Wednesday, November 05, 2014
You know, it's a much surer bet we're all going to die one day, but I don't walk into my classroom and announce it to my students. Of course, the man was talking about lockdown drills, a relatively new thing in which we prepare for what our speaker deemed a certainty. Several of my colleagues reported he said that, in the case of a real lockdown, right before you lock the door, you should check who's outside. If a kid doesn't wish to come in, you'd be within your rights to tackle him, or her I suppose, and drag the person in if necessary.
All day long, shocked teachers asked me about that. It's problematic, to say the least. Last week, for example, someone pulled a fire alarm and we all marched out to stand in the rain. Fun as it was to stand around outside without an umbrella, there was no fire. In fact, there usually isn't, particularly during planned drills. And the only reason there are drills is so that no one panics when the real thing occurs.
So imagine that, tomorrow, the real thing occurs, and we have a lockdown. You, being a selfless hero, notice a student walking down the hall. You ask her to stop but she refuses. Or maybe she's wearing earphones and doesn't even hear you. Being trained, you tackle her. She breaks three ribs but you drag her to the safety of your locked unlighted classroom. Maybe, if you actually saved her life, you're a hero. Or maybe someone made a mistake. It's not like it hasn't happened before, and mistakes are far more inevitable than, say, school shootings.
Thus, before you know it, you're in the principal's office with me facing charges on Chancellor's Regulation A-420, corporal punishment. After all, the parents have called the school threatening to sue and demanding you pay her hospital bills, not to mention pain and suffering. Campbell Brown has written a new article excoriating you and demanding you be fired immediately with no due process because you are the baddest of the bad apples and must be cored and skinned without mercy.
I defend you by saying you were just following orders and the principal says that didn't work in Nuremberg and won't work now either. I say you were doing it for her own good and the principal points out that no one ever wants to do anything for their own good. You reminisce about all the bassoon lessons your parents forced you to take and all the steamed vegetables they forced you to eat for your own good. I point out that we were explicitly instructed to do this at the assembly and the principal asks why you weren't playing Words with Friends like everyone else.
Things look dire.
Will the principal throw you to the dogs? Have the geniuses at Tweed already determined your fate? Is it rubber room? 3020a? A letter in file? Will they put you out on a highway somewhere with an orange jumpsuit and make you pick up the garbage?
Or will they say you were absolutely right to do this and give you a medal? After all, if this were a real emergency you may indeed have saved the girl's life.
On the other hand, doctors have saved people's lives and been sued, according to several reputable medical dramas I've watched. And a one-second Google search suggests these things actually happen. But hey, it wouldn't happen to a teacher. People love teachers. That's why we go 6 years without a contract, and Buffalo goes ten. That's why people are attacking tenure. That's why papers scream to have us judged by junk science scores, and every tinhorn politician wants to make them even worse so more of us can be fired.
Honestly, you never know what you're going to do in an emergency situation. If you actually know there's a shooter, that behavior might be reasonable. Or you might be endangering the lives of the students in your room in your care by leaving the door open the one extra second it takes you to tackle the girl. Who knows?
The guy who spoke to us yesterday thought he did. I'm not so sure.