Wednesday, October 24, 2007

how to crisis

Shane killed himself in front of the library ten months ago. A lot has changed around here.

Today, we conducted our first school-wide Lock Down Drill, a simulated event/incident/nightmare. Leading up to this event, an assembly, faculty meeting, and announcements helped prepare everyone. But some people wanted more. Or, better yet, some people needed more.

Over the last two weeks, people asked questions.
  • What do I do if I'm in the hallway and the intruder is right there in front of me?
  • Is it okay to run outside?
  • Can we use our cell phones?
  • If we're to station ourselves in the classrooms in such a way that we can't be seen by someone in the hallway, then how are we supposed to close the blinds on the windows?
  • What should we use to cover the glass in the door?
These are valid questions. They are practical and they provide information and protocols. But one question, asked during the assembly, irritated me:
  • So I'm in the bathroom, in a stall, sitting on the toilet doing my business and the intruder walks in. What do I do?
Okay, if you know the student who asked the question, you know that it's a student who desperately craves attention; a student who has asked a question or made a comment at every assembly since he entered the high school. Why he is called on is part mystery, part theater of the absurd, but he did ask the question, and he did get an answer.

In fact, we were all told that if we find ourselves 'in a moment' then we should, like the little Amish boy in Witness, lift our legs up to the level of the toilet seat and remain absolutely quiet.

There's just something so disappointing about this question and its response. It is over-specification of an unwritten policy as well as an acute delineation of details.

And then I think about the pointedness of the question and its even more-pointed response, and I realize that the question is nit-picking and its corresponding answer is debilitating.

Sometimes we ask too many questions. Sometimes we ask them because we are not so much interested in the answer as we are with stalling a process.

Sometimes we work too hard to provide answers. Sometimes we over-specify, over-scaffold, and over-justify and we render ourselves paralyzed.

And this Q&A business is slowly emerging as the most profound obstacle in getting teachers on board with change.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

Great post. Sounds like something some of my kids would say.

I know what you mean about over-delineating. There's been this (unacknowledged) switch of several "safety" issues at my school over the years.

The little window in our doors, nowadays, is never supposed to be covered. But it used to be okay. This has switched several times. We're currently supposed to leave the door in the position where it is locked when closed. "Anyone that needs to get into your room has a key."

I have always kept my door locked for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that if I don't, I'm liable to walk away and leave it unlocked. In fact, my first year as a teacher I left it unlocked and a laptop walked away. Lesson learned.

But - are we safer with the little window covered, where no bad guy can see in? Or with it uncovered, so that good guys can see that we're in there in an emergency situation?

I shouldn't have to say this:

There is no plan that will cover every contingency. Common sense, man! We, the teachers, are not completely devoid of common sense. And when the chips are down, I'm going to do what I think is best for the safety of the kids regardless of what the "rules" were. Would anyone want me to do differently?

And I really don't care what they say about cell phones. If there's a shooter, or a bombing, or a tornado, or a meteor, or a Godzilla tearing up the school, I WILL use a cell phone if it seems necessary.

As in lots of other things w/ public schools (or any institution) they seem to want to try to circumvent, or get around, judgment. This is asinine.

This should be approached like the media literacy approach to learning: teaching thinking strategies, meta-cognition, etc.