December 9 Day 641: Behind the Mask

I was so happy to have my students attend class on campus this quarter. It was easier to build community in person than through a screen. I cherished the ability to use group activities at a moments notice without interrupting the energy of the room.

Masks kept us safe. But as someone who is not good at remembering faces, it became more of a challenge with 50% less face to consider: eyes, forehead, and hair only. If someone changed their hairstyle or started wearing glasses, I might not recognize them at all.

Interpreting facial expressions was also a challenge. Are their forehead creases the result of a scowl or a smile? Are those eyes flashing with understanding or fuming with frustration?

Have you ever had a past-student introduce themselves by “You might not remember me. I am <name> from your <class> <time reference> ago” ? I used to think it was bit excessive. Of course I remembered them! I prided myself on getting to know my students. But now, I’m not so sure. I want to remember but I have fewer details and they are fading fast. What I once thought of as excessive may be the perfect introduction–at least for the near future.

I believe the COVID years will be remembered as a faceless time. We didn’t fully see each other even as we struggled together to keep moving forward.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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