April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Name withheld upon request

I sign on. I smile at myself. I think, “a total reformation to the education system.” My parents are both educators and are getting to learn how to give classes over video chat. I act as a student so my dad can practice.

But, since this is only a practice, I quickly open up my email, an essay I am working on, turn on my music and open WhatsApp. Since I am on mute and looking at my computer screen, my dad sees me “attentively” focused on him as he starts to “teach” me in this trial run of class. I explain to him that although I appear to be paying attention, I am really doing a multitude of other things unrelated to “class.” I see his face drop. My father is worried how he will ever get his students to pay attention when there are so many distractions.

Being a college student myself, I can speak to this phenomenon. I do almost all of my work on my computer and I think I am talented enough to multitask—listen to my professors while I text a friend, shop online and plan my schedule for next semester. I begin to fear how the semester of distance learning will be successful, and try to motivate myself to withstand the constant distractions.

After my dad’s first video chat session with his class, he explains that even though it seems the students are paying attention to him, it really is obvious to see everyone doing different things. Facial expressions, constant movement, or the camera going on and off are giveaways that show the students’ inability to focus through the new platform we call our classrooms.

After starting my own distance learning, I began to see exactly what my father was talking about. I see my classmates in their respective homes, dressed in different styles and levels of comfort, while we less than half heartedly listen to our teacher. This is where the importance of being engaged takes the spotlight. Our teachers’ can see us and see how we are acting and reacting to every situation. We are given the challenge—and in the grand scheme of things, this is truly a privilege rather than a challenge—to focus and be engaged in our classes and recognize that we are on camera and being graded based on our attendance.

Through all of COVID-19 and the effects it has had on our community thus far, we keep hearing how there must be something God wants from us at this time. We must try changing some aspect of our lives whether that be the way we speak to others, appreciate life or focus on our Judaism. I think a lesson I am beginning to learn loudly and clearly is the lesson of always being on camera.

I am not only on camera when I log onto a class session, shiur or virtual concert. Even when my camera on my phone or computer is off, the “real camera” constantly remains on. I shouldn’t only look interested and invested when I think I am being watched, whether that be by my teacher, classmates or community. I should be living my life in a genuine way and being confident that I have the intention to be doing everything I do.

I should live my life as if my camera is always recording on my computer. This camera has a microphone attached. I should be watching what I say, what I do and how I spend my time. Now more than ever this can be a wakeup call for us. Our lives are trackable and we one day will be held accountable for all of our actions. Why don’t we let today be the first day we start living with this recognition?

Each time we turn on our virtual cameras it should act as a reminder that The One Above constantly has His camera on us. We are the center of His attention. This recognition is both flattering and extremely frightening.

The author of this article is a college student learning how to navigate distance learning while constantly focusing on religion and seeing God in every situation in life. The author can be contacted through The Jewish Link.

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