Mar 22nd, 2022, 12:00 PM

Masks Are Shed and the Classroom Prevails

By Christina Alvarez-Correa
Photo Credit: Unsplash/NeONBRAND
Photo Credit: Unsplash/NeONBRAND
The first few days of a maskless AUP show the wonder of expression and recognition

As of Monday, March 14th 2022, most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in France, including mask wearing. For the first time since the pandemic began, students at AUP are entering classrooms and greeting their peers with entirely visible faces. With more displayed expressions and bright smiles, many are commenting on the noticeable difference in engagement levels and overall shifts in character of the classroom. 

Socialization, bonding and communication are highly reliant on facial expressions. With the entry of COVID-19, the saying “the eyes say it all” was put to the test as people wore masks during the majority of their interactions. Along with the abundance of unprecedented barriers that came with the pandemic, expression and productive communication were sacrificed for public safety.

Although we have all become habituated to this faceless reality, the lifting of the mask mandate has transported many of us back to pre-pandemic life; especially students. Being able to see not only the faculty, but classmates' faces as well has added many benefits to the classroom. This qualitative change has made learning a more engaging and interactive experience. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Ani Kolleshi

Ella Patrick, a junior at AUP claims “class is so much more interesting when you get to see everyone’s reactions. In the past few days, I already feel more engaged and excited to go to class.” As this is Patrick’s second semester at AUP, she came into the school while mask wearing was mandatory. The past few days have been some of the first times that she has seen her classmates’ full faces and she believes it will change her entire classroom experience. 

Wearing masks has significantly affected our ability to build bonds, something that is an unfortunate blow to college students who are constantly interacting with other students, looking for friendship. With prohibiting expression and holistic recognition, the masks deter stronger bonds from forming. The idea of the visibility of a person’s face during an interaction having a substantial effect on the bond formed seems unevolved and primal, yet it is undoubtedly a huge factor in human exchanges.  

In a classroom setting that will include heated debates and dense conversations, expression and visibility is an integral part of the productivity of these dialogues. Classmates are now able to converse more efficiently and attain the highest possible output from their classroom discussions. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Claudio Schwarz

Avery Harle, another AUP student who is graduating this Spring is “ecstatic” about not wearing masks in school. On top of the relief of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Harle says “I don’t have anxiety about germs, but I will have to get re-accustomed to seeing everyone’s faces.” 

For many, not wearing masks has brought on a slew of worries for potential infection and more future restrictions. These are justified fears given the course of the past two years, yet many feel that it was the right decision. For those who feel uncomfortable at the thought of going maskless to class, it should be encouraged that people be respectful to those who choose not to partake in the repeal of the mandate. 

Regardless of the mixed emotions surrounding masks on campus, there is an inarguable thirst to return back to a sense of normalcy. The results from classroom productivity speak for themselves, and surely our newfound bonds will help guide us through this next chapter in the global pandemic.