This post describes a lockdown drill and discusses school shootings and violence in general. It’s also not complete.
I’m just going to get right to it. One of the scariest moments of my teaching career was during a lock down drill.
I began my teaching career before Sandy Hook.* Some folks locked their classroom doors when they and their kids were gone for lunch but I don’t remember having keys to my room. I was probably offered and said no out of fear of losing them.
When I returned to the classroom after a ten year detour, the key was mandatory.
My 7th grade classroom had two doors. At the beginning of the year, I decided which would be the main entrance based on transition patterns between classes. But the lock didn’t work very well and I had to keep asking to get it fixed. The delay was not due to reckless indifference on the part of leadership. They were working 24/7 in an under-resourced, high-needs school. The other door also locked, but I didn’t pay as much attention to it.
During my first lockdown drill, my students knew what to do, where to hide. I checked that my door was secure. The main door. Pssst! Students were looking at me, nodding at the other door. I ran over to check it. Unlocked. I turned the lock. Within minutes, our security guard was banging on the doors and rattling the knobs. We “passed the test.”
I still can’t quite shake the feeling that I had put my students at risk. My logic brain reminds that the whole point of drills is to learn, to bake in the protocols. And even the tightest, most perfectly enacted plans can fail. My mom brain still echoes “what if?” Families entrust us with their children. What if I had been the weak link? I can’t even complete that thought.
When I weighed the reasons for leaving, I included my concern that I would not be able to protect my students. My spatial skills are terrible. I can get disoriented within two blocks from my home.
No matter how many times I studied the fire drill evacuation plans and practiced taking the correct stairs, I was hesitant about which direction to turn during every fire drill. I did not trust my ability to direct the movement of children in a crisis.
I think of all the teachers who likely share similar fears but still courageously show up for our kids in so many ways. It’s mind-boggling.
I am not quite sure where I am going with this. Maybe just feeling some big feelings about what we ask our kids and teachers to do.
*I just realized it was after Columbine. I wonder if small elementary schools remained more relaxed than high schools. Or maybe I am imagining simpler times,