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Back in the Classroom: Ontario teachers' opinions on children returning back to school

On January 17th, 2022, children returned back to in-person learning in classrooms throughout Ontario. Many parents and teachers were concerned about the rise of Omicron and how the government will proceed to modify restrictions. Since schools have opened up, there have been new protocols for teachers to follow.


Now, teachers must wear N95 masks instead of cloth masks or surgical face masks. Teachers are also required to wear protective goggles or face shields that cover the eye area. Although teachers are thrilled to return back to school and teach their students once again, many are concerned about the face shields and N95 masks they must wear. Sarah, an elementary school teacher in the Halton Region comments,


“Being in the classroom is where teachers and students need to be. Socially and mentally challenged children need to be around each other—when they are around the same age they can learn and understand each other better. Safety-wise, everyone will have a different answer. I feel safe with parents sending their children to school. However, some parents are still worried about sending their kids and who can blame them in these uncertain times?”


Although teachers are extremely eager to teach in person once again, many are unhappy with the current precautions the government has put in place in classrooms. The consensus is that many teachers are unhappy with the N95 masks they must wear because it makes teaching and speaking extremely hard to do. Amy, a Halton Region teacher remarks, “the N95 masks make it extremely difficult to breathe and teach at the same time. Imagine a mask on while teaching a 40-minute math lesson of continuous talking. Most of us prefer the blue medical masks.”


Arguably, the N95 masks were never made to be masks for daily continuous use, rather they are masks commonly worn by construction workers or industrial workers because they filter the air of particles. N95 masks do protect teachers from spreading or obtaining COVID-19, however, they are not an ideal mask for teachers to wear because ultimately it makes doing their job extremely difficult. Sarah also comments,


“I don’t think the government is taking safety precautions to protect both students and teachers. The biggest challenge right now is that teachers are being the security guards and have to send home students who show symptoms even though parents still send them to school. It adds additional stress on teachers to call the said parents and ask them to pick up their potentially sick child. Ultimately, we cannot force parents to pick up their sick child, so a lot of the time we have to essentially allow our class to be exposed to a potentially sick COVID-19 child.”


Teachers in Ontario are feeling the burnout of not knowing when the next lockdown will be and constant mandate change throughout Ontario. Many teachers in Ontario are feeling the stress of being a teacher but are now a part of security in the classroom. Safety is always a priority over learning , however now teachers are under a lot more pressure than accustomed to. Teacher Amy remarks, “as an educator, we want to keep the children safe and healthy and we must ensure every student comes in with a green checkmark before entering the classroom. But sometimes, parents are dishonest about their children's health and it is very stressful. Personally, a lot of us teachers are burnt out.”


The current times have been extremely difficult for everyone and there is no ‘right way’ to get back to normal. However, the Ontario school system is putting too much pressure on its teachers to be both a teacher and a safeguard. Many teachers hope in the future, N95 masks will no longer be required to wear in classrooms and that a more reliable system will be set up to protect students and teachers from COVID-19.

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