With masks, verbal communication has become very challenging, particularly for those who rely on lip-reading to understand the speech. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that teachers and students must wear masks or cover the face with a cloth to avoid the spread of the infectious disease coronavirus.
However, masks will hinder communication and make it difficult for people with disabilities who mostly depend on lip-reading. Not only this but wearing a mask can even muffle sounds leading to difficulty in hearing low-pitched sounds and even prevents the capability to read face cues. As per American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, wearing a mask can make people who wear a hearing aid or cochlear uncomfortable.
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However, the use of masks is very essential during COVID-19 to protect people. Thus, there are a few steps that everyone can use to reduce the communication challenges. Just to spread awareness, it’s vital for teachers and school personnels to be aware that students with or without hearing problems can miss out on some messages at the time you are wearing a mask.
Consider these best practices to enhance communication in the classroom while wearing a mask:
Choose clear masks
Most of the masks cover the nose top below the chin and it becomes very hard to even hear the voice of the person. Hence, it’s important to show your expressions to communicate with students but not wearing a mask is not an option. So, there are clear masks for teachers available in the market that allow you to show your expressions, as well as students with hearing loss, can easily lip-read to understand the speech. They are popularly known as masks with clear panels and transparent masks, they protect you from the droplets or the particles that are present in the air plus offers a clear communication without any hindrance. This will allow better communication with a face covered but not hidden.
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Grab students’ attention while teaching
When teachers need to give some instructions or want to start a lesson, then it becomes important to eye contact with the students. As the class size will be reduced due to social distancing, hence it won’t be hard for teachers to ensure that students’ attention is on them. Still, it is suggested that teachers should use both verbal and written communication to pass on the instructions to the students. At least this activity will improve the interaction process.
Maintain social distancing while facing students directly
It’s very important for teachers to face the students otherwise it becomes hard for them to understand what the teacher is trying to say and the seriousness, as well as the attention of the students, might get diverted. Therefore, it is advisable for all the teachers that they should face the students while sharing any instruction or lessons while maintaining the social distance. They can stand in such a place from where all the students can see them and they can see them all.
Speak louder but do not shout
As we all must have experienced that masks muffle sounds, thus, it is recommended to speak a bit louder, particularly when they are in the class. Another very effective way is to speak louder and slower as well so that it becomes easy for the students to understand what you are willing to say. Make sure you do not shout because that can be jarring for the students.
Communicate through body language
The ability to read expressions is blocked by masks. For instance, if a teacher is smiling then students will be unable to see that. It’s better to communicate using body language such as OK gesture with the fingers, thumbs up, or can even use sign boards that have different expressions like a smiley face, confused or happy. These ways will allow efficient interaction between them.
Make sure that students are understanding
Teachers must ask students to show some gestures if they have understood what they are teaching or not. Students can raise their hands if there is any sort of confusion regarding the lesson and ask for clarification. This way a two-way communication can be done and students as well as teachers can interact effectively.
As the past year, as well as this year, is making it hard for students as well as teachers to interact, therefore, it is advisable to understand what sort of communication medium is working for the students. For example, some students need both written and verbal instructions whereas some prefer to just have verbal. Similarly, teachers also have preferences when it comes to communication. So make sure you choose the personalized option for better understanding and fruitful interaction. Just remember this is also a unique experience where everyone is trying to help each other in the learning process while wearing the masks.
Recommend appropriate masks for students who wear hearing aids
For those who are wearing hearing aids, the face masks that have loops behind the ears can be very uncomfortable, thus it is advisable to use masks that are tied behind the head instead of ears. These sorts of gears will be more useful, as teachers and students have to wear them for a longer period of time and the mask that has loops to tie behind the ears becomes very painful after a few minutes. Thus, it’s better to cover your face with shields and head tie masks than feel uncomfortable all day.
With this infectious disease, the world has come to a totally different level, and everyone needs to take care of each other. Be it office or school or supermarket, taking precautions is a mandate and little leniency can create a big problem. So wear a mask always but when it comes to communicating with others make sure you follow the above-mentioned steps to create good interaction. While everything is shutting down and taking a pause, it’s still important to learn and educate. So schools that are opened and trying hard to make things normal should follow these steps and create healthy learning sessions.