Last week we had a scary lockdown that wasn’t a drill. I wasn’t at school that day. I had a doctor’s appointment, so I heard about it second hand from my colleagues and Little Darlings. Praise Jesus, our Administrators and School Resource Officers responded quickly and things ended well. Unfortunately, we all know that’s not a given in our day and age.
The following staff meeting we debriefed and our school psychologist said something really profound. She told us, “The difference between a stressful situation and a traumatic situation is the ability to process what happened. Talk to your students. You are good at talking to students and they need the chance to process what happened, so it can be a stressful event and not a traumatic one.”
It reminded me of “The Talk” we have every year…it’s a tough conversation but an important one. I used to feel really nervous about “The Talk”, not sure how to say all the important things without freaking kids out or getting emotional myself. Over the past few years I’ve gotten better at talking about school safety in a way that empowers students, without all the doom and gloom. If you’re feeling a little unsure of how to address the scary times we’re teaching and learning in, here’s what I say to my Little Darlings:
“If school safety was up to teachers alone, I would be really worried. You guys know that we know very little about what’s actually going on at school. There’s no way we could prevent a tragedy alone, there’s too many of you and too few of us. We’d really be in trouble if keeping this school safe was up to your teachers.
But I’m not worried. I am not scared to come to school because of you guys, YOU, the students, know what’s going on at school. You hear things and see things that teachers have no idea about. And I know that you guys take the responsibility of keeping our school safe really seriously. I know that if you hear something or have a feeling that something’s wrong, you’ll make sure that the right people know about it.
So, what can you do? How could you let someone know that there’s a concern or a rumor going around?“
(Students share…and eventually they bring up our district wide tip-line for placing anonymous reports)
“Yes! We have a really easy way for you to share what you know or have heard. Everyone, take out your student IDs. Flip it over. See that phone number on the back? You can text or call that number anytime, 24/7 to let our school know there’s a concern. It’s totally anonymous. I want you to have this number handy. If you don’t have your student ID, take out your phone and save this contact: (I write the info on the board). I don’t want you to be in the position where you wish you could report something, but you can’t find the number!
And it’s important to know that you need to report anything you see or hear that is concerning…You don’t need to stress about wondering if it’s a joke or just a rumor. You don’t have to verify anything. We have people who get paid to do that job. You don’t need that kind of pressure! Just pass it along, know that it will be investigated and you’ve done your part to keep our school safe. We get tips all the time that get investigated and they confirm that there’s nothing to be worried about. That’s good news! That’s how we know that our students care about keeping out school safe. That’s how we take care of each other.
While we’re on the subject, let’s just make sure we’re all clear about what needs to happen if we have a Lock Down:
What does the teacher do? What do the students do? (My sub struggled with the Lock Down last week but luckily my my Little Darlings knew exactly what he needed to do, and they coached him through it.)
What should you do if you’re not in the classroom? What if they call a Lock Down while you’re walking to class or on the way to the nurse?
What about a Stay Put? How is the process different? What does the teacher do and what do the students do?
While we’re on a roll, where do we evacuate if the fire alarm goes off? And in case of an earthquake?
Perfect. You guys are amazing. Thank you guys for keeping our school safe. I’m really thankful for you. Any other questions, thoughts or comments before we dive into Spanish? “
That’s what I say. It’s not perfect, but it’s authentic. It communicates that I care about them and I trust them. It gives them the information they need and hopefully by talking about it it feels less scary. If you haven’t (or even if you have, maybe it’s time for a refresher) chatted with your Little Darlings about the tough things, don’t delay! Remember, “The difference between a stressful situation and a traumatic situation is the ability to process what happened.“
Love you, my friends! Happy Easter!
As always, your advice is platinum. I will be at a middle and high school next year not teaching Spanish as I had hoped and prayed. One more year of German before the program meets its demise. I think we have good plans in place but now I get to learn the new building’s procedures, and safe hiding/ escape routes too. I especially like getting the Emergency Hotline report number in their cell phones. Good call! (Bad pun!).
Happy Easter, AnneMarie
Love you, Suzanne! Wishing you all the best next year!
So glad you are okay! Thanks for sharing. I like the emphasis on student responsibility to report. Several years ago we had a tragedy possibly averted because a student showed her mom what had come up in her Snapchat .
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thank you so much for this. I for one hesitate to say too much from fear or triggering anxiety etc. This script is perfect. I have contacted my admin – because honestly I do not know what students can do other than talk to a teacher to report a rumor. We are a tiny school without a security officer. It is so helpful to know what others are doing. much appreciated!!! S Northville HS, upstate NY
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Wishing you all the best. It’s just so hard!