Delaware students say mandatory masks are worth it


90-minute English class for yoga exercises

At Odessa High, which opened as the third high school in the growing Appoquinimink School District last year, there are 600 students in grades 9 and 10. Next year there will be students from 11th and later from the four years.

Perrine took a WHYY reporter to a ninth grade English class with two teachers for the 22 students in person and a few latecomers on Zoom. It’s a 90 minute class and it starts with yoga exercises.

The English class begins with yoga exercises. (Cris Barrish / WHYY)

Instructor Tony Devery, who is also a wrestling trainer, has them stretch and hold.

“While we’re doing this,” he said, “you take a deep breath through your nose. By mouth, in 20 second intervals on your own. It’s supposed to be relaxing. It should never hurt, so at any time if you have trouble breathing just breathe regularly, that’s okay.

The educational partner Kristin Bain intervenes.

“You’re doing really well, guys. Don’t hurt yourself. Just feel the stretch, ”she says.

After five minutes of stress relief and clearing the mind, Bain swings into the lesson.

English teacher Kristin Bain addresses her students. (Cris Barrish / WHYY)

“Our learning intention today is to learn how to incorporate evidence into a formal written response,” she explains. “Before you go, you can say ‘I can provide some context for the textual evidence.’ You may say, “I can explain how my evidence supports my claim.”

The multifaceted course includes films they’ve seen, nursery rhymes, and ancient Greek author Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Oh, and the human failure of pride.

It’s far too complicated to explain here, but it’s clear that Bain and Devery have the kids focused on their mission.

From front left, students Ashley Poyotte, Demaya Palmer, Kelsey Young and Riley Turner work on their homework in English class. (Cris Barrish / WHYY)

Masks are “boring” but lessons are “easier in person”

Four girls who sit together in a carrycot obediently wear their masks as they work on the lesson, though a few of them struggle to keep it on their noses.

“I don’t like it,” one of them blurted out.

Another said, “It’s really tiring, because when you have a gym and you don’t have a replacement, it gets all sweaty and you have to deal with it all day.

An office colleague intervenes: “I think it’s boring, because it’s like harder to hear people.”

The fourth elicits a chuckle from the table when she points out that “sometimes masks have these little hairs on the inside and it tickles your nose.”

Nevertheless, they are happy to be at school – together – instead of at home.

Students work together during science class. (Cris Barrish / WHYY)

One girl says when she is learning at home, “I really don’t understand anything, but when I’m in class I can get help. “

Another said “it’s easier in person because you can actually interact with people”.

A third is more direct, saying that at home she found herself “sleeping in my lessons because there is no teacher to tell me to do my work”.

English teacher Kristin Bain works with students during class. (Cris Barrish / WHYY)

Students “need a lot more opportunities for grace”

After the class ends, Bain says it works best this year, and points out that yoga at the start of her class helps students adjust to this year’s routine.

“Everyone has a new normal right now,” Bain says. “And I think the biggest change is what students need this year. They need many more opportunities for grace. We have always taught with compassion and you teach the person before you teach the content. But there is a much greater need now.


Norma A. Roth