Sunday, February 18, 2018

What Teachers Do During A Lockdown When A Gunman Is On The Loose

Whatever the hell they have to. 

There. I said it. 

Sorry for the frankness. 

Pardon the language. 

But not really. Cause that's the truth. 

Whatever. The hell. We have to. 



*All student names have been changed for confidentiality.*

I feed on compliments. It's just my nature. So when multiple people in the building had told me they had no idea I was a first year teacher, it fueled me. I was jumping, dancing, and throwing deuces while rapping our Count To 100 song with my kindergarteners when the announcement came on.

"Teachers we are on lockdown. Clear the hallways."

This was a couple weeks prior to the Florida shooting, and I actually rolled my eyes. Took my sweet time. Turned off the smart board. Shut off the lights.

We did these all the time. We'd only done one lockdown drill last semester and I was pretty sure we were supposed to have at least two, so we were probably just catching up this semester to meet district requirements. I scoffed. We must have been so desperate to get these drills done that they hadn't even bothered to tell the teachers about this one in advance. So I leisurely strolled to the door, reached for the window cover...

And the principals, crisis team, and resource officers came running at full speed down the hallway.

My breath caught in my throat. I fumbled clumsily for my keys but my words came out calm and crisp. "Line up. Now."

My wide eyed five-year-old students sensed the urgency.

"Miss Harper," a little boy whispered, "I don't think we're supposed to go outside."

"We aren't," I reassured him, "and we won't. Michael, lead the line around to the back of the cubby wall."

Scared little Michael straightened his posture and rolled his shoulders backwards. "Yes ma'am," he told me, and the entire line followed suit quietly.

My Apple Watch buzzed. A message from my co-worker Kelly:

Lock your doors and close your windows. Police have been called. 

I grabbed our red emergency bag and ran behind the wall to seat them. "Sit down. Sit down. Sit down. Closer together. Criss cross. Sit down. Sit down. Be quiet. Be quiet. Sit down. You are silent."

My watch buzzed. 2 minutes. An update from Kelly:

Shooting in the neighborhood.

Once they had been huddled behind the wall criss cross, I returned into the classroom to turn off lamps, retrieve rosters, etc. I took roll on the clipboard and returned to my students to wait. But when I rounded the corner, the light touched more than half of my kinders.

No word on whether the gunman had entered the building. But the shooting had happened in the neighborhood, meaning chances were high he was close to the school. Close enough to see in windows.

My stomach dropped. That stupid window. How many times had I put a work order in to fix those blinds? No one had ever come to fix it. But if my students could see the windows...if the light from the window was touching them...then anyone on the other side of the windows could see my students.

How fast could I fix this? What did I have that could cover a window? Some fabric... Dark bulletin board paper... But nothing big enough to cover an eight-foot window. How was I even supposed to reach the top of it without a ladder or causing a big ruckus by pushing tables over? Impossible.

"Ryan. Nathan. Seth. Stand up."

They did.

"Come here," I whispered, and cut a piece of fabric to cover the (smaller) bathroom window. I unlocked the window and put a step stool underneath. "You guys are brave and strong. I need you to hide in here, and if anything happens outside, kneel down as far as you can directly underneath the window. No one will be able to see you. If you hear anything in the classroom, I want you all three to push open the window, and run. Okay?"

They nodded. I was just about to close the door when Ryan whispered, "Miss Harper... What's going on?"

My heart sank. All my fight or flight was wasted in that moment. I chose Ryan to go in because he was always the most lively. The most daring. The fastest on the playground. The strongest punch I had. I knew. I knew because he'd been known to punch people when he defended himself or another student.

And yet, staring back at me were the eyes of a scared little Ryan, huddled in the corner of a 3'x3' bathroom, hugging his knees and blinking back tears from his eyes. And he wanted to know. Miss Harper... What's going on?  

I knelt down quietly. How much was too much for a little one to understand? How much would be necessary for them to understand if someone was in the building?

"Remember how you sometimes play on the playground at recess, Ryan?" I tried, "How there are bad guys and we're the good guys and we have to use our head to catch them because we can't use weapons at school?"

Ryan nodded.

"Well there can be real bad guys in the world. And they don't always just use their heads."

"They have guns?!" little Jackie, a sweet girl from behind me whispered.

"I hope not," I included the rest of the class in the conversation, "but we don't have any guns do we?"

They all shook their heads silently.

"We don't even know if anyone is in here," I whispered to them, "We don't know if they have a gun. We might be doing all of this for nothing. But if there is a bad guy, and he does have a gun... All we have is our head to make decisions, and our feet to run." I turned back to the boys in the bathroom. "So if you hear something inside, punch the window. Get out. And run."

The boys nodded. I glanced at my watch. 8 minutes. No update.

"Olivia. Melissa. Angel. Stand up."

They did.

"Come here."

They did.

"I want you to huddle very close together in this closet."

These were my quietest, most competitive girls. "It is very important that you do not make a sound the entire time you are in here. Not if you hear something. Not if you hear nothing. I want to see which one of you can stay quietest the longest. Okay?"

They nodded. "What happens if we're the quietest?" Olivia, the most competitive asked.

"Shhh," I reminded her, "I'll come back to get you as soon as the lockdown is over, give the quietest a treat." I was pretty sure I had still had some cookie crisp in the back from our subtraction lesson.

They nodded eagerly but fearfully and let me close the door. I locked them inside and hid the closet key in the curriculum case behind my desk. If anyone gunned me down and took my lanyard, they would be unable to get the closet open and the girls would be safe.

"Miss Harper..." a quiet whisper came from Jamie, "I'm about to pee on myself."

I glanced at my watch again. 13 minutes. "I know sweetie, but we can't leave. Can you wait?"

"I think so."

"Okay. Everyone scoot in closer."

I leaned down close. "Sit tight. You're doing great. I'm going to go back out and make sure everything is alright." The children nodded.

I walked back out, farthest away from the cubby wall where my students were hiding, but stayed glued to the wall with the windows in case I might be seen. "Text Dylan," I whispered to my watch. What do you want to say? it flashed back at me. "On lockdown," I whispered again, "Prayer please. Police have been called."

Anything else? my watch asked silently.

"I love you," I added.

Sending now. Can I do anything else? 

"Text my emergency contacts." This would go to my parents, my honorary aunt, and Dylan.

What do you want to say?

"Hey we're all okay," I typed to spare my children the truth, "but someone was shot in the school's neighborhood so we're on lockdown. Prayers would be awesome."

Anything else? my watch asked.

"No."

I returned to my students and sat down on the floor with them, criss cross. 16 minutes. And about 15 of them were spent in silent prayer.

"Miss Harper..." another whisper came from behind me. I glanced back to find a little boy trying his absolute best not to cry, "I want to go home."

I refused to lie to these kids. "You know what David?" I whispered back, "Me too. But we are ten times safer here than if we were to get out now to go home. So we have to stay silent okay?"

"But Miss Harper..." little Jamie protested to remind me, "I'm about to pee on myself!"

I put a finger to my mouth. "And you'll be the first to go when this is over. But until then... Silent, okay?"

My students nodded.

23 minutes.

I texted Kelly. "Any word?"

My watch buzzed. "Helicopters are searching."

And it was as if they'd been cued. Either that, or I just hadn't heard the sound before I knew what it was. And thank god, was all I could think, that means the police don't think he's in the building. 

And then... Don't be relieved yet, Bethany. If you can hear the helicopters, they think he's close. 

I peeked around the corner from the cubby wall. One helicopter was circling outside. Two were floating stationary, almost directly above the school. Deep breath. Deep breath. 

"Miss Harper," I heard Kristen, a quiet girl who'd come in late, "I'm getting really hungry..."

I bet. I thought, We've eaten up 12 minutes of our lunchtime. And then it occurred to me that not only were we missing our chance to eat, but Julie had come in the classroom at 8:30, only twenty minutes after the rest of us had eaten breakfast. I teach in an at-risk school and she was on the top-priority list. The girl probably hadn't had anything to eat since lunch the day before.

"I know, sweetie. Just hold on a little longer," I whispered.

"Will we get to eat?!" Michael asked.

"Shhh!" I reminded them, "Yes. Even if I have to go get a box of sack lunches and we eat in here, I'll make sure you get food."

"And then bathroom?" Jamie, the girl in desperate need of a bathroom break asked, "I'm about to pee on myself."

There was a noise in the hallway. My students gasped.

"Shhh!" I said again, as if the reminder was any quieter than the gasping. My arms wrapped around the nearest four students and gripped tightly. No one made a sound. We didn't hear anything else.

I was starting to get light headed. Good god, how long had I been holding my breath? I exhaled quietly.

31 minutes.

I peeked around the corner again. Now there were five helicopters floating and two circling. Sharp shooters hung out the doorways in the sky. I closed my eyes and laid my head back against the wall, out of the view of the window.

"Miss Harper..." Jamie said, "What's going on? I'm about to pee on myself..."

"I know, honey." I hadn't forgotten. She'd probably whispered it twelve times.

"And I'm hungry," Kristen reminded me.

"Me too." "Me too." "Me too." It was as if every kindergartener in that room had suddenly realized they were hungry.

"Listen," I said a little too loudly, and arguably too harshly, "I'm just going to be honest with you guys. Can I talk to you like adults."

They nodded excitedly. That was every kid's dream right? To be treated like an adult?

"This is not a drill," I said frankly. Their smiles vanished. "Someone is out there that we need to hide from. I don't know who. And I don't know where. Usually, our job at this time of day is to go for a bathroom break. And then to lunch. But right now, our job is to stay safe. Do you understand?"

"Yes ma'am..." a chorus of scared little whispers came from the darkness.

"Miss Harper..." a quiet voice came from the back. My head snapped to find it. "I'm so sorry I'm still talking... But are we going to die...?"

The question threw me. Suddenly, I wasn't a teacher in go-mode. I was a social worker. A policeman. And a feeling just shy of motherhood welled up inside me.

I wasn't looking at students anymore. I was looking at quiet, five-year-old boys and girls with tears running down their cheeks, wondering if they woke up that morning for the last time. Five. Years. Old.

I glanced back out to my classroom. Because you forget. The carpet is small. The chairs are small. The tables are small. So the kids themselves don't look that way.

But they are. They are so small.

Their feet still dangle at lunch because they share the same tables with fourth graders.

Their fingers are so small I had to teach them to hold a pencil with fat expo markers on the first day of school.

Their clothes are just now being bought out of the toddler section.

Their shoes can't even fit on my hand.

They are so young. They are so small. And they are so innocent. 

53 minutes.

Way too long for a five year old to sit. To be quiet. To listen up. Way longer than I've ever expected them to.

And all to make sure they got on the bus still breathing that afternoon.

My watched buzzed. A message from Kelly: Gunman taken into custody. 

The intercom buzzed on. It was the loudest thing we'd heard in an hour. We all jumped.

"Students and teachers, thank you for your cooperation. The lockdown has been lifted."

My students jumped up. Chaos erupted. And still, I could not feel relief just yet. There was too much to do. I brought my boys out from the bathroom. I retrieved my key from the curriculum case and unlocked the girls to let them out of the closet. Each of them were given their cookie crisp, as promised. Jamie ran to the bathroom. Kristen became the line leader as we lined up for lunch.

The lunch hour was completely over. We marched down to the cafeteria for a 15 minute lunch; half of what they normally get, but better than nothing. The cafeteria had to make sure everyone got to eat something before dismissal.

The kids were quick to remind me they missed recess also. So we went outside to play for quite a while after that, while my coworkers and I sat on the playground bench filling out head counts, submitting emergency rosters, and returning phone calls to parents who had tried to contact us in the middle of the crisis to make sure their babies were okay.

And after that, it was time for specials. You know, the time where students go to art, P.E., music, etc. for an hour and teachers get their planning time.

I dropped them off at the regular time as if the whole day had been normal.

Then I went back to my classroom and cried for the full 55 remaining minutes.



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This is not a post about mental health vs. guns. I'm not saying we need / don't need mental health support. I'm not saying we need / don't need gun control. I'm not saying teachers need guns. I'm not saying they don't. I'm not even saying I have an answer, a solution, or even an idea about how to fix all this madness.

All I'm saying, is that for all of you out there who are leading this debate right now - those of you making laws and enforcing policies and slamming the gavel down to punish the shooters - you have never once sat behind the cubby wall. You have never hid your five year olds in closets. You have never texted your family and boyfriend that you love them, and then walked right back in case you had to lay down your life without saying goodbye to any of them.

You've never done it.

So I'm here to tell you, as someone who has done it... 

If there was more mental health training in my professional development I would've used it.

If there was more social-emotional education in my curriculum I would've taught it.

If I'd had a gun, I would've used it.

If I didn't, I would've used something else.

A baseball bat. My teacher pointer. Maybe a P.E. parachute to strap all my kinders to my body and jump out the window.

I would've used whatever. The hell. I had to. We would not have gone down without a fight. Because if a dedicated lunatic wants to get a gun and shoot up school, they'll find a way to get a gun and shoot up a school - no matter what. So we have to find a way to stay safe and alive.

Fortunately, I didn't have to. It didn't come to that for me.

Unfortunately, for my fellow educators and their kiddos in Florida - they were not so lucky.

So all of you up there in government. In law enforcement. In policy making. All you "so much more important" than teachers. We are paying you to govern. To enforce the law. To make policies.

So please, I don't care what you do. Give me a gun. Don't give me a gun. Update my safety plan. Put more social emotional learning in my daily schedule. Cancel school for a day to give me mental health professional development. Whatever.

Just do something. 

It may not work. And I'm not asking for it to. But the sooner we find out some things that don't work, the sooner we'll find out what will.

We aren't paying you to fix this immediately. That demand is a little high for your salary. But we are paying you to try.

Cause guess what? I'm getting paid to teach. Not to lay down my life. Personally, I feel that demand would be a little high for my salary. Wouldn't you agree?

My family deserves to know that I'll be alive when I come home from school each day. My students' families deserve the same.

Wouldn't you want to be certain your baby's life wouldn't be taken while they were trying to learn and grow into a strong, beautiful person?

Then please. I don't care what. Just try something. 

73 comments:

  1. Wow what an amazing read. Thanks for sharing. So sad we live like this. Thank you for what you do with your kinders. God Bless you

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    1. Thank you so much. It is so tragic that this is what it has come to, but God has definitely blessed me with my class and gift to teach. Thank you for reading. Hope you come back soon - sometime when the post can be a bit more light hearted. <3

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    2. You are absolutely right! Teachers are already responsible for too much and now we are going to be responsible for even more! We need a pay raise and protection, one way or another! We need to feel safe with either officers all over the campus or we all need to be packing! These children need to be protected and safe, not sitting ducks.

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    3. Selena, I have to say I am with you! It is a scary scary thought.

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  2. You brought fear to my mind,tears to my eyes, and empathy to my heart with your story. I could only envision my own classroom in such a scenerio. It is so unfortunate that we in the education world even need to think about such things, but you executed things exactly as you should have and I commend you for that.
    I agree something needs to be done and I don't have a clue as to what. Having gone through this, you will forever be different. Different on how you are prepared, on how you care, on how you handled the next situation, different in so many ways.
    May God continue to give you strength as you move on "differently" in your life. May God continue to guide you with what to do next.

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    1. Absolutely, God is changing my heart day by day with the work that I do. Thank you for reading and responding. I pray your own class stays safe and well.

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    2. Amen.....You did the right things and I commend you for this. In a few words, just know that what you have done will always be remembered by your students and most of their famlies. I want you to know you are appreciated by many. In fact, you are appreciated by more than you will ever know. Just keep up the good work, keep alert, and keep in touch with your students, so they listen well.

      A sincere thankyou from a retired teacher of students: preschool......to adults.

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    3. Always good to hear from former teachers as well as current ones. Thank you for your kind words.

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  3. I hope someone sends this to DC. You hit the nail on the head.

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    1. Hi Beth! That seems to be a common desire. I am not posting anything new on the blog this Sunday as I usually do so that I can contact and forward to lawmakers. Thanks for reading!

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    2. We need to stop waiting on DC. They will never get anything done. I'm not even sure what they could do. Every school board in America should have already been in session long ago and tackled this problem on a school by school basis.

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    3. Yes but the fact is, they haven’t been successful. I’m also aiming this at administrators. And many admin have tried. But legally, there’s not much else they can do aside from updating safety plans and telling us a different place to go / run or different people to call. Something bigger has to happen for all of us be on the same page, and be on the same page successfully.

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    4. yes, send it to D C and all news outlets,don't take forever on what to do. better security is needed, guards at all entry points, trained to spot trouble, and able to contact police asap, if no regular guns, at least stun guns, metal detectors, trained police dog

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    5. I’m not sure we really want to work / have our kids go to school in prisons either... but yes, some type of enhanced security couldn’t hurt. Even still, I don’t expect much on that end because of the cost. We have to buy our own pencils so I doubt they’ll hire people to stand in doorways. Even still, I’m up for just about anything at this point. I’ll give anything a chance once.

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    6. I think we've waited long enough for our Congress to act on anything that would go against the NRA's actions. It's time to change this pattern of accommodating the NRA, the biggest donor to our politicians. In November 2018, our votes should be central to changing the House and Senate, electing Representatives and Senators who listen to and feel our serious concerns, but are not indebted to any donor who will demand loyalty to them at the cost of public safety. It's unfair to try and pass it off to states, let alone expecting each school district to solve this problem. The problem needs to be addressed by those who can stop assault weapons from being bought. They need to be voluntarily surrendered (with payment made) and banned for future sales. Anyone who possesses them and does not surrender them (and be reimbursed)is subject to arrest. Only police, military, special ops and the like should have legal access to them. Defending your home, family, and hunting does not require automatic weapons. Save our country from more harm should the current Congress leave status quo--vote for a change in 2018 the elections.

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    7. This is an interesting viewpoint and is definitely one of the solutions to consider. Some businesses are taking similar actions, now. Thank goodness.

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  4. Replies
    1. You are so welcome. Thank you for reading.

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  5. Wow. I was so moved by this and feel exactly the same way. You articulated it beautifully. As an adjunct college professor, with a grandchild in kindergarten, I beg your words travel far and wide to effect some kind of action. I have no answers. Please know that Jamie is not alone - I and some of my students would also have a challenge not to relieve themselves, but doing so is small exchange for staying alive. I think about how I would react, and we do have "active shooter" training now at our university for faculty and staff, but I can only hope I would be as strong and insightful and truthful as you. You are a hero and inspire me. Oh, that none of us would feel so threatened or see our children or those in our care, suffer the kind of fear created by situations like yours and worse. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Bonnie, I’m so glad you dropped by to read. As an adjunct professor, I’m sure you’ll understand me when I say: I’m not a hero, I’m just a teacher. Unfortunately though, with the way things are turning in the world, we have no choice but to be both. As if teachers don’t wear enough hats... (teacher, social worker, counselor, referee, data specialist, assessment proctor, etc...) now we must play protector and police as well. I am saddened to hear that so many places are being forced to turn to active shooter trainings and more, but I am so relieved for our students’ safety that teachers and students are being trained this way. I must admit, I never expected to end up thinking like a detective on CSI...but when I had to, it certainly happened! You do whatever you have to, and I trust that you would do the same. I can tell just by hearing from you...your students are very lucky to have you.

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  6. Thank you for your candor. As a 30+ years high school veteran teacher, I would like to say I'm sorry, it doesn't get any better. The fear is still there, the resolve is still there, the looks of frightened kids are still there, even 18 year olds. I am very honest with the kids about lockdowns, and even the "toughest" kids don't brag about what they would do, at least they don't brag in front of me. We have between 2 and 4 lockdowns a year, all real, all similar to yours, and the fact that we don't need to have drills is sad. The kids now run on automatic when a lockdown is called. Stay strong and stay with us....please....the profession needs more like you. Thank you for your hard work and your thoughtful post.

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    1. I grew up the daughter of a band director, so I definitely understand that it hasn’t gotten better. That’s one of the reasons I felt it so important to share...how many innocent lives must be lost before we make it better?? I’m not usually one to speak out about such controversial topics, but this one is just too important. The more we start talkin’, the more people are forced to listen.

      I’m glad you make your students take lockdowns so seriously. I do the same, but it’s difficult because they are oh so small. The momma streak inside my heart says spare them from evil for as long as possible. The teacher streak in me says we can’t afford to pay the price of ignorance and naïvity.

      Thank you for reading. I love hearing from those who share my educational world with me.

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  7. God bless you Bethany. Your words put me in that classroom with you, and it was terrifying. {{{HUGS}}} I am so saddened that our schools have to go through lockdowns. Praying for those who can make the changes to take the actions that will protect our children.

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    1. Thank you Barbie. I wish we didn’t have to as well! But, as always... we do what we have to do!

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  8. My gosh you had me crying. I Want to leave work and go hug all of the teachers at the school and then find my beautiful 10 year old daughter and squeeze her. Thank you for being behind the cubby, thank you to all my teacher friends for being behind the cubby. I love you all for what you do. ♥

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    1. Thank you Angie ❤️ Give your daughter a *squeeze* for me! Let her know she is so precious and loved.

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  9. Wow. Please continue to advocate for your students and school safety in the same calm, rational voice. We need that right now.

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    1. Thank you Kathy. I’ll do everything I can. Thanks for stopping by to read!

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  10. Bethany, I would be so thankful if my children and grandchildren had a teacher like you. My husband and I have 3 daughters between us. One from his first marriage that is now 28 and has 2 daughter 8 and 5, we have a 25 year old from my first marriage and a 17 year old together which is a junior this year. It takes a strong loving and caring person we need more teachers like you. I know it is not teachers job to put their own lives in danger but it is good to know that we have teachers like you who do. And to use all the strategies you did to protect those children. Teachers like you are true heroes. I pray our government will do whatever necessary to protect our teachers and our precious children.

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    1. Thanks so much Mendy. If this tragedy has taught me anything, it’s that I am far from alone in the population of educators who will take a bullet for their children. It might not be in our job description, but it’s in our heart. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

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  11. So thankful you are ALL safe after such a scary experience. You sure kept your cool and used your head which helped your students. Hope your blinds are fixed ASAP.

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    1. Many teachers were put on a list the next week for new blinds. :) baby steps, but we’re getting it ordered and fixed! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I love hearing from my readers!

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  12. You know something is wrong in society when your deepest wish and prayer is for this post to go viral. Yes, "just do something." I know you get it! Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. This is so true. We are such a fallen world. I wish this didn’t have to be said!

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  13. Thank you for your words. You are right... it doesn't become real until you've been through an actual lockdown. I teach high school and fell the same about my students. They are so young. So full of life. So innocent. I will never forget the fear I saw in their eyes when we heard those words, "lockdown... not a drill". And I wil never EVER forget the first time one of them asked me "If someone comes in here with a gun, will you protect us?" Of course I will, sweet girl! I had no idea HOW I would protect them, but I do know that no one will ever come through that door to hurt them without hurting me first. That question has played itself over and over in my brain a hundred times since then. No child should ever have to ask that question and no teacher should have to answer it.

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    1. Exactly. Not in our job description - not in our life’s purpose. And still, we are not alone in the population who would protect our babies at all costs!

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  14. I cannot enter the grade school that my grandchildren all attended. I cannot enter the middle or high school that most of them still attend. Why? Locked doors. I have to press a button & wait for someone to speak to me & in most cases, see me before I'm allowed to enter. I feel better knowing that someone intent on doing harm would have a harder time getting to them.

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    1. I’m very pleased to know this security measure is in place at their school! But unfortunately, a lot of the lockdowns teachers must deal with are the threat of an escalated parent, student, or former student who is known and welcomed into the community. Parents have even checked into the office and come in to threaten teachers and their students! Ahhh! So awful. But I’m glad that most schools function behind locked doors and key pads.

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    2. I'm so sorry you and your kids experience that's a terrifying event. I'm sorry for everyone in the school who was there that day and for their families waiting at home. Thank you for sharing your story. Please keep sharing your story. I hope that you and other teachers and administrators and parents and students can go to your mayors your governors your legislators and tell your stories until somebody listens and takes action and makes laws that keep you safe. That keep all of us safe.

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    3. Marijean... I hope that as well! Thanks for stopping by to read!

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  15. You said that you aren't a hero, but YES, you are! Your kids saw it and followed you as if you were wearing a cape with super powers. One day, they will tell the story of how their teacher saved their lives. They may have been afraid but they also felt safe. Sadly, our kids, and they are our kids, have to hear us tell them the bald-faced truth about evils in this world. While reading your story, I could picture specific kids through my years who would have been your bathroom patrol and your closet crew. I can also picture the hungry ones because they didn't have breakfast and school lunch would be their only meal of the day. I could also feel your courage, fear, worry, and love - maybe that's why even as I write this, I can't stop crying. Keep up the good work - you are an educator, a super hero of your own making!

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    1. Patricia you are too kind! You know what I mean... there are specific kids who need specific jobs...even in a lockdown! Thanks for dropping by to read this. It is oh so important.

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  16. Laura Rakowski-ColeFebruary 25, 2018 at 4:33 PM

    I'm sobbing as I read this. I've taught for 32 years and I am retiring this June. Every day I look at my room, my students and think, "what if"? I mentally plan for escapes, procedures and ways I will keep my autistic students quiet so they don't give away our location. I've always been prepared to protect my charges in whatever way I could find. As I contemplate retirement, I worry. Silly, isn't it? I worry if the new teacher will love my students as much as I do. Would they be willing to do anything to keep them safe? I applaud you for your strength and resolve. You are a hero to these little ones and to me. Thank you for loving those children like your own. Thank you for keeping them safe. One day, I pray that events such as school shootings are something we "used" to hear about. I'll bet that most people going into teaching never considered that their job could be considered a dangerous one. That aside from bodily fluids and a misbehaving child here and there that their life could actually be in danger. I wish you a very long career of molding minds and hearts. I'll bet that when your students are parents themselves, you will be one of the people that they remember as a personal inspiration.

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    1. Laura, this is so sweet. I hope that you are right! As you contemplate retirement, I don’t think worrying is silly at all. These kids ARE our kids. You’d worry first time leaving your baby with a babysitter...and I’m sure it’s a very similar feeling! I have no doubt you have influenced many lives in your years teaching. I wish you more happy days in your retirement...or in your last years teaching!!!

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  17. Very moving! I don't know how I would react with little ones... being a high school teacher and college professor, I definitely feel like they are my own to protect. But, with 5 year old babies... I would be frantic. The one thing I would remind all teachers is to remind them the kiddos in those situations that norms no longer apply; like little Jaime, that if she needs to pee her pants... go right ahead! It's O.K. considering the circumstances and we will take care of what we have to later with NO faults, embarrassment, or repercussions! :-)

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    1. I failed to mention... I almost go crazy when I have to miss a day... for this reason exactly. YOU and the relationship with YOUR kids, made it so much less traumatizing. Can you imagine a substitute??

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    2. Last one.... but, I am so in awe at what this little ones went thru... I won a National Innovation Award thru ThinkItUp and DonorsChoose.org for one of my high school projects... I still have a rather Large sum remaining on my gift card. If you and your class could go make a new project on DonorsChoose.org requesting a few hundred dollars worth of games, toys, equipment, or other resources, I will definitely lead the way in getting in funded! If you are not familiar with the site, Take a look at the "Matching Offers" and choose a project that will get funds matched 1-to-1, that way we can get you twice as many resources. Email me at lance.schreiber@knights.ucf.edu and send me a link to your classroom or project. Post it on here as well... as I am sure others would love to contribute! Those kids deserve some COOL STUFF after such a traumatic event.

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    3. Oh Lance, thank you!!! Unfortunately, my district has some limitations on online fundraising, so I will have to go through a verification process before creating a legal project but as soon as I get that ironed out, I will certainly let you know! Thank you!!! My kiddos and I will be so, so grateful!

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  18. I still have tears pouring down my face as I read this - as a former teacher, this resonated with me. I find my new vocation equally challenging with this issue. I am an Episcopal priest and my vestry (governing board) and I spent a part of the weekend discussing our "active shooter policy". There has been training in our diocese, and now it is time to move it into the local churches. Armed parishioners? ushers? clergy? A church is a sanctuary. Discussion of throwing ourselves under pews is as distressing as hiding in a cubby. My heart is broken for the need to have these conversations...thank you for offering yourself in your chosen profession - it is a noble one in every sense of the word.

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    1. Thank you so much for dropping by to read and comment. How awful it is that we have to be ready to defend our own lives in places we should be free to learn and worship without thinking of such things!!! We are needed. Stay encouraged in your life as well. The world needs us!

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  19. Bethany, as a Mom I just spent the last 5 min. in tears reading your post. You truly are a blessing and I am so thankful you are in the classroom. We desperately need teachers who would do absolutely anything for America's children. Also, as a Mom whose son is in college and working to become a teacher and a coach it gives me great pause. To think he is working towards a career which would put him in harms way. My heart aches.
    Also, as a Mom whose spent the last 8 years studying about what "Education Reformers" have done to destroy our public education system, I would love to share with you this post, I put out and see if, from your perspective, I seem off base.
    I do believe, there was a time, when children and our teachers felt safe in the classroom. http://www.voicesempower.com/there-was-a-time-when-kids-felt-safe-the-shift-to-behavioral-modification-has-deadly-outcomes/

    I do pray our elected officials read your post and consider what has been done to destroy our education system in America. And do what it takes to get back to a time when our children and their teachers feel safe in the classroom.

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    1. I will certainly say that you are right when you say that there was a time when the education system focused on teaching reading, writing, and math. Behavior modification, special education, etc. was not a thing back then. And you are right, all children have diverse needs regardless of whether or not they have a 504.

      The issue with this is that before students had 504's and IEP's, etc., students were not receiving these diverse needs. I'm not saying 504's and IEP's automatically fixed the issue, but I do think they work wonders for students because I have watched the additional support my kinder babies get outside my classroom transform them within my classroom. Yes, all students have diverse needs regardless of their behavioral / physical / mental health. But if their behavioral / physical / mental health needs a modification that the general classroom cannot provide, or a general classroom teacher is not qualified to provide, then this child should certainly not be denied the care they need. And if they need an IEP or a 504 to get this care, then I consider it a good and very necessary thing.

      Also, you are right that social emotional learning was not focused on back then. But this is mostly because social emotional learning was less NECESSARY back then. In early education history, families taught this. Moms stayed at home, and only children who were academically supported in the home attended school at all. Students from poor families did not attend, as they stayed home to help their families work. We now live in a society where every child attends school, whether they come from a wealthy mansion or a homeless shelter. Social emotional learning is necessary in school now because, whether you believe these values should be taught at home or not, they are not always being taught at home. In fact, in at-risk schools like mine, they are almost NEVER taught at home. And this is not always the parents' fault, as their situations (like working 14 hours a day or staying alive in abusive relationships) are far more demanding (and debatably far more important!) than working with their child on social skills and homework.

      It often looks like all the things education reformers are adding are destroying the system. But they are forced to add things like social emotional education to the school curriculum because the supports in the child's home no longer always exist. If we started further emotional educational support in the family / home life, we could focus on providing solely academic educational support at school. But since fewer and fewer families are focusing on these necessary supports (either due to lacking resources, lack of education, whatever!) the school is forced to do more and more to ensure these children are all successful. Think Maslow's hierarchy. If a child is starving, or being abused, or helping their family earn money, they DON'T care as much about reading and math...and understandably so!

      Personally, my school uses Restorative Practices and I am a huge fan. At least for young children. I can't speak for older grades because I do not teach older grades. I would not say it places the focus on a situation rather than an individual. I would say that, over time, it helps teach the individual how to correctly react and respond to situations. Should schools have to take time away from reading and writing to teach this? Many say no. But the truth is, if a student is not emotionally ready to learn because of stress outside the classroom, we are unable to teach reading and writing anyway. Emotional education has to come first.

      That's why my focus on this blog is equipping parents and teachers with knowledge and resources for emotional education. The more it's done and taught PRIOR to school, the more schools can truly focus on school in a safe and welcoming environment.

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  20. Beautifully written. A perspective we all need to consider before digging in our heels with pompous rhetoric on guns.

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  21. Thank you for writing that story I was close to tears several times. I found myself holding my breath when you were telling your kids to be very quiet. This is so heartbreaking. What do we do???????!!!!!!!!; We have to ask God. He has the answer!! Thank you for writing this. Thank you for your service as a teacher. God bless you!!!!!

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    1. Yes, yes, we must ask God. And believe me...WE ARE ASKING! And I do believe He has the answer. The problem, I think, is that we are not always LISTENING for His answer. So now I pray we will do a little less asking and a little more listening and doing!!!

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  22. Thank you for sharing this. It will undoubtedly give a new perspective to those who aren't in the classroom. Thank you for all you did that day to keep "your" babies safe. It is crazy that we have to live like this, but like you say in your post, criminals bent on hurting people will find a way. We (teachers) are now first responders in the fight to keep children safe. We do it willingly because it is a necessity. We love our students and want the best for them even in crisis situations. And hopefully some more solutions will be found. In the meantime, it is good for people to see that we are committed to the health and safety of our kids. And we'll use whatever we have to ensure this to the best of our ability.

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    1. Hi Tricia,
      Yes thank goodness there are people in the meantime whose hearts are dedicated to the health and safety of our kids. I have to agree...it is crazy we must live like this. But we must always look out for each other...especially those too young to look out for themselves!

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  23. This puts into words how I've felt for so long when I couldn't find the words to say it. I teach special needs preschool and I never ever thought my job would be a dangerous one. Much love to my fellow teachers!

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    1. Oh it is terrifying! And to think...we used to be paid to teach reading and writing! Well...we are STILL paid to teach reading and writing...but we have to do so much more! Thanks for reading and experiencing my world.

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  24. Thanks for sharing. I have been teaching many years and never did any of these thoughts ever crossed my mind until recent years. Recently in the light of what has just occurred in Florida, I have been sadly troubled by thoughts of what I would have to do with my preschoolers with disabilities if God forbid we ever were to be put in this horrific situation. We have had practice lock downs and lockout drills however would my students be able to "bunker" down quietly for any great length of time if it were not a drill? Would they be able to hold it together with the change in their usual daily routines? Would they be able to grasp the urgency to follow all my instructions or would they be able to comprehend them at all? I keep asking myself these questions and realize that I will not know these answers. I pray that God will continue to bless all of us with safety in our classroom and that the powers that be truly recognize the severity of this problem and are able to mobilize to find a solution.

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    1. I'm so glad you dropped a comment. I love hearing from my readers. God put us here in this position for a reason... either because our purpose is to teach or to protect. Hopefully we never have to do the latter in such drastic scenarios!

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  25. I never thought that I would have to worry about the safety of my daughter when she became an elementary school teacher but the reality is that schools aren't any safer than any other place where people gather. I wanted to buy a blocker pad for her door but she said that it would only make her a target. I read that a fire extinguisher can be used as a weapon against an armed intruder but that would mean that she would have to try to secure her students and then stand by the door and hold the extinguisher at the ready. She teaches Special Education students...it's hard to keep them quiet on the best of days. I don't know what the answer is but I know we need an answer. We must stop the madness and we need to stop it today. We need to stop giving these murderers publicity so that the next person who wants to be on the news doesn't try to follow suit.

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    1. Oh I am sure! Special Education is a whole new battle... especially in lockdown situations!!! Many prayers for her...and for you as you continue to support her in her career.

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  26. As the mother of a teacher, I couldn't be more proud to know that my daughter could do this too. But at what cost? She loves children and was born to teach. I get very defensive when the conversations start about how teachers get paid for a full year when only teaching 9 months, how good their insurance and pensions are. I think it is the very least that can be done for these superheros that are trying to keep your children that have been entrusted to them safe. I would like to be able to say that I know someone is doing everything to keep my baby safe. She is the one that would be huddled in the closet with those children. Hug a teacher today and thank them. Appreciate the fact that they signed up to help your children be educated and better people. That teacher is someone else's baby, mother, wife, girlfriend. <3

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  27. I work with little ones, well said sister!

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  28. I am a veteran teacher at the Elementary level. I've been through 3 "real" lockdowns in situations that the threat was real, the bad guys were real, and the fear was real. All three happened at different schools many years apart. However, when I read your post I relived those moments and days. One lockdown the police were hanging out of helicopters with their rifles as kids walked to school. The kids showed up scared of the police and whatever threat was out there. Another lockdown I was in the courtyard and heard the exchange of gun shots from a street away. It sounded as if it was on campus. Were were in lockdown for 3 hours past the normal school day. The third time there was an active threat from a domestic dispute and I huddled with my 2nd graders for an entire 5 hour school day. I remember a 2nd grade girl leading the huddled group into a prayer for safety and I fought back tears knowing God was in our schools. All day parents checked out students from across the street and the district worked to safely get all students off campus. The last students in the room were all bus riders whose parents could not come and they were scared to go home. They were escorted to the bus by myself with a line of police blocking the outside. I hugged and kissed their heads saying, "I love you. You are safe. I will see you tomorrow." All three times my day ended with an emotional breakdown and support from fellow teachers. I do not work in tough neighborhoods or inner city. These were "regular" schools in subdivisions in Florida. Your article hits close to home and clearly shows the true happenings with young children in lockdowns.

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    1. It is so scary when you can hear the shots! I hate it, but it is getting more and more common. :’( So sad our children have to grow up this way.

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  30. "Shooting in the neighborhood" is grounds for a LOCKOUT, not a lockdown. A lockdown is for when there is a confirmed goblin in the building. And during a lockdown, I go hunting, not hiding.

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    1. While you may be correct, I understand the difference between a lockdown and a lockout. My administration called for a lockDOWN. So we all assumed the worst, as any teacher would, and protected our babies. Better safe than sorry...and dead.

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