Many years ago, a huge scary thing happened at school and it changed a lot about the way you see the world and your place in it. But now it’s been 19 years, and that’s all in the past. One day, your Assistant Principal comes to you and tells you that the Sheriff will be at the staff meeting this afternoon to talk about a Code Red Lockdown drill, and will you be okay to be there? Because if you’re not, you don’t have to hear it all, except he wants you to hear the Code Red part. Just the other part you don’t have to hear, the shooter on campus part. Since there seems to be no way possible to separate the two, you say, “No problem. I’ll be there. Really, no problem.” Except, maybe there is just a wee little problem. But you feel sure it’ll be fine.
So you go to the meeting, and it’s pretty okay, and then it’s over and you go home. The next day is the drill, and you tell your students it’s gonna happen and that they have to, HAVE TO, listen to you when you tell them what to do, and you stress that, because they often don’t listen very well, especially as a whole group. Someone is always talking or snorting around. So you teach the first hour or so of class and everything is fine, until about 9:15 when you think the Code Red Lockdown drill is likely to happen. All of a sudden you have to sit on your special teacher stool, and you want all the kids in their seats and quiet, even though they have been doing a sort of loud activity. You want them to stop having fun NOW and sit down. All because you don’t want to miss the announcement that will happen any second. You feel irritated because they aren’t settling down as quickly as you want them to.
Then it comes, the announcement, “Code Red Lockdown,” kind of fast and quiet, three times. The kids all jump and grab their backpacks because they think they are going outside. You say in a commanding voice, “On the floor. Now.” You go and turn off the lights and open the door to lock it. The kids are still jumbling around, making noise, and you get on the floor too. You say in a voice that maybe wavers just a little, “Down and QUIET.” Then you soften your voice, and say “Quiet as Sunday. Make it as quiet as a Sunday. No moving or talking. Just breathe easy.” And they do. Once they are all quiet you stick the green sign in the window that you have forgotten to put there, that says all your students are present and accounted for, and you return to the floor. Quietly you repeat,” Like it’s Sunday. Shhhh…” And you wait. As you sit there on the floor you see the shadow of a person walk by the room and try your door handle. Your heart is pounding, even though you know this is only a drill, and the person outside is supposed to be there.
Eventually the announcement that ends the drill comes and everyone sighs in relief and returns to their previous noise level. Suddenly the fire alarm rings, and you all go out for the next drill. You do what you are supposed to do in a fire drill, and soon it is over. The students go to recess and you are alone in your classroom, with a fierce craving for something sweet and chocolatey. In a moment of clarity you recognize once again the power of sweet to calm and comfort you. And you wish it wasn’t so.
UPDATE: The next day, the students come to class, and you thank them for their behavior yesterday during the drill, and you apologize for being irritated with them. You tell them that your irritation wasn’t about them, it was about you. You tell them how hard it was for you to go through that, and you thank them for doing exactly as you told them to do. One of them asks you to tell the story of that day so long ago. You normally say no, but today you tell your story and they are completely silent and respectful the whole time. This time, when it is finished, you don’t need chocolate. You feel listened to and you are at peace.