Let’s just cut to the chase—2020 has been an extremely tough year thus far. And we’re only a quarter of the way through.
With the swift shift to remote learning, educators and education entrepreneurs alike are quickly learning that trying to replicate what happens in classrooms on an online conference call comes with a lot of ups and downs. It’s not at all an easy shift to make overnight, particularly for those who aren’t used to sitting on a computer recording or listening to lectures.
Heck, I don’t even like doing that.
But in the midst of all of this, we’re learning and experimenting together on how best to engage and motivate students and teachers online. And along the way, we’re experiencing small moments of brevity that remind us that—despite how disconnected we may feel physically—we are still all very commonly human in our shared foibles and creative approaches to the unique challenge.
As such, after chatting with educators across the globe, I’ve selected my ten favorite moments from the current world of virtual teaching—ones that demonstrate both the hilarity and humanity of this moment in time.
1. Pants-less incidents seem to be trending in the virtual world.
“The partner of a teacher walked past the Zoom meeting wearing just his underpants! Yep, he had no pants on. Hence, I told my class to make sure everyone in their house is wearing pants! One turned up in his pajamas today…”
— Lisa Hayde, Year 6-8 Teacher at St. Pius School (Melville, New Zealand)
2. Struggling to keep kids engaged? Shave your head.
Dan Adler. Photo credit: Dan Adler.
“I held a virtual class today and shaved my head on it. Well, more specifically, my wife shaved my head... It was my second Zoom class, and I was trying to think of ways to encourage my students to come to ‘class.’ I also canceled my haircut last week because I didn’t think it was essential. So, I thought, ‘I have too much hair, and I want to give kids something to come together and laugh about.’”
— Dan Adler, 6th Grade Science Teacher (Lawrence, Mass.)
3. Letting the students control their online narrative is key.
“My son logged into his first zoom session with his other Kindergarteners, but dressed up as Miles Morales [from ‘Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse’]. My daughter was dressed as Elsa [from Frozen]. They were like, ‘This is our moment!’”
— Eric Rodriguez, chief of staff and former manager of education initiatives program at Intel (Phoenix, Arizona)
Eric Rodriguez’s son dons his Miles Morales costume to class. Photo credit: Eric Rodriguez
4. Make sure your volume is off when you intend it to be. Like, really off.
“I was in a virtual meeting with our instructional team today. My son starts yelling a question from the other room, and I make a face... Three seconds later, my daughter quietly says, ‘Shut up, Andrew,’ followed by laughs from my colleagues. This is the reason why the mute button exists.”
— Marissa Fusi, High School Math Teacher, Central Union High School (Imperial, Calif.)
5. Captioning doesn’t always accurately transcribe what you say.
“Just turn on the caption setting in Meets... That will give you plenty of stories! Yesterday, I had a department meeting, and the caption tool thought I said to a teacher: ‘Will you marry me?’ A teacher replying to something very different was transcribed as saying: ‘Yes, baby.’ I’m looking into whether this is now legally binding.”
— Matt Cade, High School Biology Teacher at Takapuna Grammar School (Auckland, New Zealand)
6. Get creative with your tools. Kids appreciate it—even if they don’t notice it right away.
“I’ve been using Chroma Key to change my background [in lessons]. It took ten minutes for a student to notice I was talking to them from the bridge of a Star Destroyer.”
— David Hill, Senior Lecturer at University of Portsmouth (Portsmouth, United Kingdom)
7. To keep a sense of routine, consider integrating simple school habits into virtual instruction, even ones that feel pointless.
“I have video conferences with my fourth graders. Monday was the first one. My student asked me last Friday before the conference call if they had to wear their uniforms for the call. I thought about saying yes… I didn’t… but maybe I should have...”
— Jimena Calonge, 4th Grade Teacher (San Francisco, Calif.)
8. “Be cool, and don’t do anything weird.”
“I got so tired of giving video feedback on Flipgrid assignments that I wrote a script, and had my 8-year-old and 10-year-old help me record them. Here is one of them.*”
— Alfredo Silva, High School AP Teacher and Football Coach at Garden Grove Unified School District (Garden Grove, Calif.)
*To paraphrase, Silva’s kid reads: “Thank you for posting your Flipgrid! I appreciate seeing you and encourage you to reach out to your teacher if you need anything. A book? Extra time? More clear instructions? Anything. I’m looking forward to seeing your next check-in. Until then, be cool and don’t do anything weird.”
9. Need troubleshooting support? Ask the kids.
“I couldn’t figure out why I had a ‘green screen’ on Zoom. I called tech for help, but still couldn’t figure it out. After an hour, my 13-year-old comes over and says, ‘Mom, you have green tape on your webcam.’”
— Dana Elizabeth, Social Worker for K-8 Schools (Verona, N.J.)
10. And from teacher to preacher… we’re all learning how to do this well.
Ok, so this isn’t technically from a classroom situation, but an Italian priest recently livestreamed a mass—and activated the video filters by mistake. Dio mio…