Today as I was walking down the arts wing of my school, a lockdown drill was announced over the PA system. “This is a drill. This is a lockdown. Lockdown. Lockdown.” About a month ago we had a lockdown drill, but some of the PA systems were not working, leaving some students and teachers going about their business as usual. We knew another drill was coming.
I was sure we were going to have a drill today because all morning, from about 6:30am on, before school started, a woman’s voice came over the PA system announcing, “Testing. Testing.” at least a dozen times.
I was just outside the orchestra room when the announcement for the lockdown was made so I turned where the music teacher was ushering the students into a large closet where the instruments are stored. Once inside she shut the lights off and we waited for the “All clear.” The students, 5th or 6th graders, were absolutely silent. There was none of the usual horsing around. Everyone took the drill very seriously. There was only the upside down, pencil-thin cross of light that could be made out in the totally dark closet. Maybe three, maybe five minutes later, the “All clear” was sounded and the string teacher turned the lights on, opened the door, and we all exited. I told the students how terrific they were.
All of this made me terribly melancholy and sad. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on inside the minds of those 11 and 12 year olds with whom I was in the closet— how they perceive this need to perform this drill, how they perceive what it means to feel safe, how they perceive the value of this choreography. I wonder what impact this drill has on their own sense of trust, security, and sense of well-being. I talked with a colleague later today who descibed the very same sadness, especially at the soberness with which the students went through the drill, and said she nearly cried waiting for the “All clear.”
These are the kinds of drills we have in schools now. This is the world we are handing to the next generation.