When I started teaching with VIPKID, September of 2015, all we were required to teach was an internet connection and a blank wall. Teachers used to conduct their one-on-one English lessons with their computer perched on their lap, while sitting on their couch, or even cross legged on their bed. I sometimes used to stretch out on my belly with my computer on the floor when teaching my more advanced students, it was fun. It felt like we were teenagers chatting over Skype- only about a pre-determined topic with a PPT in front of us. Now I’m reading blog posts from VIPKID teachers about using photography equipment to create a professional looking classroom! It was a bit of an adjustment when the concept of lighting came into play.
I had just received negative feedback about my lighting stating: Half of your face was in shadow. Putting a desk lamp in front of your computer screen can help with this, and ensures that the student can see you clearly. After positioning lamps in every direction and angle possible, I still found that I had more shadow on one side of my face then the other. In class one morning I noticed that that pesky shadow I had been criticized on, so I switched on some extra lamps to help balance it out. The shadow just seemed to get more and more defined with every light I turned on! During my five minute break after every class I fiddled with my lighting trying everything I could think of to even out the balance! Nothing worked! I was thoroughly frustrated by the time my classes ended.
“I don’t understand!” I ranted to my husband, who was still in his pjs, sipping a cup of coffee (because my students live in China, I teach early in the morning), “Nothing works,” I fumed, “and by all accounts it seems like the shadows on the wrong part of my face! How can my room lights be brighter then the window…” my voice trailed off, and I stood frozen as the sudden realization hit me. The reason why every light I turned on darkened the shadows was simple, I was lighting up the wrong side of my face! Our classroom is set up opposite a mirror, and so I had mixed up which side the shadow was on. Rotating my lights to the opposite side of my computer did wonders.
I now work as a Mock Class Mentor, and lighting is still a challenge for a lot of applicants to master. This morning I taught a class where the applicant had the light shining directly on her face! I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it would be for her to teach with a light shining straight into her eyes, and the light had a complete wash out effect. I could barely see her facial features, and the reflection on her props was so extreme I felt like I was being blinded as well. A slight shift in her light positioning changed the classroom drastically. For all of you out there struggling to perfect your classroom without creating a full professional studio, I feel your pain! Hang in there, don’t put yourself under spot light torture, and remember that your classroom is the opposite of a mirror.