This Monday was a typical Monday morning… until it wasn’t.
I’m hanging out in kindergarten with some ‘budding scientists’ who are talking about shelter as a human need. They are discussing houses, apartments, and even tents they’ve used as shelters. One child raises her hand, “They even have shelters. They’re for people who don’t have shelters.” This led to the acknowledgment that not everyone is lucky enough to have a home of their own and so it is good that we have places called shelters. This could have been a mature enough conversation for 5 year olds, but sadly we had to turn to an even more grave matter. We had to shift our concept of shelter significantly.
At 9:30 we were scheduled to practice a lock-down drill. The teacher was amazing in her matter-of-fact handling of a potentially terrifying topic. She reminded them where to go, hide, and basically hunker down until we got the “all clear” message. She reminded them to stay quiet and not move around.
The first questions were easier to answer.”No, we can’t use the restroom. Yes, you can get a drink after. No, just leave your things at your seat.”
The next, not so much. “Well, sometimes we just need to practice things to keep us safe. We have to be quiet so people won’t know we are in here.”
Then questions were replaced by thoughts and fears spoken aloud. “Well, if a bank robber came and bank robbed our school we have to hide so he doesn’t rob us.” “Well if they hear’d us they could come and get us.” “Who?” “What if they hear us?” “What would happen if they see us?”
Then came the announcement to lock down. We calmly walked to our hiding place (which I won’t disclose) and scrunched ourselves down to be as tiny and quiet as possible. No one giggled the way 5 year olds usually do. They looked around at their teachers and each other. The teacher practiced her whisper roll-call.
It was then I noticed two little boys with their eyes closed and their hands in a Shuni Mudra pose. They were using a calming, in-the-moment exercise their teacher had shared with them. It was beyond adorable.
Looking at these sweet children and thinking about what we were doing struck me as so pathetic. How heart wrenching it was that we had to take time to teach our students how to avoid being killed or injured by intruders in our schools rather than engaging in more math, literacy, science, or even mindfulness. This is not a lesson my college prep, student teaching, or even 30 years of experience prepared me for. It was a lesson learned from the tragedy of others that I pray we are never ‘tested’ on.
I hope that those quick to judge schools and teachers so harshly are one day enlightened as to the tremendous responsibility we embrace in raising these kiddos-body, mind, and soul, and can appreciate how difficult that can be some days.