Cap Guard meets Special Education, Middle School Teacher, Thomas Bucci
Describe your teaching background and experience: I have been teaching special education since February, 2001. I started at Eastampton Middle School and joined Southern Regional School District September, 2002.
What concerns do you have about returning back to school and the risks of COVID-19 transmission? Just like everyone else. I don't want to get sick. I also don't want to get anyone else sick. I am concerned that we will have another rise in cases and then go back to being remote.
How do you feel your students will tolerate wearing a mask for a full day of school? I think some students will be fine with it, but others are going to have a difficult time wearing it all day long. Right now our school has allowed teachers that have hall duty to give kids breaks and allow them to go outside if needed throughout the day.
Teachers that have returned to school have already complained about chapped faces and lips, hoarse voices, facial breakouts, and dehydration from not drinking enough as it’s hard to sip water while wearing a mask. Which of these (one, some, or all) present concerns to you? All of those are concerns of mine. I am a big proponent of staying hydrated and drinking lots of water throughout the day. I had to wear a mask yesterday for most of the day and my voice is a little hoarse from it already. I know that all of us are trying to do our best for the students and ourselves - it's just the unknown that is concerning and how are we going to make this work?
How do you feel about the risk of students touching their faces and possibly self-infecting as a result? I think just like everything else it's trying to make them aware of not doing it. It's a concern for sure, but just like everything right now - it's finding new habits or fixing our old ones. I know that I am. I am more aware of the fact when I touch my nose, eyes, or face now more than ever.
Why is it important for you to be able to see student’s full facial expressions and lip movements, meaning verbal and non-verbal communication, while teaching? Facial expressions are a key component to learning and communicating. Wearing a mask takes a lot of that personal expression away from everyone. Sometimes students will make face or give you a certain look when they don't understand something or when they finally comprehend a topic, I am not sure that we are going to see that now (wearing masks) as teachers and might move on without answering their questions or feeling the satisfaction of them understanding what you are teaching.
Why is it important for the student to be able to see your full facial expressions and lip movements, meaning verbal and non-verbal communication, while teaching? I think expressions such as a smile or a silly face are a personal side to teaching that we enjoy seeing and sharing from our students. Not being able to see or express those cues while wearing a mask is going to be difficult. I think we grow up seeing doctors, dentists or others wearing masks in an environment that isn't very welcoming or a place you don't want to be. School isn't supposed to be that way. It's supposed to be enjoyable and a place you want to feel a part of at all times. Now, if everyone has a mask on, it changes the dynamic and feel of the room or building.
Face shields are 100% recyclable, re-usable, and easily sanitized between uses with warm water and antibacterial soap. Face shields also retain less facial heat; eye-glasses won’t fog, and one is less likely to touch their face. They are also tolerated longer. As a teacher, which aspects of a face shield are most important to you and why? I feel like our biggest advantage as teachers is connecting with a student and sometimes words aren't necessary. It's just like in sports where you don't have to say anything to communicate with your teammates. It's a look or expression on your face that allows for comprehension. If you're wearing a mask it takes that away. I find myself just walking around, and I like to say hi to people or smile at them. You don't know what someone is doing underneath a mask. Reading someone's eyes isn't as easy as a smile or a frown.
If you (teacher) and students wore face shields instead of masks, how would the teaching experience differ in your opinion? I do feel that it would be different. I think that it would allow the same environment that we are all used to as opposed to wearing a mask or covering on your face which has become our "new norm. With all that has gone on since March (2020), some students just want to see their teacher’s and friend’s faces. That's not going to be possible with everyone wearing a mask or a covering. The "new norm" isn't personal. It's strictly for safety and I get it, but it takes away the personal touch element away from everything. We have already been in isolation for long enough. Students want to feel welcomed with a smile or a laugh. Two things that can't be seen underneath a mask.