….weighing in at the size of that giant elephant in each of your classrooms.
Yup, with a sense of timing so impeccably ironic, that it is only achievable by elected officials, we are once again face to face with maskless learners and colleagues.
Oh the freedom!
This all despite numbers related COVID19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths) increasing across the province. Despite a strategic throttling of information from the current government and an ineptly duplicitous media incapable of calling out the “horse hockey” being shovelled at an unwitting public who is either happily oblivious learning how to live with COVID19 or now scrambling to avoid a negative patient outcome for someone in their life who is immuno-compromised.
Another struggle took centre stage the moment the masks were allowed to come off in Ontario. We are once again facing government sanctioned chaos when it comes to public health policy and education in our province and there are signs of trouble in nearly every public school. #Onted via Twitter reveals numerous schools with growing numbers of COVID19 cases and exposures among their youngest learners. That means more absences (students and staff), more missed learning opportunities, and more uncertainty in schools/homes.
To no one’s surprise who has actually taught in a school over the past 2 years, students, teachers, and support staff once again find themselves at greater risk of being exposed to COVID19 now that masking has become optional in public schools.*
Thankfully, at the school where I teach, the number of students and staff still choosing to mask up each day remains around 90%. Odd though how that figure corresponds to another public health statistic at 90%. Hint, it rhymes with vaccination rate. Hmm? Yet, that is not the case inside of many other schools and has the potential to be problematic on a number of fronts. I’ve seen this movie before and as I recall, it ain’t a comedy.
The removal of required masking, limited cohorting, mandatory hand sanitizing protocols, and social distancing have not provided me with the peace of mind that the return of such “freedoms” pretends to promise. So what is can a health conscious public educator do while they are now placed on the frontlines of learning to live with germ warfare?
Psst. Running away and hiding are not options.
The safest moves are to continue limiting our own exposure to potential infections by keeping our distance, masking at all times, sanitizing, and limiting our social interactions. Overcoming a global pandemic entering its 6th wave is going to take a little more time. We have gone through so much and have learned an equal amount about ourselves and others.
I can sense that students are still concerned about this too. I have noticed them still sanitizing their hands and trying to maintain their distances with students who have chosen to go maskless in class. Thankfully, I have not observed any social shunning as of yet which makes me hopeful that this will be the case in the general public when ideologies collide as legislated social expectations are gone. It is in this spirit of care and respect that I encourage you all to stay safe and strong as you continue to serve and shine in your classrooms.
* I was going to make a snappy comment about how private schools did not have to remove their mask mandates while all public schools were ordered to do so, but I could not think of a good way to phrase it without the use of profanity.