Today, the 25th of January 2021, was an occasion which for me was a source of joy - a beacon of hope: G1 and G2 were returning to school. I no longer had to ask for cameras to be turned on, or work around microphones being dysfunctional. Even if the majority of my lessons was filled with independent work on the ever-beloved public speaking, it was good seeing people in a room, as it is supposed to be. But rather than feeling elated after a day in which I finally saw those faces I had missing so dearly, I just feel tired.

Autor ja foto: Matthijs Quaijtaal

As a teacher, I applaud all of you for getting through the distance learning. I personally think there are few things harder than studying from the environment in which you were supposed to just relax and be yourself. It turned into an area of work, and it requires discipline and heaps of motivation to get through with it. You’ve been juggling difficulties with your computer or internet, switching from Discord to MS Teams to Google Meets, managing your lunch times, looking after noisy brothers or sisters, and so many more things in addition to learning. Understandably, many of you, at the present time, after all of this, feel tired.

During the last few months, a lot of things you cannot do have been put in place: many of your hobbies, sports, and social calls have been cancelled or severely reduced. Having to still deal with your responsibilities without being able to enjoy your downtime is taxing. Not just physically feeling out of shape, also mentally the drain of being stuck within the confines of your room must mean that you could be feeling tired.

Being stuck in your room however, did have its perks. You could dress how you wanted, eat when you wanted, and as long as you were in the meeting at the right time, to an extent, do what you wanted. Now, being back at school, that freedom is lost. Like the many pieces of freedom that you might feel like you have lost over the last few months. And herein lies the problem; we also ask you to sacrifice a little something: the freedom to breathe as you did within your room. And it seems arbitrary; why do you not need to keep it on while eating, but wear it otherwise? It’s not an easy answer, and there are many more qualified people who can answer this question. But I can only tell you that as an asthma patient who has had Covid-19 myself, it’s a no-brain debate. It’s a low-effort measure that can help others not fall ill. It’s not about you – it’s about others. It isn’t about it being comfortable, and for the majority of us it isn’t the same as breathing without one. But the majority of us are able to wear one, and we should take into consideration the few that cannot. We should remember that if we make an effort as a group to halt the spread of this virus, we can enjoy our right of education in the way that our teachers do it best: face-to-face. We can go back to our hobbies, and sports, and feel happy – and tired.

But we are not there yet. Today, I felt angry and sad. Angry about having to ask time and time again to join in that effort to reduce the spread of this absolutely unpleasant virus. Angry at the clear lethargic approach and rude replies from some of you after having been told to put on a mask, putting the responsibility for keeping our school open with anyone but yourself. And I felt sad, because this seeming disregard for the health and safety of others has more impact than you might realise. People who are not ready to come back to school, because of the increased risk – the risk of becoming infected by people who don’t consider that the actions of one might impact many. Sad, because I don’t have the tools to solve this – I cannot create a safe school by myself. It seems impossible to get this message through to the very few of you, making it dangerous for the many. Despite your lack of consideration, you are allowed to stay because you have the right to education. And you are allowed to continue making it dangerous for those who want an education, but cannot do what you could simply do: putting on a mask. You choose not to put the mask over your own nose and mouth first, and forego assisting others. So I give up. Because I’m tired.