Slice of Life: Lock-Down

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

It’s not easy to keep a room of antsy sixth graders quiet, and sitting in the corner of a room, for 20 minutes, but we pulled off this feat yesterday as our school rehearsed an Emergency Lock-Down Drill in the morning. Near one of my walls, there is a smiling flower on the wall — the safety zone — and we all crammed into the space and waited.

And waited. And waited.

Have I ever mentioned that I have students who rarely ever stop talking? Sure, during quiet reading, with me strategically locating them around the room, we can do about 15 minutes of silence.

But 20 minutes? In a small corner of the room? Together?

We did it, though, and when the police officer pounded on our door and then unlocked the door, we all jumped a bit, but then, relief washed over us as he told us we were free to continue on with what we were doing. They made up for the silence with a burst of chattiness, and I didn’t mind a bit.

We have at least two more drills coming which the kids will not know about (this one, they did) and so, we will see how that goes. I don’t mind our school being prepared, although I had a few students stressing out about it all, watching the clock for the time of the drill.

Today, however, they all shone like quiet stars.

Peace (in the silence),

  1. Kevin,
    Your slice took me back to my first experience of New York schools just after 9/11 when the drills were almost daily. The entire school -no talking, no movement all seated in the hallways against the walls and away from windows. For a newly arrived Australian educator this was a wholy new experience. I had experienced evacuation drills but never a complete lockdown. Indpendent reading would provide some practice for your students to call on for the necessary stamina for sustained passive behaviour at least, but I wonder if kids would see the connection…

  2. I have found it interesting that our preschool students are able to stay quiet longer than the older kids when we do our lock down drills. On the other hand, since they are smaller, it is also easier to heard them into a corner. Can’t imagine a class of 6th graders huddled together. It is a tough thing and kind of sad that we need to practice them but I am all for getting kids prepared.

  3. We practice fire drills and tornado drills. The students hate the tornado drills. So every time I tell them the story of me being at school when a tornado hit. Then they are much more compliant. Let’s hope as educators we NEVER have to go through an Emergency Lock Down, but if we do we will be prepared.

  4. We’ve had two of these, 30 minutes long. My kids bring a book along to the away-from-doors-and-windows spot, as do I. Still, the kids are tense and wary – not so much from the practice drill itself but the idea behind lockdown. They know that we live in a world, even their quiet, leafy, suburban haven, where the likelihood of such an event cannot be discounted.

  5. I remember air raid drills in the 1960s. We had to file quickly and quietly down the hallway, line up at the basement stairs and head down into the dark dungeony-place. Each class had location they were to stay in, sitting “Indian-style” (I kid you not–that’s what they called it then) until the principal would open the doors at the top of the stairs and yell “all-clear.” I wasn’t so bugged about that, really, but it was the moaning call of the air raid siren–rising and falling–that was eery.

    I thought the contrast between your two slices stunning–one a carefree walk in the woods near your house, and the other, a slice of our urban terror.


  6. I hate that we have to practice this. But two of the high schools in my board have had to use them for real in the past year, so there you go! (Both times for false alarms.)

    Everytime this has been practiced in my class in the last 5 years, someone passes gas and that is the end of our silence.

  7. That is a long lockdown drill. Ours are usually about 10 minutes. The kids do rise to the occasion. Maybe it would be a good time to allow the kids to write notes!

  8. 20 minutes of quiet with 6th graders is cause for celebration, indeed, although it’s heartbreaking when you consider that such a drill could become a necessity.

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