Illustration by Nyomi Fox
In the faint, almost unretrievable memory that is physical, in-person school, I was a friend to my teachers. Growing up with a mom in the same occupation, I viewed teachers more as family than as authority. I spoke to them with amicable respect, not with fretful intimidation. When I entered their room, I would greet them with a “good morning,” a “good afternoon” or something in between. Maybe even a “happy ___day” (i.e. Mon, Tues), if that’s how I was feeling.
My attendance was respectable. I was barely tardy, and if I was, there was almost always a reasonable excuse. Or, I would come in panting like an overheated dog, pathetically afraid of entering the classroom after the late bell. My point being, I was a good student to my teachers. I respected both the institution and its leaders.
Zoom corrupted my character.
With online, virtual school, the only option of an educational medium, Zoom is the new classroom. And it changed me.
Through my first week of Zoom calls, I remained my reputable, friend-of-the-teachers self. I turned my camera on — when permitted — to show them my smiling, eager face. I laughed at their jokes, not only because they were funny, but because that is what they deserve.
Then I started ditching. Yes, the classes were optional, but a missed class is a ditched class. It’s an act I would formerly antagonize myself for, but not anymore! I’m a skipper and a ditcher. If I’m at home, why would I go to school? Those two events have never coincided, and they never should.
When my digitized teachers ask a question, I sit blankly as if I were mute. And I don’t even try to mime the answer, as mutes would. I shield myself with the protection of my disabled camera and refuse to acknowledge that a question was even prompted. I allow my classmates to do my dirty work, which was once raising my hand immediately, even if I was unsure. But often, no one answers. And still, I remain closeted behind my shield.
I despise who I’ve become: a neglectful, disinterested and disrespectful student. But what is great about societal issues is there can always be a scapegoat. And I blame Zoom.
With its default setting rendering us mute and unseen, Zoom practically encourages students to disengage. I only went with the flow. So whatever character flaws I carry into the next school year, I can only feel pity for myself. I did not choose to disengage, I was forced.
In all seriousness, Zoom really did change my habits, and for the worse. But my respect for teachers, once apparent through my actions, has only intensified. I watch my mom deal with Zoom glitches nearly every day of the week, and feel for the other teachers who are presumably enduring the same technical difficulties. So to the teachers, thank you. But also, I’m sorry. The change in my character may not be as drastic to you as it is to me, but nevertheless, I feel better acknowledging its presence.
This year’s graduation crawls closer, but I will make sure I resolve my newfound — yet disappointing — character traits. My teachers deserve better.