Students continue to wear the mask to “hide” their faces

The mask is no longer mandatory in schools since May 14 and the decision to wear it is now left to everyone’s discretion. When students want to keep it to protect those around them and vulnerable people, teachers note that young people mainly cover their faces to hide their physical appearance, which gives rise to reflections and concerns.

Returning to class on Monday, Florence Coderre, who teaches 2and and 3and L’Assomption College high school, noted that a handful of students in each group preferred to keep the mask on. Not for fear of COVID-19, she tells the Task† “What I found disturbing was that when I took the pulse, I found that most of them kept it out of habit, or because it hides their physical flaws. They don’t want to show their face, they want to hide,” she said.

These young people told her they felt “exposed, almost naked,” she adds.

Other teachers reported to the Task saw the same phenomenon in their classrooms. Some are afraid of peer comments and want to hide their acne or what they see as physical blemishes, or don’t like to show off their braces.

Although this is not the majority of students, the situation concerns Florence Coderre. “Self-acceptance is already a big challenge in adolescence, especially when it becomes possible to hide what we don’t like,” she thinks. We should pay particular attention to these students, she believes, and open the discussion on this topic. “I don’t want this generation to be the one that is still characterized by this pandemic by hiding behind a mask that was previously not part of our universe,” she said.

Marie-Hélène Lefebvre, a school psychologist at the Grandes-Seigneuries school service center, notes that students need to learn to take on their little mistakes. “You have to look at how you can calmly distance yourself from the gaze of others. It’s a process, self-esteem is a big problem in adolescence, as is identity,” she says.

Students should be given the opportunity to adapt “without pathologizing anything”, emphasizes Céline Leroux-Chemla, a psychologist at the Paul-Gérin-Lajoie-d’Outremont secondary school. It is necessary “to appropriate this change in a natural way without specific intervention. Not thinking about wearing it again or not wearing it again and asking why…, let people express themselves,” she thinks. “If the student talks about it spontaneously, welcome their reflection by validating their feelings without judgment,” she adds.

Nicolas Prévost, president of the Quebec Federation of Educational Establishment Directors (FQDE), notes that a majority of students have stopped wearing the mask following the lifting of the requirement on May 14 and reiterates that schools are free to use the mask. to wear a mask or not.

“The student will not be asked about why he is wearing the mask,” he said. However, if such a situation comes to our attention, it is our role as school counselors to work with parents to see what we can do to help the young person rebuild their self-confidence. He adds that since the pandemic, there has been an increase in anxiety and mental health problems among students, a situation facing schools and families.

Many reasons

Three to five students per class continue to wear the mask in the secondary school where Marie-Hélène Lefebvre works, and the shame of appearing in public is one of the reasons, but it’s not the only one, she notes. “This is not the first reason that the students spontaneously mentioned me,” she nuances. “Some want to protect their grandparents. A student told me she was afraid of missing school due to contracting COVID-19 because she has a busy schedule with enriched courses. Others have extracurricular activities with competitions they don’t want to miss,” she explains. She also notes a tendency towards conformism in behavior.

Maude Laverdiere, pupil of 5and high school high school Marcel-Landry, prefers to keep the mask for prevention reasons, as there are still deaths and hospitalizations. But she feels the pressure not to wear it anymore as she is in a small minority at her school even though we don’t comment on it. “The looks don’t bother me,” she said. In my group of friends there are three of us who keep putting it on, and it is less difficult. But when I am alone I would feel the pressure and would like to do like the others. †

Still, the idea of ​​taking off the mask frightens some young people, such as Émilie Sauriol’s 8-year-old daughter. “For her it is stress. She is afraid that labor will start again, afraid of getting seriously ill. She also said: ‘If I don’t put it on, take it and give it to you, you might die because of me’, ‘ she said to the Task† Her parents explained to her that the risks were low, but the little one still feels fear.

“We’re not anti-masks, she’s vaccinated and stuff, but she’s stressed, which breaks our hearts. She feels like she has a responsibility to her whole society,” added her mother.

To be seen in video

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