Saturday, April 22, 2006
Lockdowns and Fractions
We've had a lockdown at least once a year since I've been at this school, for various reasons. A lockdown is when something dangerous is going on outside the school or in the school, so all the teachers lock the doors, pull down the blinds, get the kids away from the door, and wait for instructions. Depending on the principal, some of them have tried different codes so the kids won't be scared: the most popular is "Mr. Keys is in the building." Aside from the kids who thought that must be Alicia Keys' father, they wouldn't have caught on, except that there are always so many new teachers that this has to be followed with, "So please lock your doors, don't let children out, move them away from the doors and windows..."
Most of them don't last that long. I think my first lockdown was because some bank robbers from San Francisco led police on a high speed chase which ended in front of our school. Once it was because of a custody battle, during which a father called and said if we wouldn't give him his child, he was going to "come start shooting." (The police refused to respond to that one, but that's a different story). A couple times it's been because of a shooting in the neighborhood. The longest one was a few years back and lasted for about 3 hours, and involved someone setting a carburetor shop (or something similar) on fire, I think killing the owner and threatening to throw grenades at police. At least, I think that was what happened.
The one we had a few weeks ago showed me that I am way too used to these things. You've got to keep the kids focused on school or else they get scared - rightfully so - and start wondering aloud if their mom was shot, etc. So, I was teaching them fractions and when one of them interrupted to say he was scared I said, "You know I would never let anything happen to you - the door's locked, the outer door's locked, and I'll take care of you anyway, because you're my kids." Kept teaching. A different kid who likes to cause problems started talking about the first kid should be scared, and I kind of lost it. I went over to the antagonistic child and said, very seriously and calmly, "You know that you don't need to be scared of anyone getting in because I won't let them. But you might want to be scared of what will happen if you don't start working on your fractions in my classroom when I have both your parents' phone numbers."
The whole class sat up straight, folded their hands and paid attention. Apparently I have more authority than a man with a gun. When I apologized, one of the kids said, "Oh, we know it's cause you love us and you not playing when you want us to get an education."
I realized that night that I was obviously too used to lockdowns because I never even though to ask what the situation was. I'm from Petaluma. Never thought that would be the kind of thing to get routine.
Note about fractions: doesn't matter what area you're teaching in, kids learn fractions better if you turn the fractions into desserts. For example: "If you have a pan of brownies and divide the pan into four big brownies..." "If you have a pie and cut it into three pieces..."