Written 14 February 2018 in response to the shooting in Parkland, Florida:
Yesterday we had tardy sweeps in my building. It was my first time experiencing them so I didn’t know how they work. I knew there would be sweeps this week but I didn’t know how or when. Teachers bring out brooms just to taunt the kids; it’s fun and games to cover the authoritarian activities. Again, I didn’t know how they worked. During the passing period between 1st and 2nd I was out in the hallway actively monitoring the students. I should have checked my email. Moments after the bell rang I heard two things: 1) adults shouting 2) a short announcement “all teachers close and lock your doors”.
I slammed my door and that of the teacher next to me. While this was going on I could hear shouting over the PA system; sometimes the button sticks and it stays on after the announcement is over. It shut off a few seconds later. No one said it was a tardy sweep. That detail was buried in an email full of things that don’t pertain to me, among dozens of emails filled with things that don’t pertain to me. The shouting was excited teachers rounding up kids.
What I knew was there was shouting and a call to close and lock our doors followed by more shouting.
I had to teach my class as if nothing was wrong. I didn’t think about tardy sweeps or teachers with brooms. I didn’t think to check my email. I didn’t even think to call or text my wife. All I thought about was looking calm while planning out how I would react to any of hundreds of deadly scenarios that played in my head. I told the class to group up in the center of my class and ran a study Kahoot! because I didn’t want them near the doors or windows. I told them to play quietly because I didn’t want cheating. I turned the lights off to make it easier to see the screen. I listened for an all clear or the sounds that mean a loved one will be grief stricken. Once the game was over a kid asked if we could keep the lights off while they worked. I agreed and used the time to check the internet for any alerts about my school. I first checked my email. My administration sent us a chiding email about not closing our doors quick enough because they didn’t catch many kids. The knot inside me came loose and I felt exhausted.
I didn’t let the kids know that I had been thinking about what I could use to delay an attacker while they went out the other door. I taught all of my classes that day without trying to think about the choices I had made in the first 30 minutes of 2nd hour. Today teachers in Florida had the same thoughts. It wasn’t a tardy sweep. Today some kids won’t go home. Today some teacher had to act on the same choices I considered. Tomorrow, across the nation teachers will go to school and the cycle starts over until this time it’s your school.