Yesterday I had TWO lock down drills. I teach K-8 general music and vocal music at two schools. The first drill happened at 10 am during a 1st grade music class. Their classroom teacher very thoughtfully appeared just before the drill which I greatly appreciated. The alarm went off. The children filed silently and quickly into the designated space (in a corner away from the door that can’t be seen from the door). They sat still and were completely silent. Some put their heads down on their knees. The room was dark. The door was locked. We sat in the dark and waited.
Suddenly the door handle rattled loudly and urgently. It startled me (and frankly, scared me!) so I reached out to the teacher sitting on the floor next to me and gave her leg a little squeeze. She just nodded as if to say “Yes, it is scary.”
Then the officer stuck his head in the door and said “Good job! You guys were completely silent. I didn’t hear a thing.”
After we got back to the music lesson, I felt I should say something about the drill and how impressed I was by their behavior. I said something about how it is good to be prepared for emergencies and that they were ready for tornadoes, fires, and lock downs because of the drills they do.
But I really wanted to ask them if they were scared. I wanted to tell them that I was scared by that drill. I wanted to apologize for having them have to go through that experience. I wanted to protect them from having to do it again and from thinking about and/or discussing the very scary reason WHY lock down drills are necessary.
I didn’t say any of that. I moved on with my teaching plan and we got back to our music activities.
When I got to my second school, the lock down drill happened during my 5th grade general music class. The older students were noticeably less serious (and less scared) about the drill, but most of them sat very still and silent. There were a few boys who seemed to need to create more tension (by making noise, moving and/or snickering). I was firm about how they should behave, and we did manage to stay quiet enough so the officer checking the doors didn’t hear anything from our room.
Afterward I talked to the class and emphasized the importance of the drill. I said that if a person makes a noise and draws the attention of (I didn’t want to say “the shooter”!!) the intruder, that EVERYONE would be in danger because of one person’s lack of self-control.
After the day was over, I still felt rattled by the lock downs. When I taught before, we didn’t have lock down drills. We had the usual fire and tornado drills, but this kind of drill was not yet common.
As I sat there in that dark room with those still and silent first graders I thought, “What are these very young children feeling during this lockdown? What are we teaching them? Surely a 6 year old shouldn’t have to fear for their life while attending school? (Or anywhere for that matter) What kind of fears are being created by this drill and all the others they’ve done and will do throughout their school years? Are they learning to accept that their life and their teacher’s lives are on the line every day they are in school? Are they learning that at any moment some person with a gun could come through the door and start shooting?”
What are they learning?
Why can’t WE learn?
I found myself wishing that every lawmaker who has voted against stricter gun laws (reasonable laws that would help keep our school children safer) to go through a lock down drill with a 1st grade or Kindergarten class. If they sit there in the dark and hear that doorknob rattle — maybe somehow something will change. Something NEEDS to change. Sitting in a dark corner in a locked room with a gun toting person rattling the doorknob is not where I want my child or anyone’s child to need to be. EVER.