My school district has a policy of always holding a lockdown drill the school day immediately following a school shooting. I understand why they do this on an administrative level, but I feel like they are ignoring how traumatic this is for educators and students in classrooms who are still grieving and processing. I talked to my principal about adjusting the timing, but she says her hands are tied as this is a district decision. Should my teammates and I keep pressing about this at the district level, or let it go as a necessary precaution we have to take? —We Can’t Keep Doing This
After each school shooting while I was teaching, I said to myself, “Surely this will be enough for politicians to take action.” In 2023, we’re still waiting. I’m grieving along with you.
If you and your teammates want to take this on at the administrative level of your district, you have plenty of evidence that lockdown drills are ineffective, create a false sense of security, and can be psychologically damaging. Get parents on board too—this typically results in quicker action.
But at the very least, you can insist that the district not hold lockdowns immediately after a school shooting. In its article on mitigating the psychological effects of lockdowns, the National Association of School Psychologists says this:
“It is imperative that schools take into account the trauma history of persons participating in the drill. Special accommodations, such as advanced warning of an upcoming drill, should be given to any student or staff member who is judged to potentially find a lockdown drill frightening.”
Citing this, ask for special accommodations for yourselves and your students: allowing a week or more between school shootings and lockdown drills. (Want to really get in good trouble? Get a doctor’s note exempting you from participating and encourage other teachers to do the same.)
The goal here is not to avoid being prepared for an active shooter situation. The reality is we don’t have research that supports that lockdown drills are making schools safer or more prepared, and we do have research that it’s causing harm. The least your district can do is be more sensitive to timing.
I just accepted a new job I’m really excited about. The principal emailed me several PDFs and documents, including paperwork for the overnight school trip in August that all teachers are expected to chaperone. This wasn’t something mentioned in my interview, and not only do I not want to give up four days of my summer (unpaid), I feel completely uncomfortable sleeping in the same space as my students. I might feel comfortable saying no to a principal that I’ve worked with for several years, but I just got hired! Do I suck it up and go? —Chaper-no Thank You
I have two warring personalities in response to the idea of an overnight school trip. One is Teacher Me, who believes in firm work-life boundaries, not working for free, and teachers feeling comfortable at work. The other is Summer Camp Counselor Me, who is like, “CAN YOU IMAGINE A MORE THRILLING BONDING EXPERIENCE?!” (I do not know how they both live in my body.)
Ultimately, you need to do what makes you feel safe. I can see an overnight field trip feeling incredibly vulnerable with a group of people you don’t know, especially in a political climate where people label teachers as “groomers” simply for existing.
My go-to is usually to have an honest discussion with your principal about why you don’t want to go. But in this case, I wouldn’t bank on a principal you don’t know yet having enough emotional intelligence to understand your perspective and concerns without immediately developing a negative reaction about your dedication. (Emotionally intelligent principals are definitely out there! I just wouldn’t assume yours is one until you know.)
I would email something like this:
“Thanks so much for passing these documents along—I’ll take a good look at everything soon. I saw the info about the overnight field trip. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this year’s, but I am looking forward to learning more about it and how it impacts school culture. Is there something I can do to support the trip, maybe putting together a collective care package for my students to enjoy and know I’m thinking about them?”
This way, you show your principal that you care about bonding and school culture but aren’t putting yourself in a situation you’re uncomfortable with just yet. If this field trip truly is expected every summer, you can take this upcoming school year and feedback from other teachers to determine whether this is something you can commit to.
I have a fifth grader who picks and eats his boogers. I think he does it without realizing, but everyone around him definitely notices (and reacts). I’m obviously comfortable calling parents about behavior or grades, but is it OK to call a parent about something that just grosses me and other students out? —Am I Just Being Picky
Turns out it’s not just unpleasant to look at but could potentially expose the body to germs. Luckily, this sticky situation (I COULDN’T HELP MYSELF, SORRY) has a simple solution: talking to parents from a health and hygiene perspective.
When you email or call, take care with both the child’s and parent’s feelings. It’s embarrassing to be called out on a hygiene issue you feel like you should have noticed earlier. (I may or may not know from experience when my third grade teacher had to call and politely beg my mom to get me to wear deodorant). Be upbeat, compassionate, and sensitive—the way we all are when facing something that was definitely not in our teacher preparation training.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The theater teacher at our high school is a 25-year institution. Mrs. Fulman puts on an incredible musical every year, and our theater program is one of the top theater programs in the country. But so many students have shared stories with me of her toxic and abusive behavior. She screams at students who mess up in front of the cast and puts lead actresses on a diet called the Fulman Fifteen every year to lose weight for the performances … and these are some of the tamer stories. When I asked my students why they don’t report her, they all say the same thing: Either they have reported her and the administration “investigates” and comes up empty, or they haven’t because they’re certain she’ll retaliate and they want to stay in theater. How do I support my students? —I’m Not the Drama. (Am I the Drama?)