Please, Don’t Make Students Video Chat During Distance Learning

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

1. Students need to have their microphone and camera on during video calls.

Why is this necessary? I realize that, as a teacher, it is inherently easier to teach when the student is visible and audible. It feels more like a classroom when you can look out and see their faces. Yes, in theory, it makes sense. But the reality of this is much more complicated. For students from low-income families, they may not feel like their surroundings are suitable for a video call. If their house is messy, run-down, or small, they may feel self-conscious about displaying this to all of their peers. And regardless of income, students may also be coming from large families, which makes video calling super difficult to do without invading the privacy of family members. Furthermore, the concept of having to turn a microphone on is also problematic. There are certainly students who struggle with toxic family situations or even domestic abuse, so forcing a student to reveal either the sight or the sound of their circumstances can be nerve-wracking and insensitive.

2. Students need to wear appropriate clothing.

This one is a little bit less problematic. I know most teachers mean well when they specify this rule. At first glance, this probably means “don’t wear pajamas to your class video call!” or “please don’t sit in your underwear in front of your peers.” But the term “appropriate clothing” is awfully vague. What constitutes appropriate clothing? Is it modest clothing? Is it casual clothing? Is it clean clothing? Without the specifics, it can be hard for some students not to feel targeted. Students for whom laundry is a financial burden, or students who cannot afford “nice” clothing to wear in the virtual classroom, may struggle with this.

3. During video calls, be in an appropriate place (not the bathroom).

Social distancing has been hard for everyone, and one of the hardest everyday parts of it has been family members cooped up in the same living quarters. For larger families, this is a gigantic issue. Conducting a video call from an “appropriate place in the house” may have to be a bathroom for those living in small houses, those with family members scattered throughout every room, or those who live in very noisy conditions where the bathroom may be the only quiet place to sit and converse virtually. And depending on a student’s living situation, the bathroom may be the only place they feel comfortable showing online — a neutral space where they cannot be judged for what it looks or sounds like.

4. Please attend the call for the entirety of the allotted time period.

Again, students with large families (or even smaller-sized families) may struggle with this rule. In a house with multiple kids, there may be learning times that overlap one another. For instance, if a family has two kids of school age and one student is expected to be on a video call from 10am-11am but another student is expected to attend a video call from 10:15–10:45 and the family only has access to 1 electronic device to share between the two kids, a problem presents itself. There is no possible way that both students can attend their respective video class time for the full timespan. Additionally, kids who work in low-income households or who work for essential businesses may be picking up extra hours at work to help with bills, as COVID-19 has also brought many financial woes. And among large families or families that cannot afford childcare, older students may be tasked with taking care of younger siblings during the weekdays, taking away the time, resources, and attention that would allow them to do a full video call.

Written by

Writer. Creator. Teacher. Feminist. Just trying to spread love, talk about equity, and be a good human. She/her. Follow me on Instagram @brooklynxreece!

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