Thinking Training for the New School Year

As we head back to school most districts have already filled their schedule for returning teacher training.  You probably are even instructing your staff on the changes to Kansas Senate Bill 128 which changed the number of drills for schools.  The Kansas Department of Education Safe and Secure Schools Unit has valuable resources on their site. (https://www.ksde.org/Kansas-Safe-Schools)  The important thing to remember when conducting these drills is that we empower teachers, staff and students.  Too often the drills are conducted with little preparation or planning.  In order to reduce the anxiety and stress of these drills they should be discussed prior to being implemented.

One of the most critical components for a successful drill is for the students to understand their role in safety and security.  This can only be done if the teachers are speaking with their students long before a drill ever occurs.  They should regularly take time (every two months) to review the particulars of what safety actions should be taken in that particular room.  This is a quick refresher that can be done in less than a minute as a sort of question and answer session.

In a fire drill we exit the building in a tornado drill we go to the shelter.  Crisis drills are fluid and unpredictable, so the response isn’t easily defined.  Classrooms vary and thus the response varies.  Closets, exterior exits, large windows, open classrooms, etc. can all change the way students will be expected to respond in an emergency.  Teachers should point out where the ‘safer corner’ is located.   Students should be told where they should go if they are in an open area such as a cafeteria, gymnasium or playground.  If exiting the building is part of the security plan students need to be told where to go once outside.  We can’t expect our students to listen to, comprehend, and initiate instructions in a crisis if they are hearing them for the first time when they are frightened.

We tend to conduct drills at a time when we know the students are properly supervised.  If it can be done practically there should be a crisis drill that is done during a transition, lunch or morning arrival.  This type of drill is a great experience for the students to recognize that sometimes you need to get in the nearest room with a secured door.  It will help your staff learn to corral kids that are in hallways and open areas.  These are skills where we expect our staff to act without ever asking them to perform these tasks.

Finally, the crisis drills shouldn’t always be catastrophic.  Classroom hold drills or school lockouts should be conducted as well.  If you have real life medical emergency, we don’t want students gawking and interfering with responders.  If an unruly parent is in the front office students should remain in their classrooms.  When the police are responding to a call near the school it would behoove us to secure the building until they are finished.  Scrambling to the safer corner and waiting for the all clear is not the only way to practice a crisis.