On Faces

The first day that children at our school could take their face masks off outside for recess, my colleague came back in from recess duty and I asked her how it was. “Funny, it was hard to recognize them,” she said, surprising even herself. “Sort of too much information.” I thought, oh I can’t imagine feeling that way, until I got out amongst now-unmasked kids. She hit the nail on the head- it was too much information and I had to learn to recognize their faces all over again.

Today was another first. Today students at our school can choose to not wear a mask inside as well. Adults too, of course. We talked and circulated ways of teaching respect for choices and my school system coined the motto: “Masks are optional, Respect is mandatory.” Most students were unmasked, a few kept it on. Most staff were masked, a few not. And some of us were using it while circulating amongst students closely and taking it off other times.

The big fifth graders had coined their own motto for the year: “Unmask your potential. But keep your mask on.” Is it weird for them, now, to decide to take them off?

But whatever the decision, there was an air of joy today. The early spring warmth and sunshine certainly added to it. At recess I wore no mask but my sunglasses. Some second graders were teasing me- was I really Ms. M? I realized all of a sudden they could see my mouth but now not my eyes! We laughed and carried on teasing, pretending I might be an impersonator, a spy. They tricked me into jail and “locked” me onto the monkey bars. I felt as if I hadn’t been silly in a long time.

Whole faces. Ben has these cute slightly buck-teeth. Cali has a dimple. Sylvie has that gap-toothed smile of a six year old. Phoenix’s smile changes her face altogether and I feel I can see the adult she will become. More information is a good thing.

10 thoughts on “On Faces

  1. I love the “masks are optional but respect is mandatory”. We were really nervous when we stopped our school mandate. I teach kindergarten and we had a discussion about how our choice is our choice but we love our friends no matter what and I have had really great classroom outcomes. I hope everything goes well for you too!

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  2. I love the mottos your fifth grade and your school as a whole came up with. We, too, dropped the mask mandate this week; masks are recommended, not required. Many are still masked; most are not. For me, seeing my newer (from the last two years) colleagues without a mask and seeing their faces as a whole made me realize I had created imaginary lower faces and that those rarely matched! What? You have dimples? What? Such a wide mouth and white teeth? What? A nose ring? I don’t say any of that out loud, of course, but I’m sure my eyes are sometimes widening for a few seconds! And I haven’t even been able to take in all the kids in the library (lunch time can have 200 kids coming in and out!).

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  3. I don’t know why, but I am tearing up. We had masks optional since a few weeks ago. It is a strange transition. I personally love how your final paragraph ties to the beginning. and like you, I also love the TMI that comes from no masks. Also, my favorite line: “Phoenix’s smile changes her face altogether and I feel I can see the adult she will become.” Lovely slice!

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  4. Whole faces. Ben has these cute slightly buck-teeth. Cali has a dimple. Sylvie has that gap-toothed smile of a six year old. Phoenix’s smile changes her face altogether and I feel I can see the adult she will become. That two-word sentence at the beginning sets the stage for pithy but powerful descriptions. Seems like a technique you could recreate! Glad you’re seeing their whole faces. 🙂

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  5. You captured so well in your slice the many feelings experienced during this pandemic phase. I must admit I was pretty nervous about it, so I upped my mask game. Now it seems normal to see a sea of double masked and maskless together. The tmi of learning faces to go with the student, the discovery of dimples and gap teeth, and above all the mandatory respect- these details and mottos really set the tone.

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  6. My favorite is your last paragraph where you name exactly what you now can see. This paragraph is so joyful. A change from the colleague’s opening remarks which seemed to imply “Too much information” was not a good thing. I’m glad you tagged this Covid-19. It’s a great covid slice!

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