The first bell has rung and chilly, frisky kids are pouring in through the doors at the end of the hall. I'm standing at my classroom door waiting for the first arrivals to file in. On a cold morning like this, the wait isn't long ... no one wants to hang outside in the chill.
I've only been here 15 minutes, but already I've had to drop back and punt. The Powerpoint presentation I worked on late yesterday isn't going to happen since the county techies "fixed" my laptop computer and now I can't log on. A quick shuffle of activities, and a trip to the copy machine has saved my lesson for Marine Science.
This is my quietest class of the day, a group of "model" students who any teacher would love. I have to encourage them to talk when they are working on group projects. They are so different from the boisterous second period Marine Science students.
As the tardy bell rings, another staff member leans in close and says, "FYI, there's going to be a total lock down in just a few minutes."
Lockdowns are serious business, but mostly they occur as drills and as a chance for the Sheriff's drug dog to walk down the hall sniffing lockers. These lockdown drills are usually short ... 15 minutes or so.
No lockdown announcement yet, so I go about my teaching. For our bellringer activity, we're doing a review of that amazing periodic table of the elements, before we launch into the essentials of Marine Ecology, our current topic.
We had just figured out how many protons, electrons, and neutrons are in an atom of Barium ...(hey, what do you do with a dead science teacher? BARIUM! wacka wacka) ... when the intercom announced a total lockdown.
I walk to the door, lock it, and do a quick scan of the hall for any stray kids. In a lockdown, you snatch any kid not in a room and bring them into yours until the emergency is over. The halls are clear, so I close the door, leaving the agreed upon signal exposed so Law Enforcement in the hallway will know we are okay and secure.
The kids are buzzing nervously as I turn off the lights, close the one open window shade, and return to the front of the class.
"Is this a drill?"
"I don't know."
"What's going on?"
"I don't know, but you are safe in here."
"Is this going to last all period?"
"I don't know, but you're in here for the duration."
"What are we going to do?"
"We're going to learn some more about Marine Ecology."
"In the dark?"
"Yes, in the dark ... it's not that dark in here you know."
"What if we have to go to the bathroom?"
"Well, you can't go anywhere during a lockdown, so think of something else."
"But the aquarium is making that trickling sound."
"Just don't think about water."
"But, it's Marine Science class."
"Well, think about the sand dunes."
"Now I'm thirsty, can we get a drink of water?"
"No, you can live 3 days without water. If we are in here for 3 days, I will let you go for water."
"If you can't go to the restroom, Mr. FC's definitely not going to let you go for water ... jeez."
" What if someone breaks down the door?"
"Have you seen that door?"
"But what if?"
"If someone starts pounding on the door, we'll move into the storage room."
The science storage room is a large walk in closet at the rear of my classroom, with a locking door, and it's big enough for a full class to squeeze in concert front row style.
"Yes, that's our plan B"
"Will we all fit?"
"Yes, but it will be cozy."
"What if they break that door down?"
"Do you think we are under attack by the HULK?"
"Okay, then lets get busy on this research assignment ..."
As the kids work on what is essentially a reading assignment, I grade some papers, and help some seekers get closer to the answers with a few tips ... all the while noticing that this is not a drill or a drug dog lockdown. It's going much longer than drills go. Eventually the time for first period to be over comes and goes. The kids notice and I hear them wondering what's going on.
"Hey, you guys can read, finish other work, or quietly chill at this point. We're now into second period, but you're stuck with me until the lockdown ends."
Most have completed my assignment anyway. Soon, some are reading, some chatting quietly, and a few come up to talk to me.
A long haired, tall, gentle, soft spoken boy comes up to my desk, where I am uncharacteristically sitting. I generally don't sit on my job except for lunch and part of my planning period. This kid is smart and always asks probing questions during lessons, the kind that often make me dig deep and think myself.
He's often absent, always tardy, but a great addition to the class.
Quietly, he says,
"So, what would you do if a shooter came through the door Mr. FC?"
"I'm responsible for you guys, that's a tough question (as usual). Is he just armed, or is he shooting?"
"Then it's personal decision time, ... you know what I mean?"
I'm waltzing around and avoiding saying, "We fight like there's no tomorrow." That is not official school board policy and I am at work after all.
I switch the conversation back to the new fish in the aquarium and an upcoming project he's interested in.
During a lockdown, you don't open the locked classroom door for anything. The good guys will have keys is the assumption.
Sometime halfway thorough second period a key rattles in my door and an administrator comes in for two kids. He's going to escort them to the front office where they are being checked out. No information is shared, so I'm as clueless as the kids as to the cause of the lockdown.
Outside in the community, the coconut telegraph is kicking in and worried parents are beginning to pour in to extract their children. Rumors fly and the information (mostly false and over dramatized) spreads exponentially. In the next few hours, almost 200 kids are checked out. Even though the lockdown ends after second period, parents continue to show up and the intercom comes on again and again ...
" Mr. FC, please send Sally Student to the office for check out at this time."
The rest of the day is an oddly quiet event. Classes continued to shrink as the day rolled on and more parents pulled out their kids to the safer (?) world outside.
When it's over, we have a short faculty meeting regarding the lockdown. There is some congratulations as we all seemed to have handled it well, just as we had practiced during drills.
It turns out, one of our students had ran away from home with weapons, but never came near the school. There was no sign of intent to come there either, the school administrators were just erring on the side of caution.
Just another day in the chalkboard (dry erase board now) jungle ...