Hate Your Appearance on Video? Fake it Till you Make it!

Most of us are facing the challenge of delivering distance learning right now.  There have been lots of videos showing how to use particular programs such as Zoom. Indeed you can look that stuff up on YouTube and get very good advice.   Many of us are understandably uncertain about this change and are apprehensive about using a form of communication that we might not be that familiar with.   But let’s talk about the thing that I think is probably lurking in the back of most teacher’s minds, whether we want to admit it or not. 

We all think we are too ugly to be on video! 

There aren’t many people who like looking at themselves, particularly in video. We hide when it’s time to have our photos taken, putting up with it at Christmas for the sake of the kids. We keep our cameras turned off in unavoidable online meetings and most certainly try not to look at ourselves.  If we do look, we pick at every single flaw we imagine that we have, magnifying it 1000 times until we are convinced that we are the most hideous swamp creature ever to walk the earth.  All of a sudden, we are being forced into presenting ourselves on screen and it can be terrifying!

Here’s the thing. Kids don’t care how you look. Kids care about the kindness in your voice, the smile in your eyes and how special they feel when they know you care. I have the worst sounding voice in the universe (ask my three kids) but when I sing a song to 5 year olds they happily sing along, blissfully uncaring that I might break glass at any moment. The same goes for video.

 I have been making videos for a while now and here are a few things I have learned:

  1. There is nobody harder on your appearance than you are.  Where you see crows feet, flawed skin and grey hair, kids just see their teacher (and they love you!)

2. Using the ‘touch up my appearance’ feature on Zoom gives you a confidence boost. You will find this feature in the video settings!

3. Sometimes you just have to be brave and go for it. It is understandably nerve wracking to put yourself out there on video, but take a deep breath and jump in the deep end! It’s probably your students’ first time too. Be a role model of how to be nervous and do something anyway.

4. Elevating your laptop gives you way fewer chins. You know those lap desks you’ve bought from spotlight?  They are a great height for making you look good on video!  Sit them on top of your desk with your laptop on the top to avoid under the chin shots.

5. Use a USB or blue tooth mouse rather than the mouse pad on your laptop.  It makes life much easier and doesn’t mess up your shot.

6. Be careful about your background. You don’t have to have a fancy studio to have a good background but do tidy up a bit. I have been admiring the book shelves behind people on tv this week as they present from their homes. This can be charming, but it can also be embarrassing if you have something inappropriate on your wall or you have your unfolded washing on the lounge.

7. Make sure you won’t be interrupted. We all remember this absolutely adorable example of what can happen when you get interrupted on a video call. Don’t be this guy!


8. Avoid being in front of a window. You don’t have to have a professional lighting set up, but you can maximise the effectiveness of your video by having a window face you rather than be behind you. You can also use a desk lamp to give yourself some extra light.


9. If you share your screen be careful of what is open for all to see.

10. Messing up is part of life. When you teach online you are not creating an Oscar winning production. Accept that you are going to make mistakes. I do all the time! Just as with face to face learning, you just keep calm and carry on!

Most teachers are women and women are especially hard on themselves. It is understandable that you will be nervous to present on video, but don’t let these nerves get in the way of delivering terrific learning for your students. They need you to be the image of calm and certainty. Do it for the kids and remember, just fake it till you make it!

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