At the beginning of every school year, school are supposed to take part in drills of every kind — it’s imperative that we practice safety protocol with our students in order for them to understand how we can best handle a crisis situation.
Today was my school’s lockdown drill. My school last year never even had a lockdown drill, even after the events that transpired in Newtown, Connecticut. Isn’t that absurd?
This morning upon arriving at school, I felt a little nervous about the drill even though I knew it was just a drill. I had everything ready — my crisis folder was prepared, I locked the door before the kids got to the classroom, and I even put my green room number cards in appropriate places so I wouldn’t forget to display them. I was feeling confident.
The announcement came over the intercom saying we were in a lockdown. I had already explained to the kids where we would sit and how we would sit and why it was important to follow those directions during this time. As the principal got off the intercom, the kids moved directly to their spots along the cubbies of our classroom library and I went to the door to check the hallway for any stray kids before closing it and shutting off our lights.
I was (and still am) so proud of those kids — they were so quiet and calm and followed directions so beautifully. I couldn’t have asked for better direction followers! As we sat in the dark room with rainbows on the floor from the paper on our windows, the door handle jiggled.
See, I knew this would happen, and I explained it to the kids. “The police officers are just checking to make sure our door is locked — you don’t need to be scared about that if you hear someone trying to get in — remember, this is just a practice.”
Thank God it was just a practice.
As the door handle jiggled, force was applied to the door and the officer was able to enter the room.
Despite the fact that I knew it was a drill, I think my heart still skipped a beat.
I was so impressed with how calm my kids stayed — a whisper from the group asked how the police officer got in when the door was locked. I didn’t really have an answer.
After the drill was over, I explained to the kids that sometimes old buildings have doors that don’t lock properly anymore, and that someone would fix our door as soon as possible. They had a lot of questions about lockdowns in general, and we had a good discussion about staying safe in school (even though that discussion might not have covered the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts).
The kids went on their way to specials soon after the drill. When I had my time alone I just kind of sat in disbelief.
I went to the door and made sure it was locked — the handle didn’t move. I closed the door and stood in the hallway staring at the handle, then at the rest of the door. I jiggled the handle — nothing. I used more force when trying to open the door and boom — wide open.
All I could think about was what would have happened if that hadn’t been a drill. What if that was real? What would I do? How would I keep those kids safe? I tell them that my top priorities are educating them and keeping them safe.
My biggest fear was that they didn’t feel safe in our classroom anymore.
I’ve spent the last four weeks with these kids building our classroom community — making a safe, comfortable environment where kids can learn and make mistakes and share with one another. I feel like that classroom community building has gone quite well thus far to be honest. I have a student who just moved from Costa Rica this year who doesn’t speak much English, but his mom says that he feels more comfortable in my English class than his two Spanish classes. I learned just how comfortable he felt when today he decided to volunteer to lead the class in our main idea chant (complete with hand motions) and read our learning objectives for the day. Not only did he do a great job participating, but he read the words on the screen perfectly.
Community building is a key component to having a safe, successful classroom.
All of this work we’ve done as a class to make one another feel comfortable and safe — had that all been compromised now?
I’m still thinking about it. I know it wasn’t my fault since the door was locked and I did everything else right (the police officer praised my class for following protocol so well), but what would I do to keep those children safe? To what extent would I go to ensure their safety?
This school year alone, there have been five school shootings in the United States. Just this year! You might think, “Oh, well it’s already the middle of September, so that is kind of far into 2013” — no, my friends, we’re talking about this school year that started four to five weeks ago.
It’s silly to ask, but — what is WRONG with people? It’s obvious that there is evil in this world. Truly, my heart hurts for those who seek to hurt children.
Praying so much for our schools, our country, and our world.