general!
Here are just some of the responses I heard:
"Definitely lighting, camera angles (you can only look at your double chin for so long!) and I just hate the way my voice sounds on video!"
"We are taught in undergrad that if we ever have to be on video to ignore the camera and act like it isn't there. And now we are talking to it trying to connect with kids on the other end. "
"I think angles and lighting would be interesting. We are under those awful fluorescent lights that make us look terrible and we have to stare at ourselves all day. Ugh."
"I need help setting up a space when I don't have the space. For my live instruction, when I'm at home there is no dedicated space.... I'm sure the lighting is horrible as well."
"Personally, lighting and video editing have been a struggle. I have purchased a light to attach to my laptop, but it was a big fail."
I know most of you put a lot of time and effort in your virtual classroom and how you appear on camera, but there are some simple techniques that can really make a difference... without spending any money!
Find a location free from distraction that is facing a natural light source. Offer a background that is visually inviting, but not distracting. Use headphones or a microphone for better sound quality. If you don't have either, prop some pillows around your computer to absorb the echo and create a make-shift sound studio. Don't get boxed in to a certain space because "that's where my computer is." Get creative!
Too often, you frame your background with a window. Big no-no. A window creates backlight, which darkens your face. A simple turn toward the light source can make a great difference. This is where your creative space can really pay off. Sometimes a slight shift to put the window behind your computer instead of behind you can make all the difference. Use desk lamps to fill in any other shadows.
Do you ever wonder why people on "real tv" look great, even in HD? It isn't makeup. It is all about great lighting and camera angles. Move your camera up to eye-level and you lose your double-chin instantly. Place a white sheet or paper under your camera and the light will fill in your wrinkles and under-eye circles (we know you were up late loading new assignments!)
These are just a few tips and tricks that you can put into place before you hit record or go live in your virtual classroom. For more, subscribe below!