Jennifer Thomas asked her fifth-grade students at Windermere Elementary School to put their thoughts about this last school year, and the result of that is a hardbound book containing their drawings and stories about the pandemic.
“I thought it would be a good idea to have one day,” Thomas said. “They were super excited about it. I told them I wanted them to write about what the year was like for us, but I also wanted something about being kind — using kind words and things like that.”
Students brainstormed to come up with the title.
“They named it ‘Hidden Faces: The Year of the M.A.S.K.’ — MASK stands for Making All Student Kind,” Thomas said. “They came up with that all on their own. … They did a really good job. I was so proud of them. And I did figure one day their kids would ask what was this town like back then?”
The students expressed their thoughts in drawings that included images such as a COVID-19 virus, a masked Earth, tissue boxes and toilet paper, and a scene in the school lunchroom. Their stories ranged from dealing with smelly masks and sitting apart at lunch to learning to rely on words instead of facial expressions.
“They talked a lot about having their temperature taken at school and having to sanitize everywhere they went,” Thomas said. “They talked a lot about being kind … not knowing what others are going through. We’re all together at school, but we don’t know what they’re going home to. Some (parents) might have lost their job. They’ve also been disappointed that, in fifth grade typically, every year there’s a huge fifth-grade party, and this year’s there no party and no field trips.”
One student wrote: “There are no welcome hugs, high-fives or fist bumps. Instead, we stand at least three feet away from each other and wave.”
Another used humor and tried to look on the bright side: “The mask keeps my mouth and nose warm.”
“They each just wrote about what 2021 has been like for them,” Thomas said. “The biggest complaint that I’ve seen throughout is a lot of them were upset about lunch. Out of all the things, that’s what they were most upset about.”
The colorful and creative books were published through Student Treasures, and copies went home with students.
“They were so excited,” she said of the students seeing their books for the first time. “It was really cute watching them look at it. I think that it was bound together as a book was great. I think they really liked reading each other’s. It was neat to see each other feeling the same way without talking about it.”