What Happens Behind The Black Screen On A Class Call?

A North Toronto student reveals what goes on when the camera’s off during a virtual class.

I can almost guarantee that every student has heard teachers say, “when I can’t see your faces, it feels like I’m speaking into a void,” pretty much every single day in class since the start of school in September.

Now that COVID-19 deems it necessary for students to learn virtually, it means we all have to endure synchronous classes online, using platforms such as Brightspace, Google Classroom, or Zoom. From the teacher’s point of view, they are staring at a black screen filled with delicately selected profile pictures (that are truly concerning most of the time) and attempting to teach even though they know that their students are probably snacking on some chips and scrolling through TikTok.

With a shake of their head and a sigh, they push through the afternoon and teach The Void. Sometimes, a teacher may require the students to turn on their cameras for class, but when this happens, the students widen their eyes in shock and are usually in one of these four common situations:

  • Munching on your favourite snack and not wanting the teacher to call you out for eating during class.
  • Completely out of it and scrambling to get out from under the covers of your bed while simultaneously changing into clothing that aren’t your pyjamas.
  • Completely clueless, not knowing what the heck you’re learning, and not wanting to show your confused face so that everyone else in the class can see.
  • Experiencing phone separation anxiety (it’s okay… who doesn’t…) and turning on your camera would mean you’d have to put it away and stop checking Snapchat every three seconds.        

Obviously, there’s no shame in going through one of the four breakdowns listed (or another sort of breakdown not listed). It happens to the best of us. However, more and more teachers have had enough of our blank screens. Multiple courses now require students to turn on their cameras for class, and although it does allow for more engaged learning…I feel incredibly awkward when I completely zone out and get called on. Or when I have to ask where exactly I’m supposed to read from or what question I’m supposed to answer.

Normally, I sneakily eat my frozen fruits, and try to stop myself from laughing like a psychopath when I see something funny (a struggle of seeing a friend act weird when in the same online meet). You can’t judge me for that. You literally can’t tell me that you’ve never had a moment where you had a horrible urge to laugh, thus moving your head awkwardly out of the frame, only to come back with tears in your eyes, shoulders shaking and hand covering your face.

Turning on cameras is simply just too complicated of an affair to be able to completely expose what happens behind the black screen during class. Of course, if you are a teacher and you’re reading this…I’d just like to state that I truly believe that North Toronto C. I. students definitely do their best to listen and pay attention in class. However, some distractions (as expected) do present themselves at the worst possible times.

Now that some classes require students to switch on their camera, instead ofbeing greeted by The Void, we see each other’s “beautiful faces” (another commonly used phrase that seems more like a lie said by teachers). We definitely focus better with our cameras in certain cases, and a huge pro is that we get in our daily practice of repressing laughter (a skill that is a lot more helpful than one might think). And now that I have completely exposed what goes on behind The Void during class, I’ll just change my identity and move to some tropical island. Where you shall never find me 😉

Disclaimer*** For legal reasons, everything I say in this article is not guaranteed to be accurate for everyone and I’d like to disclose that I have not spoken to any students or teachers to get insight on this article…I would also like for students to refrain from throwing hands after I exposed each and every single one of us 🙂 Aside from that, this is meant to be a fun read for jokes. I hope you enjoyed it!
—Victoria Man

Article and image by Ava Ireland reprinted with permission from Graffiti. The school’s award-winning newspaper has continued to publish this year; read the latest issues at https://graffiti.ntci.on.ca/2020-21/.

image by Ava Ireland
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