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wasting a little time in happy way today, and a lot of time in an ominous way tomorrow

transitfan's picture

Today is Ms. Presley's birthday. (She is turning 30.) She is wearing a brightly colored spring dress which draws lots of compliments as we walk through the hallways, but she gets even more attention for the occasion of her birthday. One teacher bought her a gluten-free cake from a fancy bakery; a student (I think) brought her a box of 4 cupcakes from another fancy bakery (no SuperFresh cupcakes from these people, apparently!) which are not gluten-free so Ms. Presley offers them to me to take home. (I am appreciative, but then as I am leaving I realize I forgot them and wasn't sure if it would be polite to go back and bother her for them, so I don't. I hope she found someone else to take them.) Meanwhile, both sections of fifth-graders sing happy birthday when they enter the room, apparently people also sang to her at lunch, and near the end of the first section Mr. Baker comes by to accompany students on the piano singing to her again (he didn't know they already had sang, of course.) One section of fifth grade brought a card that everyone signed. I like that teacher's birthdays are taken as seriously (maybe more) than children's here; it suggests that colleagues pay attention to one another and care about each other.

The weather is beautiful and Ms. Presley has recess duty before taking a class back inside for music. We give them almost 10 minutes extra because today's lesson (a Greek folk song and dance) is rather simple and will run short. (I'm not sure why she doesn't want to teach them an extra verse with the extra time. Maybe it is because of her Kodaly training, by which you wouldn't want to spend too much time in a given class on one type of task. I should have asked this.) Despite possible wasted time, it's a fine afternoon.

But tomorrow the atmosphere will be very different.

Some students are talking about a “drill” of sorts tomorrow. Ms. Presley tells me that Boatley will be holding a four-hour lockdown drill, the most comprehensive ever held by any school in the region. “Boatley is really leading the way on this,” says Ms. Presley, but I'm not so sure it sounds like a good thing. They've had brief, 15 minute lock-down drills before, which are simpler and like the fire-drills that we had when I was in school. How times have changed! The school has hired actors to play intruders with weapons. The real police department will be participating in the drill as well. In the high school, students will be confined to hidden spaces with the blinds drawn for four hours; they have been told to bring a book. Some of them may be “killed” or “injured” and will wear signs accordingly by the actors. It sounds terrifying. In the lower school, students will be able to move through the building but not go outside. Since the lower school has a separate, detached music building Ms. Presley will teach in a classroom in the main building tomorrow. There would normally be ensembles but the ensemble teachers will be on lock-down in the Upper School. To me this sounds terrifying. I would have hated it. Of course the students already know about it so I guess they could stay home if they want. I guess it could be valuable as a one-time experiment to see how people respond, but I think it would be a waste of time and emotional energy if it became a regular thing. Maybe in the absence of standardized tests Boatley can waste some time and “take the lead” on this new experiment. I'd rather stick to writing birthday cards and staying outside.