Published 28th May 2020

How to Deal With Zoom Fatigue

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Yes, it’s a thing.

And if you’re an online English teacher then you probably already know what we’re talking about. 

It can seem a bit crazy but if you teach online lessons for a few hours you will walk away exhausted, even though you’ve been sitting at your desk the whole time. Well, you’re not going crazy – teaching online is tiring. Here’s why, and what you can do about it.

It’s difficult to read people

Video chats take more energy than talking face-to-face because we have to work harder to process facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, simply because we are doing it through a screen and cannot see the whole person. This is especially true for teachers of English and language learners because we have the added difficulty of a language barrier. English teachers need to make extra sure they are being understood and we might struggle to understand our students even further due to issues of pronunciation and accent.

How to Deal With Zoom Fatigue
How to Deal With Zoom Fatigue

What can we do?

Take regular breaks outside. We are told this time and time again but it really works. Stepping away from your computer is good but getting a face full of fresh air will help your brain turn off for a few minutes so you can concentrate again for your next lesson. Encourage your students to do the same if they are taking a lot of online lessons.

It’s intense

The nature of video chat sessions is such that there is always a focus on one person – whoever is speaking. If you are that person speaking, even if it’s for a few minutes, you are under the spotlight. Besides feeling like you have a million eyes on you, there is also the question of where to look – who do you look at when you’re talking? At the same time, prolonged eye contact can make people really uncomfortable. 

What can we do?

Make sure you have props to take the focus of yourself if you have to talk for a long time. This can be as simple as a picture or a puppet (for Young Learners). Try to avoid long monologues by involving your students by asking questions or using elicitation techniques. 

We can’t relax

Always being on-screen can make us tense. We can feel under pressure to sit straight, have a neutral expression and generally not do anything embarrassing! In the classroom we are able to walk around so that not every student is focusing on us all the time, but in the online classroom your students are focused only on you.

What can we do?

Turn off your video! Even for online lessons your camera doesn’t have to be on all the time. Screen sharing will help your students focus on other things and if your students are working on a task, turn off your camera for a few minutes. 

We are in constant selfie-mode

Whenever we have video chats, it’s likely that we are looking at a video of ourselves too. This is fun in the beginning – probably because we are not used to seeing ourselves all the time – but it can also take its toll. Constantly looking in the mirror will mean that you are focusing on your appearance. Have you noticed that you touch your hair a lot or don’t know what to do with your hands? That’s because you’re looking at yourself; you wouldn’t usually do that.

What can we do?

Hide yourself. Not from everyone else, but from yourself. Have another window open and position it over your face so you don’t have to look at yourself the whole time. It’ll give you one less person to focus on and you won’t be thinking about what you are doing all the time.

We are constantly multi-tasking

When you think about it, chatting on video is multitasking. Not only are we trying to teach or communicate, but we are simultaneously concentrating on understanding our students. In a class situation we are constantly deciding who to look at, and possibly chatting with various students at the same time. Plus, we are thinking about our lesson plan and maybe even taking notes too.

What can we do?

Try not to multi-task. Your lesson plan should be clear enough that you don’t need to think about it. If necessary, write it out in clear point form on a piece of paper next to you that you can refer to easily – no details, just keywords that you can read at a glance. Allow time between tasks so that both you and your students can take notes for a minute if necessary, otherwise focus on speaking and not writing.

Teaching online is not exactly natural so it can take some getting used to. One thing we need to do is understand the nature of online teaching and the toll it can take on you. Self-care is especially important these days when stress is at an all-time high, so be good to yourself, take care of yourself and your lessons will benefit.

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