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Healthy student conversations about “mask optional”

Healthy student conversations about “mask optional”

By Jay Scheurle |

I had the opportunity to sit with a group of students last week who were talking about the school’s shift to being “mask optional” starting April 4th. One of the teachers asked the group, “how are you feeling about this?” Students openly shared their emotions — “anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, scared, excited.”

Oak Meadow families are probably having these same discussions at home. Teachers will be having age-appropriate conversations like this over the next two weeks, as we gradually practice some optional masking before the school shifts entirely to mask optional next month.

I was so impressed by the comments of the students. They revealed their own thoughtful grappling with this change, as well as their empathy and concern for peers. These kinds of conversations about “emotions” and “feelings” are natural among our students, strengthening relationships and building community identity. Here are a few of the comments I heard from students:

  • “This is going to be a new normal. It’s going to feel weird. Excited but self conscious about it.”
  • “At first I was not comfortable wearing a mask, and now I am.”
  • “I am more excited than nervous.”
  • “I went on a trip with my family and got COVID, and that makes me more anxious now than I was before.”
  • “Sometimes I feel out of breath when I do active stuff and wear a mask, so I feel excited and nervous about this next step.”
  • “I’m really scared and nervous. People I love have had COVID. I don’t want to make it less safe for others.”
  • “I am so much more aware of how COVID can affect any family. I feel paranoid and cautious. I wish we could have a normal with no COVID, but that’s not what we mean by normal because COVID is still here.”
  • “We need to respect what other people feel. Keep in mind that others may not feel comfortable without masks.”
  • “We shouldn’t feel peer pressure about this. Some do. It doesn’t matter what others think of you.”
  • “Never, ever be pressured to do something because someone wants you to do it. You’re the boss of your own body. Follow your own instincts… usually they’re right.”

If parents would like suggestions about how to discuss the shift to “mask optional” with your child, here are some resources recommended by our learning specialists: