The debate lately has been whether or not we should be wearing masks. Should we or shouldn’t we? Well, I’m not here to debate that, but rather to reflect on a post from one of my professional learning networks, the Punk Rock Classroom. They discussed the idea of masks, but more the masks that we wear everyday, even before the pandemic. Let me explain…
When I enter into a classroom full of students, I’m encountering different personalities, different levels of knowledge, different interests…in other words, I’m meeting students that are each unique. With these unique personalities also comes the reality that some students are struggling to realize and discover who they truly are. I have to see what “masks” my students are wearing.
Masks are a reality in the lives of students. Students wear masks for several different reasons. Here are a few:
- To feel accepted
- To distance themselves from others
- To make others believe that they know the content
- To make others believe that they don’t know the content
- To conceal fears that they have from being away from family
- To conceal issues that they might be facing at home
- To show off the talents they have
- To conceal the talents that they may feel be embarrassed to show
These are just a few of the masks that students wear each and every day. It is a reality that masks are worn, but they don’t always have to wear them. They have to have an environment to feel safe to show who they truly are. I need to develop and nurture that environment. Yet, that also means that I have to avoid wearing masks each day. I need to come in to the classroom each day and show my passion and joy for teaching, but I also need to be mindful that I will not be at my best each and every day. Those days will challenge me to be real and let students know that it’s okay to not be your best each day. I need to model the mentality that being “unmasked” is okay and that we will grow and learn from these moments.
I’ve had many encounters with students wearing masks and I personally find these moments as some of the most enlightening moments that I have had as an educator. I have taken these moments to connect to students and let them understand that I will support them through their unmasking period. Students need to have support from not only me, but from their classmates as well. The classroom needs to be filled with empathy and compassion. Students need to feel comfortable to share their passions, stories, and moments of growth. There has to be an acceptance of the phrases of “I don’t know….yet”…”I need help”…”I’m excited to show my classmates what I can do”…”Would you like to eat lunch with us?”.
As I stated, the current mask debate is a struggle that schools will be facing for this upcoming school year, but we need to look at the masks that students have been wearing for years. Schools need to embrace these masks and find ways to have students want to unmask themselves to accept who they are. Teachers need to strengthen their relationships with students and ensure their students that they will be supported by all. Schools need to provide the environment that will embrace each and every student and their unique offerings to the school community.
Students will wear masks and it’s my responsibility to ensure that they are accepted and supported when they want to take them off.