As a fourth-year teacher teaching fourth graders, I was not prepared for the lockdown drills that followed the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. My pint-sized principal, Mrs. Ure in Orem, Utah, assured me that if someone came into her building, she’d go out to her silver Toyota pickup truck and get the shotgun. I knew she would protect us.
Years later, practicing for a lockdown with my eighth graders, I continued to teach. We huddled in the corner, but I was determined to finish reading Flowers for Algernon. My principal, a former lineman, sent me an email — “Practice like you play.” I knew to take drills seriously after his coaching.
On Thursday, February 15th, the morning after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I walked into my classroom and measured where the safe spots, the places where my students and I could hide, behind my wall of glass after drawing the curtains, were.
Now, in 2020, school safety and security has been pushed aside by the pandemic. Frankly, I am more afraid of Covid-19 than any of the scenarios we practiced in drills. Instead of securing entrances and fencing, districts across the country are installing plexiglass; purchasing PPE; retrofitting filtration systems; and trying to figure out how to keep children separate from each other.
In the musical, A Chorus Line, Cassie, desperate for a job in the chorus line, says, “I’m a dancer, a dancer dances.”
Give me somebody
to dance for.
Give me somebody
Let me wake up
in the morning
to find I’ve somewhere
exciting to go.
I’m like Cassie, but I’m a teacher, a teacher teaches.
Each August, I get the back-to-school jitters. I set out my outfit for the first day of school a week early — just to make sure I’m ready. I read my attendance lists. I see if I have repeat customers — those students that I taught in 10th grade, then 11th, and finally, as seniors.
Right now is when I start planning, loading my Canvas pages, and organizing relevant readings. I’m doing that. My colleagues are doing that.
On August 20th, the scheduled first day of school with students, I want to “wake up in the morning to find I’ve somewhere exciting to go,” if it is safe for my students, my colleagues, my community and me.
If Covid-19 is not contained, we need to ensure that teachers can teach; students can learn; and that we are not acting irresponsibly and spreading the virus.
Therefore, maybe my somewhere exciting to go is my laptop and a GoogleMeet. I hear over and over to “look for the silver lining.” The silver lining is keeping everyone safe. Let’s use what we have, build on all the good we created in the spring, and transform education instead of rushing into full classrooms. Let’s use our talent and our tools to be even more effective.
This is my personal opinion. This is how I feel.