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Posted by on in School Culture

I wrote this a week ago. It doesn't feel any less real today.

So today we had early dismissal so that we could spend the afternoon running active shooter drills.

Loads of local law enforcement and other agencies participated in the drill. We had fifty-ish hand picked students to play the part of student victims. We had several previous PDs to go over how to handle ourselves. And we had two live "bad guys" with blank-firing guns to make it all nice and realistic.

We ran four drills. Because my room is far off in one wing of the building, I missed most of the excitement. I did not even hear the gunfire or the screams, and would not have known what was happening had the office not provided announcements (as part of the drill) like "Shots fired in the science wing." That was for three of the drills.

We were not, of course, told what simulations would be run. I don't know if it would have helped. Probably not. But Scenario #3 turned out to be a lunch shift. My lunch shift.

The shooters prepped the students and put them at ease. Selected some to stand against the wall and be shot dead, a couple of others to be wounded. Administrators, observers, local press stood along the walls to watch.

My usual post is on the wall with the entrance doors. The shooter fired first outside, in the hall. The shots were loud-- we knew they were coming and the students still shrieked in surprise and alarm. The shooter entered and began. My colleagues at the other end yelled for the students to go toward them, to get out. I had to walk the length of the cafeteria to get to an exit, the shooter to my right, executing the four pre-selected victims. Students dove under tables, huddled against the wall. I waved them up, toward the exit. We go out, went around the building to the safe zone.

I don't know if I saw all the students. I don't know if I got them all out. I'm pretty sure I didn't, and even with preparation and the fact that it wasn't real, the choice between shooing them out and lagging back to make sure they were all up and moving while the gun was still shooting- BAM BAM BAM BAM-- was a little bit beyond my processing powers in that moment.

I won't lie. I was shaken. I'm still shaken. We debriefed at the end of the day and the law enforcement folks said we did well. Maybe that's true. All I know is that tonight instead of thinking through how to cover the reading in my classes tomorrow, I'm replaying and wondering how many pretend students I got pretend killed today. Maybe I would do better if the real thing happened, having been through this training. But right now, having this business take up space in my head is, well, troubling.

Is this part of the job now? I suppose it is. Maybe it is. This is certainly not the first occasion to think about it. It's been over a decade since a shooter went to a prom less than an hour away from here. But damn-- all the things you do to get better at the work, at your craft, and then this on top of all that. And now it's not just did I get that concept across, did I reach that student, did I get that planning done, but also, did I get any students killed today. I absolutely cannot imagine how teachers go through the real thing ever deal. I want to find every one of them and give them a huge hug.

I'm springy. I'm resilient and stubborn. I write what bothers me out of my system. I'll be fine tomorrow. But I'm not fine tonight.

 

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Posted by on in School Culture

no excuses

This Might Get Ugly...

I'm going to start by fully understanding the vulgar gestures you may want to make towards your computer screen or the nasty emails you might write to me after reading this, but I think it needs to be said. But I believe that, by the end of this, you will at least partially agree.

First, let me admit

As a teacher I know it's one of the hardest jobs in the world. I fully admit that trying to educate students who are lacking necessary skills, two to three grade levels behind, unmotivated, and we'll just say "challenging" can be extremely challenging. And let's not forget all those ridiculous management issues you shouldn't have to deal with, but do very day because "hey, it's part of the job." Trust me, I get it. I really do.

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Posted by on in School Culture

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We didn’t do anything.

 

She transferred here from a different school. I don’t know why. She was mostly quiet, but it was not difficult to get a smile out of her. She said she wasn’t good in science, but was killing it in chemistry, perhaps the hardest science of all. I’d like to think that in the 3 months I knew her, I reached her and got to know her a little.

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Posted by on in School Culture

No cursing

With the US election 2016 in the books, we can all agree that it was an election like no other. We have seen, heard, and were dragged along on quite an experience. I live in a TV market where there was a highly contested race, so I feel I was subjected a little more. I never thought I would admit this, but I am happy to see all of the holiday commercials instead of the campaign commericals. 

This election year, I was honored to work with NEWSELA and NBC news; both national organizations asked to come in my district to not only shoot commercials, but interview students and teachers about this election cycle and the  challenges that it brought.

One of the continual issues that arise with students and staff was the use of language. You’ve heard the sound bytes; how does a teacher teach about that? How does  a student process that? Based on the responses from both parties — very carefully. 

What was nice to hear from all of the staff interviewed is that they didn’t have to review the blatantly inappropriate; everyone stuck to the issues. Students were presented  (and voted on) the issues. 

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Posted by on in School Culture

empathy

Empathy. Inclusion. Acceptance. Kindness. Respect. 

These are qualities we want our communities to exemplify. These are qualities we often seek to directly cultivate in our schools. Anti-bullying programs, multi-cultural clubs, and policies supporting LGTBQ students, are positive initiatives that move us away from ignorance and towards greater understanding.

My fear is that these kinds of explicit programs/policies, on their own, can not nurture the culture of care we desire. The qualities we seek require ongoing attention to bloom. They must be cultivated across grade levels and subject areas each and every day. I believe all teachers can play a role by educating the imaginative capacities of their students.

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