Wearing Masks Doesn’t Stop Students & Staff

Wearing Masks Doesn’t Stop Students & Staff from Making Connections
Posted on 09/08/2020
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masks don't stopWe may be starting the school year wearing masks, but that hasn’t stopped Lakota students and staff from making important connections with each other.

Challenges associated with wearing masks have brought about creative solutions across the district.

For example, Adena Media Aide Kim Gaffney helped provide every staff member with a photo button to wear every day, featuring the staff member smiling – without a mask.

“Our third-graders are coming in from another school and do not know what their teachers and administrators look like. That could be scary for the little ones,” said Gaffney. “The photo buttons have given the children and teachers a better way to make a connection. Seeing a smiling face can make someone’s day a bit brighter.”

Other schools have adopted this practice as well, and Cherokee Elementary is even working on providing each student with a photo button to wear on a school lanyard. Cherokee teacher Todd Overbeck also created a different way for students and teachers to give a hug despite social distancing. Each person puts their right hand over their heart, stretches out their left hand towards the other person and then they take a deep breath together. “This new way of hugging is being used throughout the school,” said Cherokee Principal Valerie Montgomery.

Linda Croy’s fourth grade Math Plus class at Independence Elementary did an art project that helps students reveal the interesting person they are underneath their masks. This “Behind the Mask” lift-the-flap self-portrait art project is helping students learn more about each other and to make connections -- and friends. The halls of Endeavor Elementary (and other schools throughout the district) are decorated with these self-portrait projects as well.

Independence teacher Laura Ruschman put her own spin on unmasked portraits. She created a class family poster that features each of her students (unmasked) with a speech bubble that shares their hobbies.

Students in Mrs. Martin’s class at Wyandot Early Childhood School are learning they can still show their feelings while wearing a mask. Classroom walls are decorated with masked photos of each student, with a caption below saying: “My eyes show that I am ____________”. Students filled in the blanks with words like happy, excited and shy.

Adena teachers Helen Vassiliou and Emily Neff are holding a Sunday evening learning series via Zoom to connect with their English Language Learners and families. “Due to the pandemic and the need to socially distance, I thought that this might be a way to keep our school-home connection alive,” said Vasilliou. “The closeness and the connection of hugging each other is now on hold, so the next best thing was to let them see our faces and voices and hear us speak clearly in a stress-free environment from their home.”

At Heritage Early Childhood School, classroom teachers are discovering new ways to build connections. “I have seen classroom teachers do this through a variety of ways such as dancing during mask breaks, social distancing organized games, establishing ways to celebrate each other with new procedures such as ‘jazz hands for clapping’ and ‘air fives instead of high fives,’” said Assistant Principal Natalie Jimenez. She mentioned that a silver lining of wearing masks is that everyone is discovering new outdoor learning spaces and opportunities during mask breaks.

Wearing masks created a learning hurdle for American Sign Language classes at Lakota East and West. They overcame this barrier by staff and students wearing clear masks, which allow for smoother and open communication. Clear masks are being used as needed in the district to help facilitate learning and make connections in a number of different situations.

ASL teachers can now see students' facial expressions which are a critical part of the language,” said West ASL teacher Felicia Waldock. “Without facial expressions, ASL would not exist.”