This post isn’t so much about writing but about the kids we write for.
When I was a middle grade aged kid, we didn’t have emergency drills for what to do if a dangerous person was in the school. Even though my middle school was a bit of a rough place, I didn’t walk around with the awareness that an adult might enter my school and cause harm.
Presently, as a first-year, fifth-grade teacher, I practiced our “sit tight” procedures with my class. (The past 15 years I’ve been mostly teaching in a small alternative high school for at risk students where we talked about all kinds of issues all the time.)
But man, my fifth graders had all kinds of questions and “what if” scenarios exploding from their minds when we did the drill:
“Mr. Greci, what if someone breaks out the window and comes in?”
“Mr. Greci, what if someone comes in though the door and we are sitting here? Then, what do we do?”
“Mr. Greci, what if there is a moose in the hallway and it comes into our classroom?”
I realized what I already knew: emergency plans are just that, only plans. And when they fail, then you have to make a decision and act. I tried to communicate to my students that I would do everything I could to keep them safe and that it would be very important for them to follow my directions during an emergency even if what I told them to do was not what we had practiced.
I also realized that these kids do walk around with the awareness that someone could enter their school and cause harm. And, given the incredible variation in both maturity and cognitive development in my students, I find it challenging to address the whole class when questions come up about school violence.
I don’t have my own kids, and I’m curious what parents tell their middle grade aged kids about safety, and about acts of school violence they are exposed to through the media. As a teacher, I strive to give an honest answer to all questions that come up.
What do you say?