Every time a new horror movie comes out, the Internet is flooded with the same complaints: “Why did she go down into the dark basement by herself?” “Why didn’t he call the cops?” There is something about seeing a lack of common sense in others that disgusts us as humans. But if these past two years were made into a movie, one full of shots of barely-masked students and teachers, viewers would say the same thing about us: “Why are they pretending this is no big deal?”
As cases rise and we enter a new unknown with the omicron variant, the lack of caution shown by staff and students both is worrying. While a large proportion of them show appropriate caution by wearing masks correctly, a significant number choose not to follow such simple guidelines, putting the health of others at risk.
First, a few students wore their masks incorrectly, and reluctantly pulled them up when teachers asked. But those numbers of students steadily rose. Now, it isn’t uncommon to see your math teacher with their mask pulled under his chin, refusing to ask students with similar habits to fix theirs.
Some people excuse their lowered caution by saying that the current situation is no big deal, that it’s normal. But we have lost our sense of what is normal since February of 2020. On January 25th, the New York Times reported a daily average of 652,278 cases and 2,362 deaths in the US from COVID-19.
Over Christmas, it seemed as if everyone came into close contact with someone who tested positive. Rapid tests are flying off the shelves faster than the new iPhone. Testing centers are popping up on every street corner. This isn’t normal, and the longer this pandemic goes on, the more distorted our perception of normalcy will become.
And the fact remains, the rules haven’t changed since the onset of this pandemic. Students still go home to elderly and at-risk caretakers. Some have parents whose ability to put food on the table will be harmed if they catch COVID and have to stay home. Some students even face unsafe home environments if they must quarantine after a close contact. Believing this situation is “normal” and “okay” is a sentiment that not everyone has the privilege of believing.
So it is deeply worrying to see the levels of caution decreasing among the school population—but especially among teachers. It’s one thing to lean over and tell a classmate or friend to pull up their mask, but quite another to stand up to an authority figure, someone you are meant to respect and treat as an example, and do the same. Students, especially those with underlying conditions or a family member who does, are put in an impossible situation.
One person’s lack of caution always has a ripple effect. If a student tests positive, they may force others to quarantine, emptying classrooms. If a teacher tests positive, then the school is forced to find a substitute from an ever-shrinking pool, putting their students’ learning at risk. And if enough teachers are out sick, the school may very well be forced to return to hybrid or fully remote learning.
Although it may be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is yet another phase of an unending era, we must stay vigilant, cautious, and respectful of others. Only then will we be able to reach normalcy. But until then, all of us at Glenbard East—students and teachers both—must do our part.