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Lockdown! November 27, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,

For the teachers in your life on Etsy.

Forget Black Friday. Crowd control? Violence? People trying to claw their way to the front of the line? Hell, every day is Black Friday when you’re a teacher.

In keeping with my mantra, “I expect chaos, so I’m never disappointed” mantra, my school recently went into lockdown mode.

Never mind that what used to be called “Lockdown” is now referred to as “Shelter in Place.” When things got dicey, the voice over the PA made it clear. “Teachers we are in lockdown. This is not a drill!”

I dutifully locked the door to the classroom (Thank god I could find my keys on the mess that is my desk!) One student asked if someone might be coming into the school with a gun. “That’s unlikely,” I replied. “But if anyone does, I’ll take a bullet for you. That’s why I make the big bucks.” My students seemed relieved. “Now let’s get back to those Thanksgiving turkeys,” I chirped.

It helped immensely that half of my class (31 students, yes 31!) was out of the class on the Woodworking Bus. I was busily dipping the coffee filters that had been colored with magic markers into a glass of water. These would be the turkey’s feathers. “Ooh! Aah!” Kids never cease to be amazed at the results. But the sound of helicopters nearby was hard to ignore. Someone jiggled the doorknob and students froze. ‘They’re just checking to make sure we’re safe,” I said. I casually strolled over to the glass just to make sure Michael Myers was not lurking outside.

An hour passed. The kids complained that recess had come and gone, like it was MY fault that we couldn’t go outside. After another 20 minutes had passed, some started in on their snacks. It was then that one boy said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” I ordered him to quit sucking on his juice pack, but it was too late. “I really have to go,” he repeated.

For six years, I’ve had an emergency potty in my room. It’s basically a plastic waste paper basket with a rubber lid. A bin of books is balanced on it, so the kids hadn’t even noticed it. We popped it open to see what was inside: a blue plastic tarp, pairs of latex gloves, plastic bags, a bag of kitty litter, and a roll of toilet paper.

“I really have to go,” moaned the juice-slurper. I figured out how to drape the plastic tarp – one end on the metal cabinets and the other on my easel. Not bad. The boy was now doing the potty dance, a sight that strikes fear into the heart of all teachers.

I had all of the kids move to the far side of the class. “Keep coloring those turkeys!” I ordered. You could have heard a pin drop. And that was the problem. No one wants to have everyone hear them “go.” I found my Muse CD and cranked it up LOUD, guitar riffs and all.

The first boy went. He emerged smiling from the makeshift restroom. I handed him a leftover Halloween cup half-filled with kitty litter and instructed him to go back and toss it in. A second boy came forward. He used the potty. More kitty litter. Finally, another boy said, “Oh, I might as well.” He complained that there was kitty litter around the rim and requested a wipe to clean it off. No sooner had he gone than there was a knock at our door. Security was escorting children to the bathrooms for a quick break.

The three boys stayed behind. “We don’t need to go because we went IN CLASS!” they bragged. I gave them a Sharpie and let them autograph the toilet. They insisted on writing the date beside their names.

I’m afraid the children who were most traumatized by the lockdown were those out in the Woodworking Bus. They were forced to go into a kindergarten classroom and then herded into the auditorium where they were, according to them, forced to sing the “Hokey Pokey” over and over. Their eyes were glassy.

Later we learned the lockdown was due to three pipe bombs found in the apartment of a parolee who’d been arrested the night before. His apartment was a block from the school, but the Fire Department issued the lockdown as a precaution as the Bomb Squad went in and detonated the bombs. The parolee had served time in prison for methamphetamine use. “Boy, meth will make your teeth fall out,” I warned the kids. “Never an attractive look.” This is what’s called a Teachable Moment.

Later, a custodian came in to remove the emergency potty for cleaning. Another teacher asked if I put the plastic bag inside the potty. Plastic bag? I asked. Oh crap! That’s what they were for? Said potty has yet to be returned, but we’ll know it when we see it cause it’s got our names written all over it.

Just another day in Paradise.


1. Tim Bradley - November 27, 2011

You the bomb.

I’ll take that as a compliment as I rarely receive such validation from anyone who is over four feet tall. Jan


2. Catherine Sherman - November 27, 2011

Your children will never forget this exciting moment in their lives in which you kept them safe and warned them about the dangers of meth use and the importance of kitty litter! There was no one like you in my elementary school, sadly.

I need to add bucket, kitty litter and plastic bag to my list of emergency supplies.

Earlier this year during a tornado warning, my son-in-law spent 90 minutes in a restroom with autistic boys at the school where he works. I’m not sure how they entertained themselves, but I think he said it seemed like 90 hours.

At least they were holed up IN a restroom. FYI – This scenario not in “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook” either. Jan


3. CZBZ - November 27, 2011

Your story had me spellbound, ha! It was a teachable moment for me, too. I will be adding a plastic wastebasket with lid and litter for my family’s emergency food supply.That was brilliant, Jan…and even more brilliant was your follow-through. You had the idea and then actually carried it out!

i figure a lot of us would be saying, “Well, I was gonna get a plastic wastebasket………….”


I’d never even touched kitty litter, but when the smell of warm wee (I defer to the Brits on all potty matters) wafted my way, I realized how important it is for any emergency arsenal. Add it to your shopping list! 🙂 Jan


4. Hanh Le - November 27, 2011

Jan, You are a fantastic writer. You had me spellbound from beginning to end!
Have a great rest of the weekend.

Thanks compadre. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this week. >wink< Jan


5. elissestuart - November 28, 2011

Such an exciting life you lead at school.
Now I know what to add to the earthquake kit. Should there ever be an emergency – I hope the cats will not mind if we need to share their kitty box.

As long as you don’t kick up the litter when you’re done. LOL Jan


6. Anne @ The Frump Factor - November 28, 2011

What a wonderful post. Thanks for the smile. As one who teaches adults, I definitely think teachers of children are a very special breed.


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