Rabbi Ross. Our son started Yeshiva one day ago and is already miserable. You wouldn’t believe the restrictions being placed on the children. They wear masks all day. The have glass barriers. The Rebbes and Morahs are behind glass barriers and wearing masks. They’re being kept in separate groups all the time and the environment fosters irritation. This will never work for my son who already gets frustrated easily. What can I do to keep him happy and focused on his learning with all these insane (and unnecessary) distractions? I don’t believe masks are healthy, but I loved your article two weeks ago. I and many others don’t think masks are doing anything useful, but in case I’m wrong, I want to err on the side of caution. Most of us non-believers would agree that those who deliberately don’t wear masks inside public stores are just calling for attention. Kids? They’re not even carriers! Let them learn! Please advise us, as we love your guidance. Simcha Rechter
As most of my readers know, I don’t edit the emails I receive, thereby allowing the readers to get a feel for the mindset of the ones asking. After reading the above question last week, I had to stop and reread it. Multiple times. There are a lot of points that were made, and although I don’t agree with many of them there are many parents that are thinking along the same lines. Let’s start from the beginning.
We’re all miserable with the situation. I don’t know of any school directors that said “Hey! Let’s just put up some partitions and make all the kids and teachers wear masks!” It’s causing serious issues for every Yeshiva. They’re hurting financially. It’s making it difficult for the Rebbeim and teachers. It’s creating logistical nightmares when it comes to transportation.
The reason that Yeshivos are following all these restrictions seems to be twofold. First of all, there are rules being implemented by the counties and governments. If these rules aren’t followed, the schools might suffer some serious consequences. Even if they were able to slip under the radar, do we really want to antagonize these people? The other reason is pretty obvious. It’s the smart move. Even though the chances of kids getting the virus are slim, if we can lower those odds let’s go for it. The pros of being careful certainly outweigh the cons.
Next. No, the kids don’t wear masks all day. They only have to wear them when they’re out of their seats, or indoors (at least in NY). Recess outside is mask-free, and Rebbeim and teachers don’t make federal issues when they forget to put on their masks. The barriers aren’t glass (which would be quite dangerous), they’re plexiglass. I am aware of how hard it is to teach with all these distractions – I am a Rebbe in a Yeshiva. However, I keep telling myself that Yidden have dealt with far worse, and somehow, they managed to make it work.
Let’s keep things in perspective. As you pointed out so eloquently, this virus Baruch Hashem has not been affecting most children. Can you imagine how scary that would be? Yes, the barriers are an annoyance. It’s harder to hear the kids, handing out Seforim is a more challenging, and even keeping the classroom neat has become a hassle. They have an annoying reflection, it makes it more difficult for the kids to focus… and I can go on and on. Ultimately, it’s not that big of a deal. Really.
You mentioned that the staff is “Behind barriers and wearing masks”. The fact is, the Rebbeim and teachers are working overtime to make this work. It’s very irritating at times, and the masks are uncomfortable. Nonetheless, we’re fine. Once we start learning, all the annoyances just melt away. As I wrote before, it’s really not such a big deal.
No, the kids aren’t being kept in groups. They’re not being secluded. All that’s happening is that the kids are not joining together with other classes for recess when possible. It’s simple. If C”V one kid ends up being positive, it’ll be much easier to deal with it from a damage control perspective. This isn’t going to be long-term, and the kids don’t even think about it. Interestingly enough, these kids are so excited to be back in school with their friends, they don’t even seem to notice that they’re not combining with other classes.
You also mentioned your son gets frustrated easily. That’s a completely separate issue. Most of the kids that I see aren’t frustrated at all, and the ones that are, coincidentally, have parents that are also easily frustrated. If you keep griping about the issues with wearing masks in your house, it’s quite likely your children will feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if you agree with wearing masks or not. You don’t need to project your feelings onto your children. I know many families in which both parents don’t think the masks are useful at all, and yet they tell their children to wear the masks like everyone else.
The article that you’re referencing wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I simply can’t understand those that are making mask wearing a federal issue. It’s a simple request that has a chance of helping ourselves and others. You’re correct though. Many people that don’t agree with the mask wearing, still wear them just in case. It’s only the truly selfish ones that are willing to risk other people’s health.
The point you discussed about kids not being carriers, well I couldn’t get enough data on that. Baruch Hashem, this isn’t affecting children as hard, but we don’t know if they are passing it along. Let’s just be careful and see how things work out. The kids are really fine.
All in all, the kids are dealing with some minor inconveniences. I’ve been teaching for almost 2 weeks, and the bigger issue is retraining the kids to sit in their seats and stay focused. They’ve had a six-month vacation from the classroom, and it shows. It’s going to be an amazing year BE”H, and we’re all Davening that we can all stay healthy.
Have a great Shabbos
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.