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Student Series: Finding Focus In Zoom School    

Student Series: Finding Focus In Zoom School

Art by FISK

By Jessica Sommers

If you had told me during my freshman year of college that, by the time I was a senior, I would have trouble navigating my way through classes, I definitely would not have believed you. I’ve always had an image of what my senior year of college would look like: walking to my classes hand-in-hand with the friends I made over the past four years; spending late nights in the library finishing research papers; taking advantage of my final opportunity to enjoy the diverse clubs and activities my campus had to offer. It is safe to say that the reality of my senior year was WAY different than what I had originally pictured. 

Rather than being a confident senior going into my final first day of classes in September, I was a nervous wreck. When the coronavirus pandemic first struck, I was studying abroad for a semester in Barcelona, Spain. Therefore, I entered my senior year with no experience with Zoom classes, unlike the students who were enrolled in school the previous semester. This lack of knowledge left me in front of my computer not even knowing how to mute my microphone. I felt that I was the only one who had never used Zoom before. I was used to sitting in large lecture halls surrounded by other students, who would encourage me to focus and participate. Now, I was on my own in a box on a screen. To succeed, I still needed to focus, but I needed to learn how to do so in a different way, in a different medium. Slowly but surely, I became familiar with the technology and learned how to maintain focus while doing classes online. It wasn’t always easy, but here’s how I made it work for me. Hopefully, it can help you, too.

First, I always make sure to sit in a quiet, school-appropriate spot that I can devote solely to my class time. I won’t lie to you and say that there weren’t times in the beginning of the year where I was the lazy student, attempting to do class in my bed simply because there was nothing motivating me to get up and get dressed. I would go “camera off” and remain cuddled up in my bed, pretending to listen to what my teacher was saying. While this was the easiest way to tackle Zoom school, it definitely was not the most effective. I would frequently find myself dozing off in the middle of a lecture because my bed was just THAT comfortable. 

It took a lot for me to realize this was negatively impacting my success in school. I needed to adjust how I showed up for my Zoom classes, so I promised myself that I would only do classes sitting up, whether it be at my desk or my kitchen table, and that I would wear clothes other than pajamas. Sticking to this promise made a big difference. Not only am I staying awake and actually digesting information during classes, but I’m more interested in the material, too. By devoting specific spots for my classes, I am also able to better separate class time from free time, which can be quite challenging since everything now happens in one household.

Second, I have developed a serious love-hate relationship with the Do Not Disturb feature on my computer. During the beginning of the year, I spent more class time responding to texts, shopping online, or checking emails than actually paying attention to what I was being taught. While these activities are definitely more enjoyable than focusing in school, I know that they will not benefit me in the long run when I fall behind in class. It took a lot of willpower, but by turning on Do Not Disturb, I can devote all of my attention to class rather than the texts, emails, and shopping cart alerts flooding my notifications tab. In addition to feeling more focused during school hours, I also feel a greater sense of excitement to engage with my messages when class concludes.

Finally, I have come to see the importance of keeping my camera on during class. While I may not love showcasing my face and surroundings to classmates and professors, having my camera on forces me to keep my eyes on the screen and my focus on the class. While it is rare that my professors call out students for not paying attention, I always make sure to put my best self forward and remain focused on the professor and what is occurring in class. This allows me to digest all of the information that is being presented to me and to leave class sessions feeling confident that I understand what I have been taught.

Clearly, senior year has not been all that I had dreamed of. I wish I was able to enjoy my final days on campus doing “normal” things like going to class and studying in the library. But I have learned that while I cannot control global pandemics, I can control my attitude and my effort. And I and have learned to make the best of Zoom school, as crazy as that is.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.