Saturday, October 02, 2010

1000 kids, 10 blocks (and back) in 1 hour. (or “Herding Cattle, Jr. High Style)

Fire drills are a part of life in a school.  Every school I’ve been at has been required to do several every year.  Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever been involved in a complete evacuation drill.  Where we get the entire student body and staff across the street to the amphitheater in the middle of the Community College.

At lunch afterwards, the usual suspect did a fair amount of bitching about how things went.  (Soooprise, sooooprise!)  From my perspective, having never experienced this before, things went incredibly well.  Nobody got hit crossing Redwood Road, the kids pretty much stayed on the sidewalks and did little, if no, damage to the college’s grass and other plantings.  And after the head count at the college, only one (that’s 1) student was unaccounted for, and he was found quickly when the principal called for him over the P.A. system.

As we were getting everyone seated, about a third of the students started an impromptu round of “Happy Birthday” for two teachers.  First it was for Mr.B (TV weatherman gone teacher) and the second round was for me.  I spent the rest of the day saying “Thank you, but it’s not my birthday today” to students and staff alike.  Monday I have to thank C, one of my students, for that.  (The kind of student that you have to like despite his behavior).

All in all, an interesting experience.  Of course I brought my camera, and of course I have some pictures for you all, including another addition to the “Parallel” assignment from Carmi.  Here they are, with captions even. (Can you call them captions if they are above the picture?)

In the beginning, heading along the small street in front of the school towards Redwood Road.The student body filling up the amphitheater at the community college.This is one of the two pairs of brother-sister teachers we have at our school.  She saw me with my camera and asked “Catch me trying to kiss my brother.”  I did.Our half-time intern Vice Principal.  With all the fluorescent green vests, walkie-talkies and red flags, it looked like some sort of police raid.  Or maybe a rock concert. One of the students was completely unfazed by the ruckus going on around him, lost in what must be a captivating book.  The English teacher you saw kissing her brother pointed this out to me, I think she wants to use the picture to motivate more students to read. Before heading back to the school, the Principal had the students do a few rounds of “The Wave” The red flag, signaling that all is clear and it’s time to head back to the school.The people in the green vests are our staff members, the people in the orange vests are from the Community College.  Here’s my “Parallels” picture.  The fountain was turned off when we came to the college, but, as you can see, was on for our trek back to the school.  The whole scene just jumped out at me as ‘parallel’. Information by denial.  It doesn’t tell you what it is, but defines itself by what it is not.   Crossing against the light.  Of course, having 3 police cars blocking traffic made it a lot safer than if we had just marched a slew of kids across the road. At least we didn’t back up traffic too far. Yeah, tell that to these people who were late for work.   About a third of the students took the pedestrian bridge over to the college.  It would have caused too much of a bottleneck to bring the entire student body across this way, which is why most had to go across the road.

Fun times at Ridgemont High!


Carmi said...

Whew, I feel like I got to experience the drill right alongside you! Despite it being your non-birthday (classic, IMHO) I think it's great that you had the foresight to have your camera at the ready. I'm jazzed that so many of the educators at your school took the time to make the occasion that much more than it had to be.

The wave? I wish I could have studied at your school :)

A Paperback Writer said...

And my question is why? Under what circumstance would the students have to cross such a busy road to evacuate safely? Why not out onto your playing fields?
It looks like the drill went great, but why all the way to the amphitheatre? Why across Redwood Road?
In a real emergency, the police would not be there to escort the kids across, as they (the cops) would be busy elsewhere. The playing fields and parking lots just seem like a much better option to me in the event of a real emergency.

Max said...

Carmi - I've developed the habit of bringing my camera with me almost everywhere I go. It started my senior year in High School, when I took a Photography class and my dad built a darkroom in our basement. But I've gotten real consistent about it ever since I started blogging. After a few choice opportunities lost where I thought "Crap, I wish I had my camera with me, it would be great for the blog!", I rarely leave home without it.

Max said...

Writer - I asked the same question. After a few smarmy comments like "I guess you never taught at a school that needed to be evacuated", I learned that several years ago there had been a real bomb threat at the school, where the police advised that the property be evacuated. I still think that way out in the back of the field would be far enough away, but at least there was a precipitating event.

A Paperback Writer said...

Way before your time at our school, we had two bomb threats (both fake) in the same week. And long before that, we had a very real broken gas pipe that was dangerous. In both cases, the fields were considered safe enough, although we to have the kids out of the building in the requisite 60 seconds and all accounted for under under 5 minutes, as usual.
Thus, while I appreciate the drill you went through, it seems to me that the dangers of moving 1000 kids across Redwood Road without a police escort and under the nervous stress of some real or perceived threat would be far greater than the dangers of keeping them out on the playing field while the building was of questionable safety.

Max said...

Well, we did start the drill off by getting our classes out onto the field as if it were a regular fire drill. So maybe the idea is that we would only take them across the street to the college if there was a police presence and they had advised evacuation. I know the original, real, evacuation was done at police request, so I'm going to guess we wouldn't try moving them across the street until the police were there. I completely agree that it would be insane, if not criminal, to try it without the police there.