Monthly Archives: December 2014


Today was one of those horror days that your read about in the papers and pray it never happens to your school.  Five minutes before the final bell rings, the assistant principle announces over the loud speaker “This is a hard lockdown.”  For those who have never had the pleasure of working in a school, we practice three things now-a-days: fire drills, soft lockdowns, and hard lockdowns.  Fire drills are pretty run of the mill – the alarm rings and everyone leaves the building.  Since I teach chemistry, I always assume it’s going to be me that actually starts a fire and turns the drill into practice.  Soft lockdowns and hard lockdowns might be new to you.  Soft lockdown means that something is happening near the school but no one is in any real danger yet.  You can keep teaching as long as the door is locked.  Hard lockdown is the scary one.  It means that someone is very near campus or is on campus and they have a weapon.  Everyone gets down on the floor, all the lights go out, and we sit quietly without talking or checking our cell phones.  Myself included.  Usually, staff gets a heads up when there is a drill in order to talk our students through it.  But this wasn’t a drill.  This was for reals.

It’s super scary being in a hard lockdown.  You have no info and you aren’t supposed to contact the outside world except for your principle to let him know that you have all your students in your room.  That’s it.  No phone calls, no texting, no Facebook.  Try explaining that to 38 students who are told to sit down, be quiet, and don’t use your phones.  It’s stressful for them and I’m sure it’s stressful to their parents, but we as teachers are told to confiscate cells and not let students text or call their parents.  That might seems harsh or unfair, but it’s something that I happen to agree with.  First off, there is nothing a parent can do in the event of a hard lockdown.  They aren’t allowed on campus, their calls will be politely ignored.  They can’t come get their student even if they wanted to.  And there is actually a lot of harm that could be done.  Parents could block emergency personnel that need to be on the scene or they could provide targets for unknown assailants. The school notifies parents via a call system as to what is happening.  Students don’t need to do that.  Second, students in class could be targets for posting things on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat.  If the assailant is another student, they could be friends with people on social media, could easily figure out where certain students are located and could target them.  Students are safer if they don’t post their location and situation on social sites like they are want to do in any situation.

Luckily, the situation at my school was resolved peacefully before anyone stepped foot on campus.  The suspects were running through the neighborhood near the school and caught before they had a chance to enter the campus.  The lockdown was lifted and students (and staff) were allowed to leave.  But in the future, I hope all students realize the seriousness of such a situation and follow the rules despite the fact that they don’t agree with them.  Sitting quietly on the floor with no phone for an hour sucks big time (it sucks for me too), but it’s important because peoples lives are at stake.  I don’t want to die because some gunman decided to shot into my classroom because some 16 year kid couldn’t shut up for an hour.

These are scary times we live in, and scary times for students, teachers and parents when schools need to practice what will happen in the case of a lockdown.  I’m just glad that we do practice so at least students know what to do when the real thing hits, whether they follow the rules or not.

Some of them can actually think for themselves

I have the pleasure of being the Science National Honor Society sponsor at my high school.  As the sponsor, I arrange trips for the students to engage in community projects.  Some of those projects involve students teaching elementary school kids about science.  Some of the projects involve the students pulling weeds in order to help native habitats.  And some of the project require students to interact with grad students in order to learn more about science.  In all of those projects, I’m super proud of my students.

Today, I took about 20 students to ASU to hear presentations from grad students at the Institute of Human Origins.  The grad students walked my high school students through the basics of human evolution.  Then they asked my students to arrange a set of skulls from oldest to newest.  My wonderfully fantastic students were not only able to put skulls in a mostly correct order, they were able to justify why they chose that order in the first place.  And their reasoning was sound.  Given what they knew and what they just learned, they were able to work together and solve the problem.  They impressed me and the two grad students who were leading them through the lesson.

It’s easy to become jaded when you teach.  You see a lot of students who give up, who don’t challenge themselves, who don’t try hard, who don’t leave their comfort zone.  It’s easy to think that they are lazy and stupid and that the future is doomed.  It is easy to give up on humanity and turn your back on the younger generation.  Then you see students work together to solve a problem.  You see them think it through and put thought into their decisions and take each other’s opinions and critics in order to accomplish a goal.  And you realize: things are not doomed.  There are smart students out there, smart young people who will go on to be smart adults and contribute their knowledge to the collective good of humanity.  They talk about their future with such optimism in their voices and in their eyes.  They are excited about college and learning and becoming better.

It’s easy to forget that not all of them will become parents at 15 and work at McDonald’s for the rest of their life.  I’m glad I get to see those students who will really change the world.  It makes my remember why I want to be a teacher.  Why I want to stay a teacher and inspire students to continue their education.  I’m glad I get to be their sponsor and see them use their skills to solve problems.

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