All of us are struggling with wearing a mask, but it is a unique challenge for teachers, para educators (assistants), and therapists who work directly with our children. They are engaged with our students for six hours per day and must wear a mask for the entire duration. So, I thought I would share some ideas on how to help each of us and our students adjust to this new expectation:
- Get the student’s attention before speaking by first making eye contact. You may also want to provide written and verbal instructions.
- Talk louder. Don’t shout, but speak slower. Remember your voice may sound muffled.
- Convey to your students positive reinforcement through your body language since they cannot see your face. As an example, use a “thumbs up.”
- Ask your students if they understood your instructions. You could also ask students to repeat the instructions.
- Talk to the student’s parent(s) and IEP Team to determine the best communication methods for each student before the start of the school year.
- Some face coverings may be uncomfortable for a student. Discuss the challenges the student is experiencing with a Behavior therapist, Occupational therapist, and other team members to determine as to how best to desensitize the child to wearing a mask.
There are face shields as well as clear face coverings that might be a consideration if the child is experiencing difficulty with the mask, or if you are challenged in teaching.
Unfortunately, I do believe that current “best practice” tells us that we will be wearing masks for many, many months.
Have you ever heard of the term, “smizing?” It means smiling with your eyes. It involves bringing life to your eyes since the rest of your face is behind a mask, and therefore neutral.
Give it a try!