If you’re feeling burnt out from hours spent on camera each day, you’re not alone: your students are likely feeling just as tired, stressed, and restless from the switch to digital learning.
“Zoom fatigue” is a catchy term coined to describe the all-too-familiar feelings of exhaustion and burnout from meetings and classes held online, and it affects children just as much—if not more—than adults.
There are many reasons why back-to-back video calls feel so draining for your students. Here are a few of the most pressing reasons:
- Students are used to the feeling of togetherness that a classroom provides; the way the whole room reacts, in real time, to what the teacher is saying. This type of engagement includes laughing at jokes, short asides with their classmates, and even something as visceral as the way it feels to be physically present while learning.
- Aside from the physical sensations that video calls lack, there’s also the added element of technology—and its shortcomings. When students want to answer a question, for example, they can’t just raise their hand and shout out the answer (and by this point, parents and teachers are both pretty familiar with the difficulties that go into a student “raising their hand” to answer a question via video chat).
- The idea of being “on” for the duration of the call. Students must face forward, look directly into the camera, and appear attentive in a way that feels incredibly unnatural. Additionally, many students don’t feel comfortable showing their living situation to their classmates over video chat; this can create additional stress and distraction for students, and make learning more challenging.
Throw in siblings, pets, shoddy Wi-Fi, and myriad other distractions, and it’s pretty easy to see where the fatigue comes from.
“On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face? Probably never. This is because having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable—and tired.”
—Harvard Business Review
So, how do we combat Zoom fatigue when it looks like there’s no clear end in sight for virtual learning? Read on for helpful tips for addressing student Zoom fatigue and making your students feel more engaged in your virtual classroom.
- Let your personality shine through. Students (especially younger ones) miss their teachers, even though they get to see you online every day. While it may be difficult to adjust to virtual learning, it’s imperative that teachers show their personalities while teaching in order to keep students engaged.
- Stay consistent. If there are specific activities or lessons that your students particularly enjoyed before the pandemic, try to transition those into your virtual classroom. This will help reduce their anxiety and improve other positive elements of social and emotional learning.
- Schedule one-on-one time. Because quieter students may feel lost in the crowd on large online lessons, you might try breaking your class into smaller groups or even meeting with students one-on-one to help them get the facetime they need (no pun intended!).
- Create visually stimulating lessons. Whether you use colorful charts, puppets, costumes, or videos, students will respond better to visually exciting elements that break up the monotony of staring at a screen.
- Make resources available outside of school hours. With many parents spread thin and access to reliable broadband a challenge for a large percentage of students, providing support and resources outside of the typical school day is essential. Let your students (and their families) know how they can access school resources on their own time, including both lessons and social and emotional resources.
- Practice positive reinforcement. Knowing when they’re doing well is incredibly important for many students’ well-being, but this is certainly more difficult to communicate during virtual and distance learning. Consider emailing or snail mailing physical certificates of achievement, or just schedule one-on-ones with students to make sure they’re aware that their wins aren’t going unnoticed.