Viet Thanh Nguyen is a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times and the author of “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War.”
Nguyen is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. @viet_t_nguyen
Here’s an unpopular opinion: I like teaching on Zoom.
Many accounts of teaching on Zoom or other online platforms recount its horrors. And much is horrible: teachers and students without stable internet connections or adequate technology; too much intimacy, with overcrowded homes that teachers or students might find embarrassing for others to see; and not enough intimacy, with the human connection attenuated online.
As a college professor, I, too, miss some of the elements of teaching in a classroom, including the intellectual energy that can flow around a seminar table, the performative aspect of lecturing to a large audience and the little chats that take place by happenstance during breaks or after class with students.
What I don’t miss is my 10-mile drive to campus and back. I don’t miss pondering my wardrobe choices in the morning. The relative informality of the Zoom era means that I would feel overdressed if I wore a blazer to teach. And if I don’t wear a blazer, I don’t have to wear slacks. Or put on shoes. Why would I wear shoes inside my house, anyway?