A Letter to those Fighting Masks

Dear parents and families,

We’ve been a long time in this pandemic. You’ve had your kids at home a lot more than you could have anticipated. Your kids are struggling with all the things they want to do and can’t because of COVID. You are probably feeling the same. I’m right there with you.

You and your kids are probably ready for a lot of these restrictions to go away. I know I am. Teaching in our current setting has limited many of the things I want us to be doing, many of the things we’ve done in previous years. I’d like to have kids sit right beside friends and read together or play a math game. I’d like for kids to be able to choose where to sit and to move when they feel another spot would work better for them. I’d like to have kids gathering on the carpet, listening to a book, and talking to each other about it. My classroom space and our daily routines aren’t what I want them to be and aren’t what I think best serves kids.

I hate that. I truly do.

Even more, though, I would hate it if I thought a student in my classroom was exposed to COVID, took it home, and exposed immunocompromised family members. Or younger siblings who can’t yet be vaccinated. Those young children are ending up in the hospital far more these days than at any point in this pandemic. If wearing masks, keeping distanced, and limiting contact so we can easily trace who might have been exposed will keep those people safe(r), then it is worth it to me.

Since we came back to school in person, almost one year ago, I have not had one student complain about wearing a mask. Do they like wearing them? I doubt it. They do it because they understand it keeps them and others safe(r). They don’t mind making this sacrifice for that.

When you argue that masks should be optional or should be banned, you are teaching your child that their own convenience and comfort are more important than caring for others.

Children learn many unintentional lessons from us everyday. They are watching and listening and absorbing all we do and say. They may not understand what they are learning but that doesn’t stop those lessons from sinking in. We may not intend to teach them some lessons but if our actions and words send a message, kids get it.

Right now, many kids are learning that selfishness is acceptable and their own comfort is the most important thing. Our young children are internalizing this message. They will continue that way without some motivation to change.

Is that really what we want to teach our children? Would it not better serve us and our society to teach children that we should all care for one another? That taking care of each other is everyone’s responsibility?

There have been so many losses in this pandemic. We have all lost so much, whether that is family or friends who have died or whose health remains impacted by their time with COVID, whether it is income lost, whether it is opportunities lost, whether it is time with family and friends lost, whether it is a detriment to mental health, whatever it may be, we have all lost so much.

We can, however, make sure that the next generation does not carry those losses with them forever. We can model for them what a caring, strong society can look like. We have a powerful moment here, an amazing opportunity. Please, remember that when you decide what to show your children. Please, remember that when you decide what you (and we) should and do value.

Sincerely,

A mother and teacher

2 replies on “A Letter to those Fighting Masks”

  1. Thanks for this, Jen. I feel for you.

  2. Your post immediately popped into my mind on Tuesday after a student tried telling me that he lost the book he had checked out the week before “somewhere in his couch.” After some gentle nudging and suggestions for where else he might find the 9 X 12 inch Cincinnati Bengals book OTHER than the couch cushions, he admitted that he can’t return the book because his father “destroyed it.”

    The parent destroyed it after the Bengals beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

    He was mad, saw the book his son had checked out from the school library, and chose to destroy it.

    His son learned a lot. And at least for now, he’s obviously ashamed of the lesson.

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