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Lessons learned from teaching on Zoom

On the last day of classes, Mrs. Woo poses with 21 students in her first AP class, AP English Literature.
On the last day of classes, Mrs. Woo poses with 21 students in her first AP class, AP English Literature.
English teacher Elizabeth Woo shares lessons she learned while teaching over Zoom during parts of the past year and a half.
I am thinking about how to preserve positive changes in my teaching as a result of COVID-19. One surprise this past year has been around relaxing into my teacher personality.
In the past, if I saw students whispering or exchanging looks, I self-consciously worried it was about me. This year, I’ve had to LET GO of taking things personally. Any number of distractions were out of my sight or out of my control, and I couldn’t waste time addressing them.
What a liberation! I got over the embarrassment of seeing myself on camera. I let go of how students perceive me. Instead, I model vulnerability. I focus on conveying love and understanding through my eyes. I teach with a natural tone of voice. And I feel more authentic than I ever have.
It’s because Zoom changed the dynamic: centerstage became a mere box, equalized with my students’ boxes.
While I look forward to the return of unmasked students sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, the chatter and buzz of a full classroom, the ability to wander the room and approach individuals for moments of genuine connection… I wonder if eventually I will go back to my old ways. I wonder if I will be able to maintain a talking tone instead of a lecturing tone. Will I resort to raising my voice? Will I go back to being self-conscious?
Maybe a little, but I don’t think I have to worry so much.
A year of ingrained practice at being a different sort of communicator is significant. I don’t believe we can unlearn what we’ve learned. If I do slip up, I plan to remind myself of this concrete experience, of how I felt calm and genuine.
I will remind myself to sit amongst them, learn alongside them, and love them.


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