Category: not a drill

Day One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Longtime followers will know that this was one heck of a year. Discipline issues from day one, a challenging ninth grade population, a number of students dealing with serious medical issues, students in crisis, vaping, the lockdown, the flooding, various Incidents that I can’t detail any further… We just got rocked.

So it was probably fitting that, midway through Block 2, as Mrs. T and I were conferencing with students and everything was going well, the fire alarm suddenly went off. I shrieked and jumped about a foot into the air, so… not my coolest moment. But then I pulled myself together and led my class out to the baseball field, which is our usual gathering spot. 

It was a rainy day, and my students marveled at my ability to walk across a muddy field in high heels, which I thought was funny. I was worried we’d be out there for a while, and that the weather would get worse, but the fire department gave the all-clear pretty quickly. I think it took them fifteen minutes, tops, to figure out what had triggered the alarm (some overloaded sensor or something).

We went to flex block, then to Block 4, which is when my day got really awesome. One of my special needs students came running up to me at the start of the block to hand in his final project- like, running so fast down the hall that his aide couldn’t keep up- and he was absolutely beaming. And his work is beautiful. He loves art, so he drew a picture of the ending of N.H. Senzai’s Shooting Kabul, which he absolutely loved reading. The other piece of the project was a comparative essay about Shooting Kabul and a book he’d read earlier in the year about Nelson Mandela. I loved reading about the parallels he’d found in the two stories; he noticed things I hadn’t noticed, which was so cool. 

The other cool thing was the culmination of a lot of work. We have a student who really struggles with reading and writing, and his self-confidence is so low sometimes that it makes me sad, and life is just rough, you know? Most of this semester, he’d been avoiding work- no matter what we did- so he was in danger of failing, and was ready to give up. But, instead, he did something that was really hard: he gave Mrs. T and I a chance to try and help him. For the past two weeks he’s come in after school, during study hall, during flex block to work with one or the other of us- or both of us- to make up work, and to have additional time on the current stuff. Today- two days ahead of schedule- he finished his Multi-Genre Project. 

I had to sit beside him for the better part of an hour to keep him on track instead of on his phone or talking to his friends… and I had to prompt him to keep going, and reassure him the his work was good so he wouldn’t just delete it all… and I also had to be unobtrusive enough that my presence wouldn’t make shut down out of anger… And, boy, did it pay off. He finished a project that he’d been convinced he wasn’t capable of finishing. He smiled. He’s going to make it.

Block 5 was a blur of the music of triumph, and then I had to go to the last faculty meeting of the year. Fittingly, one of the topics for discussion was what we thought our successes were. 

Day Sixty-Five

My school had a lockdown today. It was a false alarm, thank God, but it was properly terrifying.

I knew right away that it wasn’t a drill. The Principal tells the faculty about drills, for one, and he always comes on the PA to say “Lockdown” before sounding the alarm. Plus, it was during flex time, and he’d never interrupt that. So when the alarm went off I locked my door, shut off my lights, and got my students sitting down against my bookshelves like I’m supposed to, an I was thinking, “What do I say? Do I tell them it’s not a drill?” I was hoping someone would come on the PA and say there was a mistake, everything is okay… 

When that didn’t happen, and the alarm kept ringing, the kids started to look scared. So I said I didn’t know what was going on, but we were all safe where we were, so we should stay calm and stay put. I said, “Hopefully, this is nothing, but I’m going to look after you guys no matter what.” The door in the collapsible wall between my room and Mrs. T’s room has no lock, so one of the boys and I pushed a table against it (her door to the hall was locked, too, of course, but doing that made my students feel safer). Still, there were tears, and prayers. I was listening for gunshots, or any noise, really, and I was praying, too.

It was about an hour before the police came to the door to say we were safe. 

I have never been so happy to see our SRO. 

He explained that they were clearing classrooms one by one, and instructed my students to head to the gym. I thanked him and gave his arm a squeeze on the way out. Then I walked, holding the hands of some of the girls who were sobbing. There was a police officer in the hall, and one at the stairwell, and one at the bottom of the stairs. I mouthed “thank you” to each of them and got my class into the gym. The first thing I did after my students got settled was hug Mr. F, whose room was cleared right before mine. I hugged Mrs. T, too, when she arrived.

We were in the gym for about an hour, maybe longer. But there are bathrooms there, and the nurses had a case full of crackers, and everyone tried to keep it from being so terrible. We were able to go back to class around 1:00, but the day was basically shot. There was a quick lunch- during which I sent messages to my family to say that I was all right- and then class. I let my students do whatever as long as it was quiet. Some wanted to get back to work, some wanted to talk, others just wanted to sit… It was all fine with me.

Now I’m exhausted, and angry, and proud that my students did everything right, and upset that they’re good at lockdowns, and grateful there wasn’t an actual threat, and all the other emotions. It’s understandable, I think.