I have worked in three different schools now and one of the procedures that I have found noticeably different in all three schools is the lockdown and evacuation procedures.
I have paid close attention to these procedures, especially in the last school I worked in where I acted as the school’s Staff Health and Safety Representative for two years. Also, coming from an American background makes it something that is, sadly, ingrained into my very soul.
The first school I worked at was in New York. It was a large intermediate school (US grades 6-8, NZ years 7-9) that had approximately 2100 students. We not only had lockdown drills but I actually was unfortunate enough to partake in an actual lockdown twice. It’s really scary when you know as a teacher that there is actually no lockdown drill scheduled and the school goes in to lockdown. (But this blog isn’t about the differences between the American and New Zealand school systems so I’m going to go no further down that slippery slope.)
My last school was a rural New Zealand school and I was incredibly surprised when I started teaching there that many things just weren’t thought about. Not because they were not diligent – there was just such a high trust model going on that certain things didn’t even get considered in procedures such as a lockdown. As an unrelated but similar example, students didn’t even have locks on their lockers because why would you? When I was health and safety rep, I asked the staff in a workshop to try and come up with some hypothetical situations that could initiate a lockdown so we could talk through them. One group came up with: there could be a swarm of killer bees outside! They were serious. (Me, coming from a background of bomb threats, school shootings, and that one time a parent going through a custody battle came to school with a gun to get their kid just can’t visualise the killer bees being all that scary.)
That brings us to today. My current school had a lockdown today and to be honest it seemed to be a happy medium of the two schools I have been at so far. This works for me. It has clear procedures. The staff and students all knew what to do. I think the best part of it was that when we went in to lockdown, my students took their maths with them under their chairs and tried to keep working. They whispered, “Don’t worry Miss! We’ll keep being really quiet!” It was really endearing. The only negative about it was that it was a really hot day so when we evacuated to the field it was way too sunny! I guess there are worse things in the world. Like killer bees.