Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

COVID-19 Diaries: How to Look Your Best When Distance Teaching

April 16, 2020

1000w Monitor on stack of books

By Lara Santos

Distance learning: It’s every educator’s new normal during this COVID-19 pandemic. No one looks like a movie star via video conferencing (not even movie stars!), but a few simple adjustments can improve your online image tremendously. I’ve helped produce a lot of videos for different YouTube channels. Here’s what I’ve learned from experience and the professionals I’ve worked with:

  • Camera placement: Raise your laptop or phone up so the camera is looking down on you. A standing desk works well, or stack up those expensive graduate school textbooks, dusty encyclopedias, cookbooks, etc. The pile will be more stable if the books are similar in size.
  • Lighting: It’s important for students to be able to see your face. Hold your online lesson in a setting with either great natural light or a good lamp that lights your face. I love working and doing video conferences in front of my window. Not only does it put nice light on my skin, but it also makes it pleasant for me to look up from my laptop every now and then.
  • Audio: You can’t avoid every connectivity issue or software malfunction when video conferencing, but you can take control of a few things to boost your own audio. You want your students to be able to hear you loud and clear when you’re teaching, so consider your location in your home. Are there children running around in the living room? How about pets? If so, maybe hold your online lesson in your second bedroom, or wherever you can reduce the amount of noise your students hear. Keep doors closed, of course. You might want to buy an external microphone—they are fairly inexpensive and can be used for other media projects in the future.

1000w external microphone

  • Framing: What’s visible behind you? Your students probably aren’t used to seeing you as a person with multifaceted interests who likes to go dancing on Friday evenings, knit on Sunday mornings or play football after school. It’s up to you how much insight you give your students into your personal life, but if you’re worried that a shelf filled with personal items will distract students, keep your setting simple.
  • Appearance: While the last thing on anyone’s mind during a pandemic is what you’re wearing, dressing the same way you would at school may provide a sense of normalcy and routine for both you and your students. Get ready for your online lesson the way you would for going into the classroom.
  • Preparation: You always tell your students to double-check their answers before submitting a test. Now it’s your turn. Tech check first: Make sure your laptop’s speakers, microphone and camera are working a few minutes before your lesson starts so you don’t waste valuable instructional time. Check in on yourself emotionally, too. How’s your mood? What will students perceive about your mental state? Where are your students emotionally as you tackle this online lesson together? Preparation can help ground you as you move from restless stuck-at-home citizen (all of us) into your teacher role.

Teaching right now is a challenge for everyone. Do these tips help you look and feel your best as you connect with students online? Let us know in the comments below.

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