Lock down drill day
It is my hands down least favorite day of the year. It terrifies me. More than the day after Halloween, the day before Winter Vacation, or a full moon. Combined.
It terrifies me to think about losing a student, a child, a person I love. It scares me that I would be nearly helpless in that situation.
And the kids are beyond frightened, too. In today’s world, they know that school shootings are a real and present danger every single day. They watch the news, they see the headlines. They get it.
This drill might be a real lock down.
Every year, in the week before the drill and the day of the drill, I go over the protocols. I explain why we do things, where we sit, how we sit, and when we will know if it is safe.
Every year after the drill, and after almost every fire drill, we debrief. This is a time for anyone to ask questions, to tell how they felt, and for us as a class to discuss what went well and what could be improved.
When the principal or the designee comes onto the intercom and announces that lock down, I break into a cold sweat.
My hand are clammy and my heart is beating so loud I’m pretty sure that everyone can hear it. I have to fight to keep the quaver out of my voice and the tears from my eyes as I swiftly guide the children to the safest place.
As I am sitting there, glaring at children who cough loudly, in my mind I am running through the exit points.
Which way to go if this were real. How quickly we could move. How many of us could fit into the locking steel-doored teachers’ bathroom. I’m thinking which kids I want to tap to help me move the heavy bookcase in front of the door. How to secure the doors between classrooms.
How to take down anyone who dares to enter my classroom.
The kids always have questions.
One year, in the post drill debrief, a little boy asked what would happen if someone came into our room with a gun. I was pregnant, and getting big.
“You would run,” I said. “Run as fast as you can, go to a house nearby and call the police. I will deal with that person.”
He wanted to know how. After all, this is fourth grade. They understand a lot more than adults give them credit for. So I told him.
“I will do anything to save you. I love you all.”
I struggled to keep the tears in my eyes, and not spilling down my cheeks. And that in itself in a miracle when pregnancy hormones are rushing through your body.
Even now, several years removed from that classroom and those kids, I am in tears.
Because it is true.
Every single word I said to him is true. Even with my much loved unborn child kicking me in the ribs, it was true.
I would wager that it is true for almost every single teacher in America.
We would do literally anything to save our kids.
We will give them extra help in math. We will call home to make sure they are okay. We will guide them away from burning buildings. And we would do anything at all to save them during a violent event.
Last year, my teaching neighbors and I did a complete walk-through and assessment of the safety of our classrooms. Between the three of us, we had figured out at least five alternate escape routes and devised a method to shatter the windows to give us roof access.
We even had code words, I think. We figured out a way to get everyone out in any situation. In each of those plans, we had resolved that the kids would leave first and we would follow once all sixty plus students in our combined classes were out.
That is how seriously educators take the lives of their students, and how willing we are to go to any lengths to protect those precious lives.
As you drop your child off at school or put him onto the bus, know that he is going to a place with people who love him, who will protect him in any and every situation.
People who would literally die to keep your child safe.