If I ever write a book about parenting, I’d title it, “The hardest, emotionally draining, most rewarding job in the entire world.” That’s a mouthful, right?! But, its true - this parenting thing is all that and some.
Another job that could have the same book title is that of a teacher. I was reminded of this by a text message I received from Wake County Public Schools about a Code Red Lockdown Drill at your school - a text that initially made my heart skip a beat, but quickly calmed back down once I saw the word drill.
Now mark it Addie, I’m about to use a phrase that I heard the grown-ups say a lot when I was your age… “Back when I was growing up” we didn’t have this kind of drill. We also didn’t have the plethora of information and communication sources relaying information from school to home.
When I was in school we had the “standard” drills. The first being a fire drill, where we would calmly usher ourselves into a single file line and gather on the sports fields. Teachers would make sure all students were accounted for, then waited for the “all clear” from the sound of a whistle blowing. Then and only then we could head back to class.
The second “standard” drill was the tornado drill where we learned to “duck and cover”- lining up in the hallway, away from windows. We’d crouch over and cover the back of our heads and necks. I’m happy to report that in all my school years, we only conducted drills and never had an actual emergency. That was a blessing and something I am very thankful for.
Our world is indeed forever changing. Ways in which we communicate and learn information is quite different today, and technology is involved in just about everything we do. Even the handwriting (sometimes called “cursive”) that dad and I spent years perfecting in school is becoming a lost art or a secret code for adults to use these days. That said, I’m happy to report that while the ways we learn and communicate have changed, safety and practicing drills in school have managed to remain the same - although today some of the drills may be out of response to different types of emergencies.
I believe there is tremendous value in staying a few steps ahead of potential chaos, particularly in a classroom such as yours.
Albeit a challenge, most children can manage to follow a process when sirens start to blare and lights start flashing. To some degree, these assaults on the senses of neurotypical people can cause the desired effect – an immediate release of adrenalinewhich with it can illicit an intense level of focus.
In autistic children, especially those with a sensory processing challenge (like you my dear); this sensory assault can have a very different effect. Rather than trigger an intense, single- minded focus, the result can be an overflow of chaos – both in your mind, and in collection with others who may have the same response (like in your classroom).
Oh the life of a special needs teacher…
Not preparing you and your classmates for an emergency is not an option, and so therefore the best course is more practice and preparation. This can range from the teachers creating social stories for emergency events to having classrooms equipped with special headphones for the more auditory sensitive students if needed.
Drills save lives Addie. This has been proven time and time again. While it’s one thing to create a procedure for drills, itwould be nothing without depending heavily on the teachers(and administration professionals) who ultimately give the students the knowledge they need and taking the lead in getting our children to safety.
These days most schools have what are called lockdown drills. These prepare for situations when there is a direct threat to the school or the immediate area of the school. The unique thing about this drill is its not designed in response to the effects of mother nature, but sadly those of mankind. Indeed, a much different threat than in my childhood.
I often say that we have safety in numbers when dad and I are together. Together we are better at managing sensory meltdowns or a fight or flight moment that may arise. I say that because having two people to help diffuse your distress is easier than one. Unfortunately, these lockdowns were created for the opposite reason. In these instances, there’s not safety in numbers, but sadly the numbers and its innocence become the target.
Because of the very existence of this particular drill, a California school was spared (to a significant degree) of such hate just this week.
We cannot live in fear.
You see Addie, when we send our kids off to school, it’s like handing someone your heart. We put our trust in your teachers to educate you and protect you, all while keeping our faith they will not need a reason for the latter. These teachers love each of their students as if they were their own. And they go into this profession knowing the demands that go well beyond reading and writing. In fact, one of my favorite things from a teacher I’ve ever read was…
“My favorite is when they accidentally call me mom because they know how much I love them and feel like they’re my own!” - Ms. Kelley Nations, teacher.
As a mom reading that, it made my heart swell with happiness to know our children are so loved. If these drills ever become (God forbid) an actual emergency situation someday, I’ll know that my babies are in the caring protection of the professionals that choose this passion for their livelihood.
While you may never call your teachers “mom” (truth be told you don’t even call me that most the time), I have seen the emotional connection you have with your teachers and them with you. They love you and you them. There’s a bond of trust and that makes me happy.
So, Addie I received a text that reminded me of so much. The gratefulness of preparedness -especially in a class like yours, the importance of faith and trust, and especially my deep gratitude for the teachers who do so much more than educate.
I love you.