So last semester, I taught several students that I still have no idea what they look like. I do not require students to turn on their cameras because we live in a rural area, so many of their Internet connections are spotty enough as it is and many have homes that they do not wish to show in their backgrounds. It's frustrating to teach to a screen of black boxes, but I can do it and I utilize the chat feature in Zoom for interaction.
But graduation is coming and I will not even recognize the majority of my seniors when they come by in our drive through ceremony.
So I am trying something new. I am reserving a day for ten minute virtual face-to-face meetings. I broke the classes into small groups and the students only need to log on that day for their ten minute slot. Depending on who else logs in, they may be alone or may have up to five others in their group. I get each one to show me what they look like and they can decide to keep the camera on for the rest of the ten minutes or not. We talk about what they like and dislike, sports, clubs, art, and what they plan on doing after high school. It's a chance for me to make a connection.
Yes, I do give up a day of instruction for this. Why? Because I feel that if I can make connections with some of these kids, they will be more active in my class, in which case they will learn more than what we would have had in one class session.
What are you doing to connect with your virtual students?