A reflection on the June 10th Pierce Middle School lockdown

Reflecting on my experience yesterday as a substitute teacher during a middle school lockdown (well, two same-day lockdowns)
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A reflection on the June 10th Pierce Middle School lockdown

Reflecting on my experience yesterday as a substitute teacher during a middle school lockdown (well, two same-day lockdowns).

At 10:05 AM, the 8th grade students I’m with settle in for the third period of the day. I start working on a long overdue project on my laptop.

Just as one of the students leaves the room, the announcement comes over the loudspeaker “Lockdown lockdown lockdown.”

I grab my room key. I’m shaking as I try to lock the door from the inside. The (incredible) teacher across the hall pushes the student back in, yells “Get in” to me and locks my door from the outside.

Students band together, grab two heavy tables, shove them against the door, throw a pile of chairs on top, and head to the corner of the room away from the windows (third floor) where they sit in a row on the floor.

All of this happens in about 30 seconds.

I sit with them. Two students are to my left, closer to the door than I. I wonder if I should move so that I am closest to the door.

I whisper to them “are you OK?“ They nod. I whisper to the rest “grab your phones. You can text your parents.” I say “It’s OK. We’re OK.” (mostly trying to reassure myself).

My heart races. My breath is unsteady. I’m shaking. I keep glancing at the students, craning my next to look at all of them, some faces hidden behind chairs or low tables. They look OK.

All eyes on their phones. All of us texting whomever makes sense for us to text. Listening. In the silence. Thinking “Is there a shooter?” What would I do if there’s an active shooter?”

Texting my son, two floors away. Picturing him sitting on the floor like I am. He doesn’t answer for a while. Not sure if that would be easier or harder if I was at home, instead of with him.

Keep looking at the kids. Try to slow my breathing. Text my husband and two close friends. “I’m scared. I’m scared as fuck.” The room is silent.

Texts start coming in from mom friends. Their sons are scattered through the school, in different rooms, sitting in the corners floors below me, doors barricaded with hastily thrown tables, chairs.

I tell them: “I am here. I am subbing today.” “Oh shit Niki” “You will be OK.” “How are you? How are the kids?”

Two of them are teachers in other towns. They’ve been through this drill.

One of the teacher friends texts: “did they say active shooter.” I say no. She is relieved although we know nothing concrete at this point.

Another of them walks over to the school. Sends me the best news: “they found a live bullet in a bathroom. No active shooter.”

Students getting same news around same time. Sigh of relief.

Another hour passes.

Announcement: “Lockdown over.” Some kids go the bathroom. I walk across the hall and receive hugs from two teachers. I thank the one who locked my door. We laugh a little with relief.

Suddenly a new announcement: “lockdown lockdown lockdown.” Kids race into classrooms. Teacher helps me with door again. Tables shoved, chairs piled, kids in corner sitting in a row on the floor.

Texts. “It’s over.” “No it’s a new one.””What the hell?” “They must have found something else.” Probably no active shooter but all minds racing.

Students texting. Me texting with my son. He’s ok. Text news: they found two more live bullets. Each in a different bathroom. Relief and then shakiness and then boredom.

After an hour we raid the teacher’s snack drawers. Students worried she will be upset … I tell them she’d want them to have them and I’ll replenish anyway. Starburst. Hersheys kisses. Some laughing.

Announcement. Lockdown over but stay in place. They bring around some surprisingly good looking bbq chicken. Less delicious looking lasagna.

Dismissed at 2. Teachers in circle outside. I hear one mention having a baseball bat. Relief. Shock. Hugs. Kindness.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our kids don’t have to grow up in a world where lockdowns are the norm. They simply don’t.

 

-Contributed by Niki Boyson, Milton resident, parent, and substitute teacher. 

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