- To Mask Or Not To Mask? Wear the Mask; Protect our Kids - July 22, 2021
- Fire the Canon: Curriculum is the Vehicle, Not the Destination - May 19, 2021
- At My Breaking Point: An Interview With An Educator Who Nearly Quit - April 26, 2021
- Pronouns: The Least We Can Do for Students Who Identify As Transgender or Non-Binary - March 8, 2021
- Opinion: The Teacher Stories We Tell Ourselves: Let’s Assume the Best - February 18, 2021
- Teachers, If You Can’t Tell the Truth, You Might Need a Different Job - January 19, 2021
- Publishing So White: 7 Essential Black Young Adult Authors - December 17, 2020
- That’s Doctor to You: Toxic Sexism & Dr. Jill Biden - December 14, 2020
- What Do We Make of All This? 10 Must-Read Research Articles on COVID & Schools - December 9, 2020
- Rebranding the Dreaded Essay: How to Demystify Essays and Make Them Meaningful During COVID-19 - December 3, 2020
Since nearly the beginning of this pandemic, the very idea of masks has been politicized. A study, Politicizing the Mask analyzed demographic and voting data to confirm what many of us could conclude anecdotally. States and areas that supported Trump are significantly less likely to wear a mask.
We can now see this playing out in CDC guidance around masks, schools, and vaccines. States who voted for Trump have the lowest vaccination rates and the six states so far that have mandated masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status, all went to Biden.
You know, just in case you forgot that teaching is political.
So, as we all start thinking about back to school, it’s no surprise that masks are once again on our collective radar.
Should staff and students all be required to wear masks? Regardless of vaccination status?
Like most of us, I am mask weary. The chin acne, fogged glasses, heat, and very personal sneezing, are all not great. In summer school this year, I can’t count the number of times I had to remind students to pull masks up. I would definitely like to be rid of that nagging burden.
But, I also believe that it’s our civic and moral duty to do what we can to stop the spread and wear our masks. Here’s why:
- The Pandemic Isn’t Over
As much as we want it to be, that’s just not our reality. As of this writing, daily cases are up 144.8% and deaths are up 16.6%, according to NPR’s tracker. The new delta variant, which accounts for 83% of new cases, is highly transmissible and “will certainly accelerate the pandemic.”
- Pediatricians Say “Yes”
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidance for schools, strongly recommending that all staff and students wear masks, regardless of vaccination status to keep everyone safe. They explain that students 12 and under are still not eligible for the vaccine, there is not a systematic way to track vaccination and enforce mask-wearing, and variants may spread more easily in children.
This is different from the latest CDC guidance, which exempts vaccinated staff and students from wearing masks in schools.
What I appreciate about the AAP’s guidance is their focus on and clear understanding of child and adolescent behavior. They say, “universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status.”
We all know children are the first to point out when things aren’t fair. They look to us as their models, and if students see us, or their peers, not wearing masks, I’m pretty sure compliance would be a non-starter.
Also, all teachers know that schools are Petri dishes for germs, and I absolutely didn’t mind not having a cold or a stomach bug all year.
- Long Term Effects are Unknown
Contrary to the popular narrative that young people are practically invincible, there is evidence that long-haul COVID does affect them. This is still a novel virus, so many of the effects might not be known for years. But, what we do know isn’t great. Joint pain, difficulty breathing, depression, rapid heartbeat, and cognitive problems, just to name a few.
- Masks aren’t Harmful
One of many myths that circulated with alarming prominence was the supposed harm of masks; from lung disease to CO2 inhalation. However, the one study often cited by pundits has been widely debunked. Medical experts still stand by masks as a safe and effective way of slowing the spread.
Pulmonologist Raed Dweik, MD explains that “Even patients on the lung transplant waiting list who arguably have the severest forms of advanced lung disease are able to wear masks. If they can do it, anybody can.”
- Masks Don’t Infringe on Your Freedom
I came across a woman wearing an “unmask our kids” shirt on social media a few days ago and had to investigate. There are several different movements, with a similar cry: “It should be a CHOICE and not FORCED! Our children need normalcy. They need to see their teacher’s faces they need to see their friend's faces, Kids need interaction, and kids need to be KIDS! Our children are the FUTURE of this COUNTRY! They DESERVE Better.”
Lack of correct apostrophes and random capitalization reminiscent of the former president aside, I can’t help but think that a return to normalcy and a better future would be one without the COVID 19 virus running rampant. It seems that in order for kids to be kids, they should probably have the opportunity to grow into healthy and happy adults, their extended families intact. Ah, logic.
Wear the Mask
So yes, we are all tired of wearing masks. The glimpses we’ve had this summer of even close to “normal life” have been rejuvenating. Hugging my parents for the first time in a year, bringing students back full time, and gathering indoors with fully vaccinated friends are all things I’m celebrating.
But, for now, our schools need to stick to science. We owe it to each other, especially our kids.