Cameras on? Hyper self-consciousness in the classroom and workplace … September 2021


I have been teaching computer science remotely through Microsoft Teams for the past month. At the beginning, all the students had their cameras on. Now, about 1/3 of their cameras on. When I was working through Covid, there was some debate about whether we should always have our cameras on in remote meetings. I bought into this. It would help us be present and engaged, and it did. However, in the past few days I’ve really been reflecting on whether I have the authority to ask the kids to turn their cameras on. I think I do, and I understood how this would allow me to verify discipline and engagement. However in my professional life, I am starting to change my thinking.

I’m catching myself, staring at my small thumbnail. This is instead of making eye contact with the person I’m talking to.

I’m finding myself critiquing my smile, or the way I hold my head. Does it emphasize my chin? Are my teeth white enough? Now you may ask yourself, “Is Jeremy just narcissistic?” No, I don’t think I am. At least I’m not more narcissistic than the next guy, gal, human. I’ve been on camera so much, and actually seeing that live image you do catch yourself in unflattering poses or habits:

  • Square your jaw.
  • Elongate your neck.

The child who was made fun of for being overweight, for being different, for being ugly is now able to see his unflattering side and be slightly more attractive in bearing. This is great in that it makes me more aware of how others see me. This is a disaster and that it makes me more aware of how others see me.

One thing I realize and engaging the kids, they live in an Instagram/tinder world. Everything is on display, 24/7. There’s no doubt, that appearance in the form of body language is a strong communicator. Appearance in the form of cleanliness is a strong communicator of hygiene. Appearance is a communicator of wealth, which may project future safety to a potential mate. But damn, if it doesn’t breed worry. Damn, if it doesn’t undermine self-confidence by making us self-conscious.

I’ve decided not to ask the kids to turn the cameras on. I’ve decided try to figure out whether kids are engaged based on their work as I can see it through CS Academy. I’m going to leave my camera on, but I’m going to put a window over the little thumbnail of myself. At least part of the time. I want to smile and project that. But the kids are in the classroom, with masks on. I want to give them a break from their lives of being on camera.

Being able to observe yourself is a wonderful gift. Observing yourself constantly is undeniably a curse.

The phrase, “unconditional-self acceptance,” was uttered by someone recently. Well not recently, a couple years ago. I just remember it, I it totally caught me. It sounded foreign, but also somehow necessary. Somehow essential. I realize now, it is at the root of confidence.

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