It is a lovely feeling to walk into a building that has been empty for months but is beginning to be repopulated for its usual function. In my case, this is a school, since I am now working in a school program housed within a local high school.

As I walk through the hall to my office, it is orderly. Youth pass each other at the correct physical distance but wave wildly when they see a friend and agree to meet outside. Their excitement at seeing friends is…uhh…infectious. And it’s so interesting to catch a glimpse of them in the new must-have accessory, a mask!

Never has there been an accessory so ready for creativity and self-expression! It is as if by covering people’s mouths, they have decided to place on the fabric on top of them messages and words that they would be too shy to say out loud.

Masks are not like the cool brand of gym shoes, the shirts in this year’s trendy colour or the hoodie everyone is wearing. A mask makes more of a statement.

There are the slogans:

  • On a mask work by a slip of a girl as she walks as unobtrusively as possible: “Life is short and so am I.”
  • On a 6-foot, 200 pound guy in sweat pants and a team jersey: ”You’re too close.”
  • On numerous black youth: “Black lives matter.” Or “I can’t breathe!”
  • On a seemingly quiet young woman walking by herself and waving at everyone in a nice way: “This is my resting ____face!”
  • On a kid shuffling past, staring at his iPhone: ‘I paused my game to be here.”

And there are the signs or symbols or things that are not quite words:

  • Emojis – especially smiles or frowns
  • The raised fist of the Black lives matter movement
  • Rainbows – a heartening number of rainbows, which must be a heartening sign to many youth who long for the world to be inclusive of them
  • #?*!

Here are my favourite teacher masks:

  • Math equations (sigh)
  • Adorned with the appropriate symbols: “Science matters.”
  • “Dedicated teacher – even from a distance”
  • “English teacher – watch your language!”
  • “Math teacher – I have problems!

My all time favourite mask, seen on a custodian as he enters the building and before he puts on his superhero outfit:

  • “Keep calm – and let the custodian handle it!”

As a physician, my surgical mask is pretty tame by comparison and I am feeling a little left out, but my mask is “regulation” and so I will enjoy the show every morning.

In the meantime, what about you? Why not go back to school?

Cover your face with a mask!

Express yourself!

(This Dr. Seuss mask is the one I would wear to school…if I could.)


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