Black Screens

“The expectation will be that you turn on your camera for all Zoom classes”

My virtual teaching experience in the spring informed me that most 8th grade students don’t want to turn on their cameras for zooms.   To combat this in the fall, I made it a classroom expectation from the moment the school year began.  My students were met with the screen below and several verbal reminders during the first week of school that their cameras should be on every time they entered my zoom.  

The reasoning behind this expectation was explained to my students two-fold.  One, healthy social interaction for students has been a major concern since schools closed, and sitting in a virtual classroom staring at black screens isn’t very social.  Second, it is painful to teach black screens.  There is no way for me to tell if the kids are paying attention, should I adjust what I’m doing, or if they are even there.  I selfishly admitted to my students the second reason was all about me and requested they do it as a favor.

The overwhelming majority bought into the expectation and I was one of the few teachers who wasn’t complaining about black screens as we started the school year.  

However, I noticed the hypocrisy in my expectation upon entering a weekly staff meeting.  The moment I was let into the Zoom, I immediately hit the stop video button.  My screen was now black and I was failing to live up to something I was expecting from my students.  As I turned my camera back on, I asked myself how can I expect my students to do something that I am not willing to do myself?  

I could only laugh as I thought about how often we expect things from others, the universe, etc.  but we don’t do those things ourselves.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have given someone advice or an expectation and then turned around and done the exact opposite.

A few examples include me telling my team that 5 minutes early is on time and on time is late but still being late to events, expecting people to not stereotype me but stereotyping others, or telling people to be patient and trust things are in order but losing my patience when things don’t go the way I want. 

Flipping my camera on in the meeting, served as a reminder of the quote

 “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”  

The quote is often credited to Gandhi but it is a shortened version of what he actually said.  I encourage you to research his actual words but the shortened version applies to us as well.  We can’t expect anything from the world if we aren’t willing to do it ourselves.  That includes something as simple as turning on your camera for Zoom.  

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