As we head back to school on Monday after March Break, one of the biggest topics of discussion right now is on extending, or not extending, the mask mandate. Our Board has grappled with this decision over the past week, and here’s the latest update.
You just need to read the numerous comments on the Twitter and Instagram posts to know that there are different thoughts about extending the mandate to April 1st. This doesn’t come as a surprise, for during this entire pandemic, individuals have felt differently around masking, school closures, and lockdowns/shutdowns.
I get it. We all make decisions and weigh our risks.
- I know people that are unvaccinated, go out in public frequently, and have never gotten sick.
- I know people that are vaccinated, socialize regularly, sometimes remove their masks in public, and have remained COVID-free.
- I also know people that are vaccinated and unvaccinated that have gotten COVID. A few people have even gotten it more than once.
Just like with masking, going “back to normal” is exhilarating for some individuals, terrifying for others, and somewhere in between for many more. Our lives has changed over the past two years, and depending on a variety of factors, a switch in practices might be easier for some and harder for others.
Here’s something that I think is important to know: mask exemptions have existed for years now, and for students, they have never required a medical note. My teaching partner, Paula, and I have taught students with mask exemptions. Some things that we’ve always tried to reinforce in the classroom though are to …
- recognize and accept differences,
- include others whenever possible,
- and be kind.
Kids look and listen to adults when forming opinions and making choices. This loosening of restrictions provides a great opportunity for us to teach and model compassion, empathy, understanding, and kindness. Yes, Paula and I will both be wearing masks when we greet students again on March 21st, but we realize that some of our students might not be. At the beginning of March Break, I read a fantastic post by Beth Lyons about the easing of restrictions. As always, we’ll be watching and listening to kids, as they slowly help us build spaces and show new ways to connect with each other: masks, no masks, and everything in between.
We might not all be at the same level of comfort right now, but for all of our caregivers reading this post, know that your child is loved and supported as they return to the classroom. Kids need to see and know that we feel this way, as they also extend these same feelings to others. While there might be various opinions about easing restrictions, can starting with kindness allow us to reduce stress and better understand different viewpoints? I’m not saying that this will always be easy, but to me, it seems like a good place to begin.