As part of my preparation for this semester, I had to make sure I was comfortable with the various features of Zoom.
I didn’t want to be fumbling around in the middle of a live Zoom session with a roomful of students trying to figure out how to record the session, share a screen, or use the whiteboard. So I attended a few training sessions and I practiced, practiced, practiced, often asking my wife and son to serve as students in my pretend class. After several such sessions, I felt like I was ready.
Shortly before school started, I found out that my class was 100% face to face, which was great. No need for Zoom (sort of).
But teaching in the classroom does involve making sure the students are socially distanced from each other and that everyone in the room is wearing a mask.
While there is the physical inconvenience of wearing a mask, such as constantly pushing it up and squeezing it so that it stays on my nose, there is another issue that is a bit more challenging.
And that was the focus of the A-HED story in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.
Masks create a communication problem.
Prior to wearing masks, people could use their facial expressions to communicate many things with other people. Since we have started wearing masks, this has become much harder. I noticed today while students were sharing their thoughts on the topics of globalization, corporate social responsibility, and universal basic income.
When a student spoke, I wanted to convey my gratitude for their contribution, which I would usually do with a smile. But now with the mask on, they don’t see me smiling.
So what to do?
Smize, of course.
Smizing is s term coined by supermodel Tyra Banks in 2009 on the television show “America’s Next Top Model.” Smizing means smiling with your eyes. It involves bringing life to your eyes while keeping the rest of the face neutral.
And apparently, during the pandemic, many people who deal with customers are being offered training on how to smize.
Here’s a video from Tyra that explains how to smize:
I tried to follow her instructions, but I felt more like Clint Eastwood when he squints than like Tyra Banks smizing for the camera.
So maybe, like Zoom, it is going to be a matter of practice, practice, practice, enlisting my family for help.
And maybe our school can start offering some formal smizing training sessions.
My goal is that at some point this semester students will recognize when I am smiling behind my mask, and not just mumbling incoherently to myself.
Just remember: smize, and the world smizes with you.
*image from Jezebel