We had a lock down drill at school today.
Imagine, if you want to, 25 thirteen year olds, sitting on the floor of their classroom, in the dark, backs against the wall, blinds closed, lights off, their 27 year old teacher sitting in the chair between them and the door.
Lock down drills are hard. They are always hard, but they are especially hard when it’s right after a shooting. Most of the kids are scared. You can tell the ones who are the most anxious, the way they hug their knees against their chests, their straight-lipped expressions, their eyes staring at the tiled floor. A few others are less scared and more annoyed, more frustrated, more bored. They try to whisper to their friends, to crack small jokes, to break the weird, uncomfortable tension that settles over a group of children practicing acting like they don’t exist. They think this is stupid, a waste of time. It wouldn’t really help them anyway, would it? Would THIS, sitting quiet and still in the dark, REALLY be enough to save them if THAT happened? If a man with a gun was coming for them? Would this REALLY be the best we can do?
And then there’s me. A lot of teachers have posted a lot of things over the last few days, about how this feels, about what this means. And it’s true- without even being asked, I would take a bullet for these kids.
For the sweet little girl who brought me a Dr. Pepper when I had a headache last week. For the quiet boy who always turns in his homework on time. For the girl who never turns in her homework at all. For the kid who called me a fat bitch last Tuesday. I would take a bullet for each and every one of them. I know it unconditionally. If I didn’t, I don’t think I could do this job anymore. That’s why I’m here- in the chair closest to the door, the last thing between them and whatever might come for them.
It’s hard to explain how it feels to get that email in the morning, from the Assistant Principal, about the lockdown drill scheduled for 9am. Turn off the lights. Doors locked. Window covered. Silence. Wait for 2 administrators to end the drill. If we shake the door handles or pound on the doors, don’t make a sound. Push a few desks against the door to practice making a barricade. Tell the kids to hold their library books against their chests- they could help act as a shield.
Imagine- telling kids to grab their copy of Harry Potter, of Dork Diaries, of Warrior Cats and hold it against their chest. As if the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid is going to save them. As if Hunger Games will stop a bullet.
I was 8 when Columbine happened. I don’t remember it, at least, not very well. I remember having lockdown drills after that in school. I remember hating them.
I was 16 when Virginia Tech happened. I was in my chemistry class. My teacher turned on the news, white as a sheet. We watched in silence.
I was 21 when Sandy Hook happened. In college. Learning to be a teacher. I remember sitting in my Adolescent Development class as the news started pouring into our phones. I remember the grief. I remember the anger. I remember the fear that filled that room full of young adults on their way to be teachers.
I’m 27 now, and there’s Parkland. A teacher, with my own classroom, with 25 7th graders sitting in the dark, listening for our principal’s footsteps in the hallways, pretending to be a shooter.
I don’t know what the solution is. I’m not even sure what the problem is. People will tell you it’s so many things- guns, kids these days, a lack of discipline, a lack of respect, toxic masculinity, white male entitlement, mental illness, violent video games, everything is on the table. Maybe all teachers just need guns in their classrooms (an idea that makes me physically ill.) Maybe we need to ban those damn AR-15s (The guns used in Orlando, Las Vegas, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, and now Parkland.) Maybe we need to have a real conversation about how we raise our boys, how we stop radicalization and violence before it boils over into this. Maybe we need more gun training and more school counselors and more honest conversations about who we are as a people. I can’t say exactly what we need.
But we need something. And we need it now.