Photo by KJ Ryan / The Collegian: Economics instructor Matt Wilper teaches a class behind the protection of a ruler and his face shield.

By Sam Bailey / Editor in Chief

It’s not often that long-held traditions go through major changes, but in 2020 the almost ritualistic check of whether you have your phone and keys has been greatly altered. 

It is now normal to grab a mask when reaching for the keys on the way out the door.

While for many, masks are just another thing to remember in the morning so everyone stays safe, some professions come with added complications when it comes to wearing masks.

Instructors at Hutchinson Community College have had to adapt to wearing masks to teach in front of socially-distanced classes these first few weeks of classes, and have found challenges in doing so.

Photo by KJ Ryan / The Collegian: HutchCC President Carter File teaches a leadership class with the protection of a face mask

“Projecting my voice enough for everyone to hear has been very challenging,” said HutchCC sociology instructor Kim Newberry.

Struggling to hear people talk in masks has been a common theme when it comes to the classroom, but it becomes even more difficult when students and instructors try to perform in the arts with the masks on.

“We just learn to sing ‘through the mask,’” said Director of Choral Activities Neal Allsup. “We are forging ahead and making it work. The sound may be a bit muffled, but it’s really the distance that is more of a challenge.”

As well as having to wear a mask, students and instructors are required to social distance.

“My classes seem much larger when we socially distance, especially when my Tuesday/Thursday classes fill the whole Waldo Auditorium,” Newberry said.

While wearing the masks muffle instructor and student voices and being far away from each other makes it only worse, Allsup says that isn’t even the hardest part.

“One of the most challenging things is not being able to see the shape of the mouth/jaw for the specific technique required for this type of singing,” Allsup said.

While teaching some classes has become more complicated due to COVID-19, students are also having to make a big adjustment. Some students are even using the masks to draw in on themselves and use them as a type of shield.

“I am having a harder time getting students to contribute in class,” Newberry said. “The mask makes it easier to hide, but it is also hard for students to project loud enough for everyone to hear.”

While some students are finding it difficult to adjust to the masks and find the courage to speak up loud enough to be heard through them, many are trying their best to remain focused and engaged in this new classroom environment.

“The students aren’t complaining or resisting and handling it in a very mature and adult-like manner,” Allsup said. “I’m so proud of them.”

Making major lifestyle adjustments is never easy, but everyone is making them together at HutchCC, and the masks, while frustrating at times, are allowing students to remain in the classroom.

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