Many of us are returning to school or facilitated a hybrid model for the beginning of the school year. Having taught ART-from-a-CART for a few weeks prior to summer vacation amidst the pandemic, I wanted to share some input on wearing and teaching with our new necessary accessory – THE MASK!
Although we would rather not wear one, we now know that it is imperative in helping quell the spread of the virus and in keeping ourselves and others safe. The 5 Top Tips for Teaching in a Mask refers to non-disposable masks and is aimed to help teachers who are returning to their campuses to plan and prepare for this new must-have school supply.
1.FUNCTION OR FASHION
Art teachers like to ‘BE ART’ and often are walking canvases. Although there are a lot of fun, colorful and stylish masks out there now, make sure to invest in a mask that is functional first! Whether it is antimicrobial material and breathable fabric and/or having a pocket to put in disposable filters, don’t simply buy a mask because it’s cute, do your homework, and make sure it will protect you, first and foremost. Also, I am all for decorating your mask but add-ons can compromise the integrity of the mask and render in less effective in protecting you which is the mask’s primary purpose.
2. COMFORT IS KEY
I would highly recommend that you try wearing the mask you intent to wear while you teach BEFORE you use it in the classroom. I learned this the hard way and I quickly found that the mask I was wearing was uncomfortable, slid down my nose when I was talking, and was extremely hot. Because I didn’t test it ahead of time, I had no other choice but to continue to wear it throughout my lesson. Wearing a mask at the store or at the salon is very different than wearing one when you are teaching. You are talking a lot more meaning it needs to function differently and has different requirements – breathable, well-fitting, and comfortable.
3. DIFFERENT CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
From not knowing who is talking while you’re teaching because their mouth is covered to not being able to give your full ‘teacher look’, you may have to reconsider some of your classroom management strategies to ensure you have successful lessons. I remind students in each class that they must raise their hand when they have something to share as we want all voices to be heard and know whose voice we are listening to. Eye contact is even more important than ever before to reinforce positive behaviors and address unexpected ones. Be conscious of small adjustments you need to make as some of the same tricks don’t work as well when our facial expressions can’t be seen and our voices are muffled. Also, beware of student that may have earring impairments and make sure to make modifications to instruction and provide the support needed.
4. USE IT AS A TEACHING TOOL
Just to reiterate Top Tip #1, make sure your mask is safe first but once you have found a brand or supplier with quality masks, think about how you might use it as a teaching tool! From bedazzling your own to supporting local artists and companies, your necessary accessory is a talking piece and can be a way to connect with your students and your lessons. After creating a distance learning lesson on the local Hong Kong artist, Cath Love, she connected with me on social media which lead me to buy one of her hand-painted masks. Students were so excited to see the mask and immediately made the connections that it was in the artist’s style.
5. BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL
Students will follow your lead regarding your attitude towards having to wear it and the actual use and care of the mask itself. Try your best to be positive about wearing it and model appropriate care of the mask when removing it to eat and/or for certain activities. Whether it is a plastic ziplock bag to keep it in or giving positive reinforcement when the entire class keep them on for the whole lesson, it is important that we model and teach how to think about, wear and care for our masks. This mighty mask will help us fight the virus, keep our community safe, and protect each other.
Although we would rather not have these barriers between us and our students and many of us would not choose to even be back on campus, we must face the fact that masks work and it is our first defense to protecting ourselves from the virus while still getting to be with students. So put your game face on which means covering it up!