Mask wearing while teaching on-call is not that easy.

I’ve found that teaching while wearing a mask is a challenge.

So it’s easy to imagine that learning while wearing a mask is also a challenge for the Kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2 students who are wearing masks all day in their elementary school classrooms.

For too long in British Columbia, too many of unvaccinated students under the age of 12 have been exempted from the expectation that everyone over the age of 12 years wear a mask while indoors.

And this week has been the first I’ve been inside an elementary school since BC’s new ‘universal’ mask-mandate was put into effect.

Last week, I decided to decline all calls for me to work as a “teacher ‘on-call’ because it seemed I had been working almost every day during the month of September — a month when substitute, on-call teachers often don’t work at all.  I needed to take last week off to do other things, such as work in my garden, process a bumper-crop of tomatoes, and to breathe, deeply, without wearing a mask at all.

So this week, as I returned to the classroom on Tuesday, I was wondering how the primary classes I would be teaching in would be handling the expectation that mask-wearing was now obligatory: yet another thing — like walking, not running in the hallway, using appropriate, not inappropriate language at all times —  than children in school are always expected to do.

By lunchtime last Tuesday I had my answer.  Every child in grades K through 4 was wearing their mask while in the classroom, all of the time.  There was not a single child who needed help with their mask nor any kind of reminder from me to put their mask on. 

No teacher goes into the profession to teach from behind a mask, just the opposite: a teacher’s effectiveness is mainly about the ability to connect with their students — not just intellectually, but across the other realms of human experience. 

And doing this well is always challenging; doing this well from behind a mask makes it even more so.

But the difficult decision was made, and teachers have been doing their best to comply.

Fortunately, in every classroom I work in, I know there will be up to 30 very good reasons why I will also do my very best to ensure my mask is always in place.

For everyone who wants to be angry about mask-mandates and other restrictions currently in effect, don’t bother.  Do it for the children because they are so totally worth the inconvenience.

Our youngest are wearing their masks without complaint, setting a good example for me!

Let’s always remember to wear our masks and minimize the spread of infectious disease.

If our youngest citizens can do it, so can we!

By Paul David Steer

Wu wei the live-long day.

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