This morning we had our most serious lock-down drill yet. We were directed to speak with our students after the drill, but I decided that the entire exercise would make more sense if we discussed what was coming up, why we were doing it and what to do before actually going through it.
So we sat in a circle on the carpet and talked. It was a decidedly bipolar sort of conversation, as I tiptoed the tightrope between impressing upon them the importance of taking this drill seriously while, at the same time, not scaring them unnecessarily. As it turned out, the drill didn't occur until after morning recess when I had my second period English class in the room, so I had to go through the entire spiel again with the new class.
Fifteen minutes later, when our principal came on the intercom to tell us that we were beginning a maximum lockdown drill, we moved to action. The students silently slid into the area behind my rolling cabinets while I locked the door from the inside, turned off the lights, and closed the curtains. Then I pushed a heavy cart and piled some chairs in front of the door as a barricade of sorts. When I joined the students behind the cabinets, there they stood, packed together like dutiful little sardines. We have a counter and small sink back there, so I helped three of my smaller, more squished students up to sit behind me. One girl sat in the sink itself. And then we waited for a long five minutes until we got the all clear.
Afterwards, I called them back into a circle and we talked again. Again, it's so hard to know exactly what to say. Most of the students seemed to be pretty unfazed by the whole thing. Some, though, asked questions and made comments. No matter how many times I repeated in different ways how extremely remote the possibility of anything like this ever happening, the drill made it seem like a very possible - even probable - event to have to deal with.
Student: What would we do if someone shot you?
Me: That's not going to happen, but if it did, another adult would come to take care of you.
Student: I don't want you to get shot.
Student: What if I'm in the bathroom when a lockdown happens?
Me: You run to the nearest room and get in there.
Student: What if the door is locked and the teacher is afraid to open it?
Me: That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that one -- I'll find out.
(I later found out that other students had asked their teachers this same question. No one knows the answer. Yet.)
Student: What would we do if 50 men with guns came to the school at the same time?
Me: I just told you how remote the chance is of even one person coming to hurt us. Fifty is a bit of stretch, don't you think?
Student (smiling): Yeah, I guess so...
Student: What should I do if my little brother is shot and I can see that he's still breathing? May I pick him up and carry him to the nearest classroom with me?
Me: (after a long pause in which I try to think of what the best way is to respond to this very disturbing question) You need to run to the nearest classroom like you're supposed to. Grownups will come to help your brother and you'll be safe.
After this last exchange, our little circle was very quiet. I don't believe this boy would ever leave his brother if he was injured. I think he was disappointed in me for even suggesting it.
To lighten the atmosphere, I added, "Yup, I can tell you read a lot of books." There was a bit of general laughter from the other students, because he's a major bookworm.
Student: Actually, I've read only one book where there's a school shooting.
With that we got back to the business of learning six new vocabulary words and reviewing possessive pronouns before going to lunch.
Yesterday the children raced across the field with kites. Today, the same children hid behind a cabinet in a darkened room as we practiced what to do if a person with a weapon came to our campus. I think that "bipolar" is an apt word to describe the last two days.
A Frogpond weekend to the rescue.