With more infectious variants of the COVID-19 virus emerging, teachers and students have been required to wear masks in high school classrooms. Indeed, this was mandatory in Greater Sydney and all of Victoria before the recent switch to remote learning under lockdowns.
But what constitutes best practice when it comes to masks in the classroom? It’s one thing to ask students to wear them, but this can have negative impacts on students.
Dr David Roy, a Lecturer in Education at the University of Newcastle, has conducted extensive research on the use of masks in educational settings. He says is now widely recognised that masks support the protection against airborne spread infections and therefore it only makes sense that they are used within the classroom
“There are multiple ways that we can ensure that masks can work within the classroom. This includes using exaggerated expressions of eyes and of shoulders of ensuring that there are written versions of instructions,” Dr Roy told The Educator.
“We also need to be aware that teachers can remove their masks when teaching so that their mouths can be seen for clear understanding by those students who use lips to support their heating whether they be hearing impaired or deaf. Clear visuals will support learning in the classroom when masks are being used.”
Dr Roy said teachers also need to ensure that students are not only wearing masks but using them in a suitable and safe way.
“A mask does not work ever it is not covering both the nose and the mouth. You should only touch a mask from the edges,” he said.
“You should not share masks. You need to wash reusable masks at least every day of usage. Single use masks are exactly that, single use. As soon as you have used it for the day place it into a bin. They cannot be reused the next day.”
Dr Roy said the fact that schools and districts across the world have been using masks in the classroom should show that masks should be embraced rather than feared.
“Young people are particularly seen to have a higher vulnerability to the Delta Variant of COVID 19 than the earlier infections,” he said.
“Masks or one of our best forms of protection. Let’s use everything we can to protect our students and our staff. Let’s mask up.”