Some of the less visible forms of pressure

It all started on 13 March 2020, when full-time education in elementary, secondary and tertiary educational facilities was cancelled here in the Czech Republic. Everything turned upside down and life became surreal. And that was when our egos started suffering …

From that day on, we teachers had to look at our own faces, listen to our own voices and endure being constantly observed by others in a totally new environment – online.

You are probably aware that there’s a psychological reason behind why we hate looking at photographs of ourselves. I think we’ve all been there; when we see a photo of ourselves, for some reason, we start focusing on the bits of the image we don’t like and overall, we look older, uglier and fatter than we normally feel. On the other hand, our friends always look amazing in photos, so we don’t understand why they cringe too when it’s just us who looks terrible.

Similarly, we don’t particularly enjoy listening to our own voices. They sound so different, almost alien. It can’t be us speaking.

And I doubt there are many people out there who like being observed doing stuff in a situation that is new to them, let alone formally.

Yet, these are some of the things we‘ve had to get used to doing. In other words, we‘ve had to become desensitised to constantly seeing our faces on the screens, hearing our voices and being observed by our students (most of them invisible), or even by our bosses sometimes. 

How did we get used to it all then? Well, we had no choice. We had to do the things regardless of how we felt about them. At first, it was tough. I think it’s similar to publishing your first blog post. You put yourself out there and wait. If the feedback is positive, you obviously want to do it again. If the feedback you receive is negative, you always have the option to stand down. The worst thing, I believe, is no response. And this is how I often felt when teaching online – in a void. Like I didn’t know where I had come from and where I was headed. Like a lonely child staring at the ceiling of her bedroom.

However, unlike an unsuccessful blogger, who can always quit, we couldn’t just stop teaching online. We had to keep going no matter what. So, at first, we cringed every time we saw that strange face on the screen or heard that uncanny voice. But after some time, we somehow stopped fussing about our self-images. We started focusing on other things – the more important things. After all, we needed to make our lessons work, and that required a lot of energy and cognitive capacity. So in the end, we didn’t give a damn about what we looked like that particular morning or how awkward our voice sounded in a video we had created.

We’ve learned an important lesson: that undue awareness of oneself often stands in the way of success. There’s no point in worrying about the things you can’t change (the sound of our voice) but there’s a lot we can do to improve the things we’re not happy about (our classroom management skills in a remote lesson).

Postface:

The way I use the we pronoun may feel a bit patronizing in the sense that I believe we all felt the same way. But I know not everybody is so self-conscious. By we I actually mostly mean I but I’m inviting everybody who finds this topic relatable to include themselves in the we. Also, I’m aware that there were other professions in which people had to endure much more stress (nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters, shop assistants, etc.). My point is that there are many forms of psychological pressure which may be less visible but equally annoying and damaging to a fragile soul.

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Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages and levels for almost 30 years. You can find out more about me and my passion for teaching here on my blog.

2 thoughts on “Some of the less visible forms of pressure”

  1. There are two things I’d like to say on reading this post. 🙂 The first is thanks for linking to the article on why we’re programmed to dislike the way we look in photos (and in synch sessions) – a really interesting read! That paragraph about how sometimes pics look strange because they were taken in selfie mode and weren’t flipped – I noticed this a couple of times with someone I know very well. I could tell something was strange about the pic, like the person’s face was different somehow but I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly. It took us a long time to figure out the face became completely normal once the pic was flipped. And the exact reverse thing happened with one of my selfies – one which I felt had turned out particularly well. I was quietly surprised at how good I looked and then a few months later, by accident, I noticed that the furniture in the pic was in the wrong place; I flipped the pic and suddenly I didn’t look as good.

    And that brings me to the second thing – I don’t know how you feel but I really like your video! You look and sound just like a teacher should: friendly, approachable and reassuring. Like you’ve totally got the hang of recording videos and sharing them with students. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, so you actually clicked the link to that video. 🙂 You know, once I’d included it in the post and hit the publish button, I immediately had second thoughts. From then on, I secretly hoped that nobody would take the time to watch it but there you go … Well, I guess that for me, it’s part of the get-used-to-it-and-move-on therapy, isn’t it? In my defence, it was my very first (and only) video of this type and it was for the youngest children so I’m acting a bit over the top (or at least it’s how it looks to me). On the other hand, at that time, I had a different laptop with a better camera (ironically), so it’s pretty decent compared to what it would look like now. So I can live with it, I guess. Anyway, thanks for your support and all the input. It always helps. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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