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Wearing a Face Mask in the Classroom

Young masked student working on math problems in school.

Making sure students wear masks during school may be challenging, but it is necessary.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks were mostly limited to operating rooms and construction sites. But today, face masks have become part of everyone's everyday outfit.

Wearing a face mask every time you leave your home isn't ideal. But the Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed that masks protect us and the people around us, and we've learned to adjust.

But how does mask-wearing square with the school experience—and how can teachers help make mask-wearing routine?

Further Reading: 5 REALISTIC Ways for Teachers to Get Healthier This Year

Learning New Habits

Adults have adjusted to the nuances of wearing a face mask. We know that we have to speak louder—not get closer—for people to hear us when we speak. We've also learned the importance of keeping our mouth and our noses covered—and we've learned how to avoid fogged glasses, too.

But mask-wearing is a new concept for many kids—especially younger kids and kids who might have gotten used to learning from home. It's a new habit they'll need to form. Younger students might wear their masks on top of their heads or over their knees, and older kids might let them dangle from one ear or shove them in their back pockets.

This is where teachers come in.

10 Tips for Wearing Masks in the Classroom

When stressing how important it is that students wear face masks in the classroom, keep these tips top of mind.

  1. Teach and reteach. Don't assume that kids who've been out of school for months will know how to wear a mask properly and when it's OK to take it off. Remain patient, and be ready to teach (and reteach) them.
  2. Keep your mask on. Set a good example for your students by keeping your mask on—even when you're chatting with people close by.
  3. Model the correct way to wear a mask. Kids have seen many examples of useless mask-wearing, such as college coaches wearing them around their necks and people in public covering only over their mouths. Remind kids that their masks must always cover their mouths and noses.
  4. Wear a mask everywhere. Stress to your students that they need to keep their masks on not just in the classroom, but when they're roaming the halls, too.
  5. Change masks every day. Change your mask every day, and encourage your kids to change theirs often.
  6. Encourage mask marking. Have younger kids mark their own masks with their initials, and explain to them why they should never share masks.
  7. Carry extra masks. Kids are going to lose their masks. It's inevitable. Keep a stack of extra paper masks in your desk for just such occasions.
  8. Find appropriate masks. There's no shortage of choices of fashionable mask prints and patterns to choose from. Remind your students what's appropriate for school.
  9. Spread the word to faculty. If you have the opportunity at a faculty meeting, politely remind everyone—if your principal doesn't—that everyone needs to wear a mask so that kids get a consistent message.
  10. Inform parents or guardians. If you're meeting with a student's parents or guardians, be sure that they understand that masks are required at your school.

Remembering the Alternative

Face masks aren't much fun in the classroom. You'd like to see your students' faces. Your kids can't see you smile. It's hard to hear what people are saying through their masks. And you might be tired of reminding students to pull their masks up over their noses.

But face masks are a necessary measure against COVID-19.

Further Reading: How Appreciation for Teachers Grew During the Pandemic

During those days when you're completely exasperated, remember this: Nobody had to wear a mask during remote learning. Most teachers and kids would agree that the inconvenience is a small price to pay for being back in the classroom.