Editor’s note: This was shared by an area teacher.
Lock the door.
Close all of the blinds and turn off the lights.
Move students to a place in your classroom where they cannot be seen from the outside.
Sit without talking until the ‘all clear’ is given.
This is the type of lockdown drill that I have participated in with my elementary school students since I became a teacher 5 years ago.
When I was an elementary student in the 1990s, lockdown drills were unheard of. Fire drills, where we practiced exiting the building in a calm and orderly fashion, check.
Tornado drills, where we had to kneel with our bodies against the wall and cover our heads with our hands, check. I was taught how to handle natural disasters.
But as a child, I was never asked to imagine what it might be like if someone was in the school who was there to kill.
Children today are not only asked to imagine this. They are also asked to practice what to do.
So we lock the classroom door. We close the blinds and turn off the lights. We move to a place in the room where we hope no one can see us from the hallway, or the cluster, or the sidewalk. And we sit silently and wait. The idea is to give the impression that the room is empty.
Nothing to see here, move along please, Mr. Shooter!
This is now part of my job as an elementary school teacher post Columbine, post Sandy Hook, post Parkland.
Part of my job is to explain to my students that we have to be silent and hide to stay alive. Or, as new information based on past school shootings has helped us learn, I tell my students we may have to run or fight if we can.
If we run, we don’t have to run together. After a whole school year of asking students to follow me, I tell them to just run. Just run out of the building, and get away, and stay alive, and someone will find you if you get separated from me, I promise.
If we fight, we try to throw heavy objects at the shooter to incapacitate him. I hope our chairs and science activity books are heavy enough to do the trick against a gun. I know you are only 8, but please throw as hard as you can!
Part of my job is to praise my students when they are silent and still when our lockdown drill is over. I give them compliments and tell them that the shooter definitely would not think there was anyone in this 5th grade classroom. The shooter would have walked right on by and targeted a noisy class and we would have been safe! I tell them about the great job they all did in the lockdown today!
Part of my job is to have stern conversations with 5-year-old’s when they laugh. They giggle while we hide in our classroom bathroom (because bathrooms are funny when you are five, and being in one in the dark is even funnier.) I have to talk to those sweet children sternly, because all I can think as they laugh is that if this wasn’t a drill, the noise they are making may mean I have to shield those giggling babies from gunfire.
I feel sure that I would do it, if I had to.
But I shouldn’t have to.
This should not be the reality for students of any age. They are children. School should be a safe place.
But it isn’t.