Just last week I substituted twice for absent teachers. On the first day, my class had a fire drill. It was business as usual as my students were released to return to the room and received a passing “grade” for the exercise.
As a substitute teacher, a fire drill is sort of a rite of passage. But little did I know that within 24 hours, I was about to be part of yet another “drill” which would forever change me and the way I “am” with my students.
When I substitute, I sign in and receive my class assignment. However, what was extremely unusual, uncomfortable and frightening this time was the memo I was handed and asked to read before first period.
I sat at the desk in complete disbelief reading three times a document titled “ACTIVE SHOOTER DRILL.” I was stunned. I had now found myself part of something that I had previously only followed as others did. We’re all involved in the arguments with NRA, mental-health and wellness related aspects and at some point have said “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” And conversely, we have heard “if the people didn’t have access to the guns to begin with there would be no mass shootings.”
But there was just something about reading that memo which put my head in a different place. I will forever look differently at the students – my students. After completing the incredibly sad / surreal drill, I tossed the class assignment and spent the remaining time talking to the kids in all of the periods. I asked them to share their experience and feelings of having to lie down on the floor, on stomachs or backs completely flat.
They said what was worse than the drill itself was laying on the floor under desks in complete silence – many of them wondering what it would be like if this was real. And apparently so many kids have not stopped wondering.
This was not like anything else they had experience in their lives let alone in school. Many students shared stories of sleeping problems, fear of coming to school in the morning, staying in the afternoon for activities and returning for night events. Most have some anxiety while at school, and real fright when seeing someone in the halls they have never before seen.
In response to the rise in mass shootings, many schools have been forced to initiate drills. Just like a fire drill, students act out how to behave in an emergency situation. Unlike fire drills, however, they may be doing more harm than good.
I had to turn off the lights, lock the classroom doors, pull down all the window shades, cover the door windows and have the students lie on the floor near or under desks. This is all to prevent a potential shooter not just from entering the room, but even being able to see if children are present.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics – more than 90 percent of public schools practiced lockdown drills during the 2015-2016 school year. And you know what has happened since.
THE NEW CLASSROOM
These drills are usually meant to mimic a real situation, which can lead to some horrifying scenarios. If a student isn’t in the classroom when it begins, they aren’t allowed to rejoin their classmates and can be forced to remain alone until the drill is over. “So if they’re in the bathroom, in the hallway, the teacher is going to lock the door and they’re not allowed back in the room.
It’s one thing for me wondering at day’s end how many kids’ lives I’ve touched. It’s another ensuring I did everything possible to ensure that violence never does.
This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Founder of The Student Success Project and Think Factory Consulting. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or via email at email@example.com and on Facebook and You Tube as The Student Success Project.