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What I learned from an active shooter drill

Today, after yet another school shooting, my school did its scheduled active shooter training. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that I learned from the day.

1. I "missed my calling in law enforcement."

According to the police officers who were there, I missed out not going into law enforcement. I'm guessing that part of this is that I'm obscenely calm under pressure. Another part is my sheer size - I'm an intimidating person. And I'll be the third part is that I'm (and I'm quoting here) "a stone-cold, no-nonsense bitch." I hate that the statement makes me sound like The Trunchbull and that I don't have any feelings or love for kids, but today, in a drill, I made the police chief, who I know socially, slide his badge under the door before I'd let him unlock it, and I was fully ready to kneecap him if he came in the room without doing so. I'm not bragging or saying that's right, I'm just saying it for context. Drills exist to practice what you would do in a given situation, and I take that very seriously. I'm going to do what I would actually do.

2. I'm probably not going to be one of the teachers who lays down their life for someone else's kids.

Again, here I am being villainous and screwing up the narrative of the teacher-savior, but I can't save all the kids. And quite frankly, my family is more important. I have to think of my own kid. No one can raise him like me, and he is my biggest priority. This makes me selfish, and I claim it. It's not my job to die protecting children. (If it was, I'd make those cops who wanted to recruit me very happy and sign right up for the Academy.) If you are in my room, under my supervision, I will do my best to keep you safe, but I will not die for you on purpose.

3. It isn't a fluke that I'm too calm under pressure.

You know in a movie, where everything slows down and you get to see all the angles and possible outcomes? That's what happens to me in emergency situations. I chalk it up to my massive intellect (another factual thing that makes me sound awful and obnoxious.), but I wasn't planning to count on it today. In fact, today, I expected my head to be like an Etch-a-Sketch: shake me up and everything's gone. Nope - crystalline and slow-motion, just like normal. Also like usual - it was scary to those around me. Maybe I'm some sort of sociopath like I've been accused of being, or maybe my brain can just compute a lot all at once. Either way, I can count on me to be calm and collected in an emergency situation.

4. It is helpful to be an actor.

When my massive intellect and I are in charge of teacher education, in order to complete teacher training, candidates will have mandatory theater training. Being able to improvise and think on your feet is key in what we do. Being able to inhabit another character believably gives you amazing insight into people in general. And in situations like this drill, you can slip easily into the make-believe of the situation. In one of the scenarios today, I was supposed to be a first grader, and you bet I reacted just like 6-year-old me would. I was in character until I was told not to be, and though some of my colleagues were annoyed with me, others were grateful. It's not at all that I wasn't taking it seriously - quite the opposite. By that point in the afternoon, I knew what my reaction would probably be to an active shooter in my building, and other teachers, teachers who were really struggling with the drills, needed a way to focus on having skin in the game. I didn't take charge like I normally would, and when they looked to me to take the lead, I said, "Why are you looking at me? I'm six!"

5. This is reality now.

This is the hardest realization I came to today, and probably my biggest takeaway. School shootings are a cultural norm and are here to stay. I can be my typical Pollyanna self and continue to think the best of everyone and everything until I'm proven wrong, but in reality, the world now is different than when I started teaching. This is a part of what I do now. I guess I'm glad to be prepared and grateful for the training in that way, but I'm still so, so angry that this has to be something in the back of my mind as I teach children how to create and express themselves. If I could prevent it, I would, but the people who have the power to make shooting children less possible are cowards. They will not prevent this from happening, or they would have been outraged enough to take action before now. So instead, I have to stand up and protect the kids in my classroom when (not if) the time comes.

Hence my reply to the officer who told me I'd missed my calling: "Maybe it was more important that I'm right where I'm at."


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