The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Intruder Drills

There are a lot of emergency drills we practice in schools: fire drills, tornado drills, severe weather drills, earthquake drills. These are all natural disaster that can happen at a moment’s notice. We hope that they don’t, but we plan for the worst so we will know what to do in case nature’s fury comes toward our school.

But then there are the drills we practice that aren’t hazardous weather. They are the drills that we have to practice because our society has an illness and nobody has quite yet figured out a cure. I have no intention of using this space as a forum for discussing the politics of this issue, though; rather, I want parents and members of the community to know that we do take this just as seriously as we take the possibility of fires or severe weather.

I am referring, of course, to dangerous intruders. I still remember the morning I opened up my bundle of newspapers (this was before the 24-hour news cycle came to dominate our lives) and read about the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. It wasn’t the first such case but, unfortunately, that seemed to be the beginning of the illness that has spread. Why is it that there are people out there who want to hurt children? I don’t know. What I do know is that the safety of my young students will always be my number one priority.

We are at that time of year when Illinois schools are mandated by the state to run intruder drills in their buildings. We won’t know when or how, but we do know that at some point the police will come to the school, while students are present, to test to see if we as teachers know the protocols to keep our children safe. For my fourth graders, this means that I need to make sure that they, too, know what to do.

That is why I took some time this afternoon to review the procedure with my class. Even though we have talked about it before, I wanted to make absolutely certain they knew what to do and why to do it. I’m not going to go into the details here, but I want to assure anyone who may be reading that my students do indeed know how to quickly, safely, respond to an intruder alert in our classroom.

I pray that we will never experience a real-life intruder alert; I hope that the only alert my students encounter is the one that the police practice with us. I also pray that we never experience a tornado hitting our school, an earthquake rocking our foundations, or a fire destroying our libraries. But I want my students to be just as prepared for dangerous situations as they are for following a recipe at home when they are fixing dinner or determining their proper way to cite an author in a research paper.

Long gone are the days when school was just about reading, writing, and arithmetic. We need to prepare our students to know how to handle whatever situation life throws at them, even if it is the unthinkable. Because, sadly, the unthinkable is all too possible these days.

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