Written by: Mrs. Randi Orshan, Elementary School Principal

All throughout history people have worn masks. Whether wearing a mask for cultural reasons, to dress up for fun, or to act out a dramatic role, masks are a fun way to hide and to allow oneself to be something different for a brief period of time. But eventually, the mask will come off, and we will be back to ourselves. Who are we then, when we reveal ourselves? 

When we ask the question, “Who am I?” we are looking inward for answers. Who we are is shaped by myriad factors: biological, environmental, and experiential. Some factors we have a limited control over; others we control. Who we are and what we show to the world is up to us. We often worry that if we show our true selves, the world will say, “Oh, it’s just you.” But being just you is actually the best and most perfect thing you could ever be. This is one of the many values we try to instill in our students. 

So, when we decided to make OCA’s first ever “Who is Behind the Mask” video, based on the hit series, “The Masked Singer,” participants needed to think about who they were in order to present themselves without showing their face. Teachers and staff dressed themselves from head to toe to disguise their true identity. Clues were presented so the students could guess who was behind the mask. The students had a blast trying to guess who was who. 

The disguise and guessing game made it fun and, at the end of the day, when the masks and costumes came off, we were happy to see the people behind the masks. No one said, “Oh, it’s just you.” Instead, you heard, “Wow, I did not know you liked to swim,” or “That is so cool that you know how to draw!” The game may have been a fun way to entertain the students, but the lesson the game imparted was that being oneself is even cooler and more admirable than any mask or costume we might wear. 

Shedding our so-called masks can sometimes be difficult, but it can happen, and that feeling of, “Oh, it’s just you” can be turned into “Oh! It is so great to see you!” We want students to feel that they can be their authentic selves and don masks for fun and games, not for hiding themselves from the world. Within the classroom, students are guided to discover their strengths as learners, figure out what works for them and what doesn’t, and learn to respectfully voice and support their opinions. These are just some of the ways in which we help students discover their identity and appreciate who they are behind the mask!