Dear Students–Please Play Nice on Zoom

by Janet Mizrahi

Dear Students,

I am writing to you because after teaching on Zoom for two terms, I am having a hard time. Like you, I’d prefer if we were in class where we could get to know each other and be less formal. But that is not to be, and I need your help to keep going. I love my job, and I know what I teach is valuable, but it’s getting more and more difficult to deliver captivating and motivating lectures when I can see my students being inattentive. I once had a student “attend” class while she waited in line at In-N-Out Burger, ordered her meal, and then ate it!

It didn’t feel good. It kind of sapped my will to teach.

So I ask you to look at class sessions from my perspective for a moment and consider some Zoom etiquette I’ve listed below.

Attend class in a quiet location. Being in a quiet spot will help you focus on our class and not the household background noise.

Adjust your camera so your face appears.I’m not an actor who is used to performing to a camera or greenscreen. I am a teacher who enjoys engaging with her students. If you use a still image instead of showing your face, I have no idea what you are thinking or even whether you are present. It makes me sad.

Mute your microphone. Background noise is distracting to me as well as to you. Mute your microphone so I won’t hear your roommates, parents, or pets.

Focus on class activities. Pretend you’re me looking at a bunch of squares on a computer screen. Some faces are laughing (are you laughing at me?), some are talking to others, some just disappear for long stretches. Act as if you’re in a real classroom and don’t look at social media feeds, chat with your roommate, or eat a meal. Focus on what you’re in class to learn.

Snack discreetly. If you must eat, be discreet and maintain your focus on what’s happening in class.

Install an unobtrusive virtual background. I would rather not see your messy bedroom, if possible.

Wear clothes. Not just for me, but for you. Wearing PJs doesn’t put you in the frame of mind to learn.

With heartfelt thanks,

Your instructor

Thanks to John Atkinson for his permission to use his drawing, Every virtual meeting.

4 thoughts on “Dear Students–Please Play Nice on Zoom

  1. janeretro

    Hi, BizComBuzz Sender,

    I enjoy reading BizComBuzz each time it’s sent, and this 12/29/20 issue is no exception. Teaching online certainly is challenging, and this issue clearly presents an instructor’s viewpoint for students to consider.

    In this post, however, I noticed a misused word. In the fifth Zoom etiquette point, it suggests that students “Snack discretely.” While the point could be argued as meaning to eat “separately,” I believe the better choice should be “discreetly” to agree in spelling and concept with the correct usage that follows within the paragraph. Please review the point to see what you think.

    Thank you again for the sage advice contained in these posts. I appreciate receiving them. (No need to respond–just have a fantastic year ahead and say “Bye bye!” to crazy 2020…)

    Best wishes,


    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Jane Braynard Barr 707.523.0215


    1. bizcombuzz

      Dear Jane, YES, YIKES! The mistake you rightly point out is the kind of error a self-respecting writer would rather never commit. Thank you for bringing the misuse of discrete (separate) vs. discreet (subtle, circumspect) to our attention. It has been corrected right away. Thank you for your kind words about BizComBuzz. Let’s hope 2021 will be a better year for all of us. Stay well! –Dana Loewy

  2. Christine Wathen

    Thank you for this well-worded letter to students. To whom may we give credit to if sharing with our students at the beginning of a new semester? I see the illustration credit, but not an author’s name for this letter. Thank you.

    1. bizcombuzz

      Dear Christine, thank you for asking. The credit fully belongs to Janet Mizrahi and I will add her byline, so that the authorship is clear. I’m sure Janet will appreciate it if her letter will be shared with students. –Dana


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