Taking off the Mask

As educators we are blessed with a tremendous number of those moments that take our breath away. For some it’s seeing the joy in the eyes of a child as they finally understand a concept. We often refer to that as the light bulb moment.  For others, it’s that moment when a student who is learning English as a second or third language magically speaks in class and their classmates cheer as they hear their voice for the first time.  How many of us have been emotionally impacted when one of our students scores their first basket or finally masters Double Dutch.  Then there are those moments of pride when we see our students comfort a friend on the school yard or extend a welcoming wave to a new classmate.

One of the most recent moments, which took my breath away, began when an educator was proudly sharing the artwork that their class had just completed.  Amongst the many amazing creations was a pencil sketch of masked classmate holding a notebook and pencil.  From an artistic lens it was effectively crafted ~ proportions were realistic, shading provided depth and the attention to detail was obvious. This student is a wonderful artist!

Yet, as beautifully sketched as this piece of artwork was, it was not the craftsmanship that took my breath away; it was the fact that this student (completely unbeknownst to him), with one drawing had effectively captured what I couldn’t bring myself to say out loud.   It’s as if COVID (symbolized by the mask and closed eyes) had somehow silenced my voice (the closed notebook) and hence my confidence to document our journey through this pandemic.  The literal mask and every implication that wearing a mask has had on us as a society had become a figurative mask and the closed notebook symbolized the days, weeks and then months that went by without a single post. As I reflect over this past year, I can’t help but wonder if my reluctance to blog (something which I enjoy and gives me a sense of pride) was somehow connected to my fear of how my writer’s voice was going to be impacted by all that we were navigating, as a school community and as a society.   Was I going to be less positive and too focused on the negatives of COVID? Not realistic enough or vulnerable enough to share the struggles and frustrations?

This moment that took my breath away, also breathed new life into my commitment to writing and I will forever remember the powerful impact of this student’s artwork. When I shared my strong connection to his artwork, the student was grateful for the compliment and thrilled that I found it so meaningful.  He was also very humble and shrugged it off as, “Just something I did one day when my work was done”.

Have there been figurative masks and closed notebooks in your life lately? How has the past year affected you and your voice?  Join me in being brave and removing the figurative mask to share our experiences.

Come write with me…

4 thoughts on “Taking off the Mask

  1. I have to admit, my favourite thing about online learning – other than being able to prepare hot lunches for myself & have easy access to coffee – is the fact that we are all mask free. It is such a delight to see their full faces. I am also a dramatic reader when it comes to our daily Read Aloud. I struggled to do my voices and accents and add dramatic flourish to the stories we have read this year because of my mask. I tried…I really did…but eventually I felt like I was hyperventilating as the cotton cloth kept getting sucked in and blown out by my efforts to land the role of “Best Storyteller Ever” in our portable. Now, I have been liberated, and my thespian aspirations are reborn. Granted, I am talking into a microphone and, what seems like, an empty void (the text is on my screen and their microphones are off). Regardless, the post-reading responses I get are encouraging. Thanks for sharing again Sue. 2 Down — 29 to Go!

  2. I agree, wearing a mask has made it extremely difficult for people to hear us, literally and figuratively. Mentally I am trying to erase these two years but Not intentionally. I want Covid to go away, so I think my brain is erasing everything associated with it. Masks are horrific. A child smile and laughter have to be one of the most precious things, and it took that away. You are right though we can’t just erase, forget and stop doing things we love. So many good things out way the bad, like my job, the people I work with. My family, my health, my friends. This year I felt like I needed to continuously repeat that statement. I don’t like living in fear and walking out daily and seeing the masks on everyone’s face is a constant reminder.

  3. Beautifully written, as always. I too have moved away from writing, sharing and posting on many media platforms over the past year. A sense of dread and feeling of negativity have been at the centre of that for me as well. There was no longer joy in the process. I have sat to start writing many times in the past while, but can never bring myself to finish, let alone publish anything.

    Thanks for being and example – perhaps after reading a few of your musings I will rip the bandaid off and get back to writing too.

  4. Haven’t blogged myself since September. I share your feelings and worried negativity might seep in. Enough negativity around us all right now.

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