9-11-2018-New Meaning to the Date

I was substitute teaching today for a class of 5th graders in a public school in Batavia, IL. Shortly after lunch, at 12:30 PM CDT, the principal announced that we were having a “Lock-Out” and the building would be secured.  (Batavia has recently changed the names for its various security precautions and, as a substitute teacher, I have not yet been advised as to what the new names are or mean.)

The class and I automatically responded to the principal’s alert as though it were a “lock-down” (securing the classroom doors, retreating to a safe space where no one can see anyone from the outside.  The space we went to is a small office between two classrooms. I made sure the doors to both classrooms were locked and we stayed very quietly in the office space until the “all clear” was announced about 1:30 PM.)

We all experienced this as though it were a true “lock-down” with a possible intruder in the building, making sure we were not making noise to attract anyone to where we were. I reminded the kids to breath deeply and not to talk or move around.

Fortunately, we were always safe. There were no intruders in the building and the school was safe the entire time. We just didn’t know it until after it was over. There was some activity outside of the school and the police didn’t want anyone to enter the school until they had everything under control.  All that was handled at the administrators level.

All of us in the class experienced this as a true “lock-down” experience which we survived successfully.  (The kids all “clipped-up” on a behavior chart after the Lock-Out because they had done so well in that safe office.). The students recovered quickly.  While we didn’t talk about 9-11-2001, these students got a taste of that and of the experience students have gone through when bad things have happened in other schools. They were scared and the responded well to my instructions about staying safe and keeping quiet, breathing deeply and not talking or moving around too much.

On reflection, while I would have treated the Lock-Out differently if I had known that we could have continued classes and just not gone outside, I think erring on the side to keeping the students safe in a “lock-down” environment was a good idea in the absence of more information. From this experience, the kids know they can survive a “lock-down” situation, even one that lasts almost 50 minutes.

I went to the principal to “brag” about the students responses and learned that we had gone “overboard” in our response to the situation. The principal came down and spoke to the class as they were leaving their special for the day, letting them know that they had never been in any danger and that the exercise we had gone through was caused by some miscommunication.  I added that information to the feedback I had already sent to the permanent teacher and copied the principal so both would see what I had said about positive student response.

I debated about blogging about this experience and I feel that it is important, especially in this post-9-11-2001 and post-Sandy-Hook era. Students and teachers never know when they will need to face what this 5th grade class faced today with courage discipline, compassion, dignity, a sense of cooperation and caring for each other. It’s a blessing that everyone was always safe, though we didn’t know that at the time. They recovered quickly and with grace and we went on with our day, doing a read-aloud and going to the last special for the day before preparing to go home at the end of the day.