My Mask Story

We are still doing social distancing, so my classrooms are big. Even with 25-30 students you need a large room if you are to maintain the six-feet space between people. This means I use my teacher’s voice to deliver my lectures (I’m very into the traditional, old-fashioned lectures these days). The teacher’s voice needs good lung capacity, in case you don’t know.

I teach in a transparent facial shield, which helps boom my voice to every corner of the classroom. Fun times! I like to overwhelm. Today, however, I got distracted by some messages before class and forgot to swap the mask for the shield. I marched into class in a mask and thought, OK, what’s the big deal? I can teach one lecture in a mask.

Folks, I barely lasted 3 minutes. Then I started to choke and gasp for air like a last-stage COVID patient. Again, remember, teacher’s voice isn’t like speaking. It’s more like singing in that you need a lot more air. I had to run out of the classroom, tearing the mask off my face and wheezing.

I had gotten checked post-COVID, and my lung function is unaffected, so it’s not that. It’s the bleeding mask. I now understand why the poor priest almost collapsed in church. I’m kind of stunned he lasted as long as he did.

Stupid masks. I’m so glad I refused to teach in them from the get-go.

17 thoughts on “My Mask Story

  1. My lung function was fine, too, and X-rays were normal. But it turned out I have scar tissue. It causes problems when humidity is really high (like when you wear a mask). Maybe you’re in a similar situation? Nobody saw my scarring until I had a CT.


    1. Yeah that sounds really unusual and not ok. Back this spring, I used to wear a KN95 on the local climbing wall, had no issues even when doing climbs at the top of my level. Other people I know hiked up mountains with masks on. And ok, we’re younger and fitter, but I’m guessing we should have felt the difference in performance?


          1. Let’s not pathologize the normal human desire to be able to breathe freely. Plus, you are describing a completely different activity. Try reciting something at the top of your voice in a different language and on an intellectually demanding topic while you climb, and then we’ll have a workable analogy.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Not throwing shade and not discounting your experience, just saying that it does take some time to adjust to teaching in a mask, and people do differ in their breathing patterns. I taught in a mask all last year in a big auditorium that normally seats 250 and definitely had to use my teacher voice, but I didn’t find it particularly taxing after the first couple of lectures. In contrast, my husband is teaching in a smaller classroom this semester and complains bitterly about teaching through the mask.


      1. I tried these masks that have loops to put over your ears that the university provides. I have a wide face and big cheeks, so the mask squished my face in a weird way. I felt like a duck-faced instagrammer underneath it.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I have a similar experience of the first couple of lectures being very hard with a mask, but then I got used to it and it is more or less fine now. The first two lectures were VERY unpleasant though (I will spare you the details, but at some point I had to leave the classroom in the middle of a lecture to deal with the problems). Same experience with a cloth mask – no way I can use one, I have to use disposable ones. I visited my family a while back and everyone there was obligated to use a N95 mask or an equivalent, it was not pleasant. While there, I have seen a very old lady in a public transport who cut several holes in her N95 mask, I did not blame her one bit!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m still duking it out with our local school board on mask mandates. At the beginning of the school year, the board voted (by the narrowest of margins) to make masks optional for kids K-12. Some loony parents, not content with forcing their own hapless children to wear masks, threw a very public hissy fit demanding that the board reinstate the mask mandate, and one parent threatened to sue the district under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that his daughter was vulnerable due to her disability (Down’s Syndrome), and the board caved. Oddly enough, most of the school board members don’t wear masks to the meetings, and neither does the superintendent of schools, even though the meetings are open to the public and sometimes draw very large crowds. They are obviously not afraid of catching covid, or else they know that masks don’t prevent infection or transmission. Yet they have no problem requiring everyone’s children to wear masks to school. Sometimes I get so frustrated with them I could scream.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The moment my toddler’s daycare starts requiring mask wearing, I will be pulling them out. No way I will have my child wearing a mask for 8+ hours. I have no idea how I will be able to manage having them at home and my work, but that is a line I am not willing to cross. There is no way young children can wear masks properly, I think those mandates are just for training them to comply. Fortunately, for now the daycare does not have a mask mandate, but they insinuated that things may change.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with the other comment about double-checking for scarring in your lungs because what you describe seems abnormal. N95s are mandated at my university and I was dreading teaching in one (vs a disposable surgical mask) but it has been surprisingly fine. One of my classes involves projecting my voice across a large room and the other is a 3 hr lab and both have been okay, so I am concerned about your lung health 😦


      1. I didn’t say wearing a mask was normal. And I didn’t say that seeing it as a big deal was abnormal. I still don’t like it and am looking forward to when I don’t have to wear masks any more. But I do think that the physiological response you describe (choking and gasping for air) is abnormal, so I am worried that there is an underlying health issue you should get checked out. That’s all. An alternative is that you might have claustrophobia that is being brought out by the mask.


  5. Where I am, before classes began we got detailed guidance about everything (30 or so items including teaching in a mask).

    I looked at it and realized “this is unworkable” and sure enough almost none of it is currently being observed… from social distancing, to sitting in the halls, to getting temperatures checked when entering the building (the machine still stands there and maybe works but no one actually uses it….) One colleague told me before classes began “no way am I wearing a mask to teach, language students need to see their teacher’s face”

    I still wear a mask in the halls between class but I took off my mask before the first class and said “I’m not gonna do this in a mask” and no student seems to have been bothered and some students have been not wearing them as well.

    Now we’ve gotten new guidelines that we have teach in a mask…. unless we maintain 1.5 meter distance between ourselves and the students. On Tuesday all my classes are in a very big room so no problem, on Thursday they’re all in a small room but…. teach in a mask? What? Am I crazy?

    I’m very surprised to find out there are people doing that…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Same here. We have a mask mandate (mandated by health authorities, not the school) but I never wear a mask if I am teaching while I am sitting at my desk. However, if I have to stand up and walk around desks, I do wear one, out of courtesy to students’ sensibilities, but then I do not teach.
    I can’t teach and wear a mask at the same time: students need to see my face to reproduce the sounds I make while I’m speaking and to understand what I am saying.

    Liked by 1 person

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