“My Brother-in-law, Beyonce, and Helping Students Succeed”

Everyday on the first day of class I start off by making eye contact with a student sitting in the back of the class and say, “You know my brother works at Stubhub, he often gets free concert tickets. He’s got tickets to the upcoming Beyonce concert.  By any chance, are you a Beyonce fan?”  An excited student will eagerly nod and say yes!!  I’ll then stay in character and say, “Great. Okay, so I have to let him know exactly where you want to sit in order for him to get the tickets. Where exactly would you like to sit?” Almost on cue the student will say, “Front row, as close as possible.”  In a boisterous tone I’ll say, “Really? Front Row!! You want to sit in the Front Row!  Well, why aren’t you sitting in the front row right now??” The other students will laugh along with their classmates and I’ll then proceed to tell them the fact that students who sit in the line of sight of their professors always do better.  It’s not always Beyonce, one year it was K-Pop, another year it was Guns N’Roses because a student’s phone went off and her ringtone happened to be “Sweet Child O’Mine.” 

Regardless of the artist, the message is the same. Students need to sit in front. Now in a pandemic and with the lecture halls replaced with Zoom boxes I still did the Beyonce bit this year.  Students still loved it and understood why it’s so important to show up and sit in front. I would argue it’s even more important now.  Sitting in front it’s different now. At the very least it’s making sure your camera is on. It’s making sure your Zoom name is accurately placed on the box not Tim’s “iphone” or your email address. For students right now Zoom etiquette is as essential as wearing a face mask. 

Countless studies continue to show that students who sit in the line of sight will do better.  I have read countless letters of recommendation for graduate school and for scholarships where professors have mentioned specifically that the student that they are recommending is always sitting in the front and always engaged.  Even the mere fact that the professor can see you has a halo effect.  

Ways to Sit in Front When You’re Online!

Good Posture Plays A Role
So how do you sit in front when you’re sitting in front of your computer screen?  Are you lying in bed in pajamas? Are you slouching?  Besides giving the wrong impression this is also an ergonomic faux pas. Be sure to have good posture, you’ll look better and you’ll feel better. 

Avoid The Fisheye Lens Approach.
Not only does it look foolish, it will probably strain your eyesight. Maintain good proximity from the screen and ideally viewers will see your head and your shoulders. 

Find Your Voice
If needed, invest in wireless headphones that include a microphone.  The only thing worse than speaking too low is speaking too LOUD.  You don’t want to be that person that sounds muffled. Speak clearly and confidently.  Even if you’re nervous chances are everyone else is to.  Practice speaking into the camera by yourself. Use your phone or video on your computer.  Record yourself if you have to.  You might notice that you use a lot of filler words such as “um” and “like”  if you’re from California like I am .  If you find yourself doing that, continue recording.  I guarantee that those Um’s and Ah’s will be gone like yesterday’s news.   

Use the Hand Raise Option on Zoom  
It’s inevitable that people will find themselves talking over each other during Zoom calls.  Be respectful and don’t be the person that talks over everyone.  If you’re already starting classes it’s likely that you’ve noticed that person.  Don’t be that person.  

Let Others Find their Voice, Too

When you’re not speaking put yourself mute on. This will help minimize background noise so that everyone can hear what the professor is saying.  Just be sure to take yourself off mute. 
Now get ready to be like Beyonce and “Run The World.”

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