I've heard of students from elementary to high school with valid concerns about safety, such as, "If the shooter has been through this drill before, won't they know what we're doing?"
As educators, we don't get extra training in how to cope with all the "what if" scenarios students come up with. However, we care about our students, so we try our best to ease their worries with hypothetical solutions.
If you ask an educator fresh out of a committee meeting if their school is safe, they may say "Yes! We've got key-coded doors in place. We've practiced all scenarios and procedures. We've got surveillance cameras. We even have a security guard!" But deep down, they don't know for sure.
We are exhausted from mapping out scenes; making sure our door keys are around our necks; hiding broom handles, hammers or other heavy objects in storage closets; pushing podiums and book shelves against doors; huddling 32 students in an already overcrowded classroom against walls and under desks; and securing a classroom in less than 20 seconds.
We appear brave and confident. We never waver. We want students to know we will do whatever it takes to ensure their safety. After drills like these, many educators have heard students say things like, "But there's not enough room away from windows!" or "Why don't we just go out the window?"
These are all valid questions and concerns. In many schools across the country, there's NOT enough room, the windows ARE too small, and procedure manuals may say to do otherwise.
Ignorance isn't our game. We know there's no perfectly safe place in the world, and we know how to manage the built-in stress of deadlines, caring for children, being vigilant and guiding curriculum. But what we deal with everyday isn't that type of pressure. Fellow educators from across the country have found themselves in the same predicament I found myself in last year.
When I fell ill and visited my doctor, he said, "I just don't understand. Your symptoms appear to be worse simply due to stress-related things. Don't you just teach?"
I looked up and hesitated. "Yep," I whispered, with tears cupping my eyes. "That's all I do."
So, the BBC news discussion was correct. Even here in West Virginia, the term lockdown is part of our education vernacular. Every lockdown is less of a drill and must be treated as the real thing. As a frightened student beside me huddles under a table and whispers, "Are we safe?" I gently raise my finger to my mouth to hush him, close my eyes, nod my head up and down, and take a deep breath. In that moment, I can only think about the current, collective, education vernacular and how "safe" isn't truly a part of it anymore.
Tuckwiller-Frye is a teacher at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School.