Why I Still Wear a Mask to Teach at High School
On the first mask-optional day, I announced to my students that I would be wearing a mask but that I was totally fine with whatever they decided to do. I would neither judge or make assumptions. I meant it.
Here are the three main reasons why I'm still wearing a mask to school.
1. I have not had a cold in more than two years. And I'm one of those people who typically catches a cold at least twice a year. I'm convinced that the mask (along with my other heightened sanitary practices) has protected me from the common cold.
2. I'm uncomfortable with the attitude that COVID-19 is no longer a threat. I have no idea how the latest variant could affect my body, and I don't want to find out.
3. Several of my coworkers, and some of the students, have expressed a great deal of anxiety. Being around mask-less people in a crowded, school environment makes them fearful. Out of respect for them, and for their comfort, I wear the mask.
We teachers are constantly reminded of the importance of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If students don't feel safe in the classroom, their learning is impeded. I would feel awful if I thought my masking behavior caused a student to worry about transmitting the virus to loved ones at home.
Surprisingly, most of the students in my classes are still wearing masks. The students have been kind to each other regarding their choices. I have not heard any student criticize or belittle another for choosing to wear a mask or to not wear a mask.
My teenager has opted to wear a mask in the classrooms of teachers who wear masks and around students who prefer masks. I am particularly proud of her decision to express empathy in this way.
I encourage everyone to be understanding and respectful of the masking decisions of others. Many people have experienced trauma during the pandemic that some of us cannot imagine. Removing the mask -- and perhaps even wearing the mask -- might carry its own emotional load.
Let's be kind with our interactions and reactions to both the masked and unmasked.