Friday, May 13, 2022

Voice Of Dissent

 It makes sense to me that my first encounter with an anti-masker would come at my elementary school. The fact that it came several weeks after the district quietly switched its messaging from requiring masks to be worn inside to "strongly recommending" that they be worn. The grown ups at my school chose to discuss the matter quickly and discretely among ourselves and then chose not to open it up for debate. We'll just go ahead and keep wearing masks and encouraging kids to do the same. 

Why so autocratic? Because I said so. Because I don't want any of our staff or students to get sick. Because I don't want any of them to die. It's probably worth mentioning again here that we continue to struggle with a pandemic that won't just go away. New mutations and strains continue to arrive on the scene even as we continue to find ways to ignore them. Each new surge in cases is connected to some response on our part. I am as happy as anyone that we can walk around in the outdoors without much fear of contracting the virus, but since I am part of a tiny sliver left on the staff who has yet to test positive, I am doing everything I can to maintain that streak. 

Which is why, when a fifth grader plopped himself down in his seat the other day, I asked if he would please pull his mask up from below his chin and over his nose and mouth. He started to comply, but something caught him in mid-surrender. "Didn't they just take a vote that says we don't have to wear masks anymore?"

I chose not to ask about who "they" were and what sort of vote he meant, choosing instead to focus on the policy as stated. "The school district strongly recommends that we all wear masks when we are inside." 

"But that doesn't mean we have to, right?" And now I was engaged in a battle of wits with the most aggravating of beasts, the literal fifth grader.

"No. You don't have to," I replied. Then I decided to take a chance. "How about the rest of you?" I made a sweeping gesture to the class as a whole, "How does everyone else feels about John going without his mask in the computer lab?"

"Put it on!" "Just wear it!" The shouts continued until John pulled his mask over his mouth. And nose. I saved the rest of my public safety lecture for another time. Still two weeks left of school. 

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