Working in a public school system, safety drills are simply part of the job. As a child, I clearly remember the shrieking blast of the fire alarm blaring through the halls, bright lights flashing, as we quickly grabbed our coats and headed out the door, single file, to stand half a football field away from the side entrance of the school. Even to this day my body jumps at the sound of a siren or sudden blast of an emergency broadcasting system.
Today, we have more than just fire drills. It seems with the increase of severe weather and tragic events, we are always trying to be one step ahead in keeping our young charges safe while they are in our care. Tornado drills. Earthquake drills. Intruder drills. Lock-down drills. Codes of every color, each with their own set of specifications for action.
Today was a drill day.
As the drill was announced, I helped a classroom teacher gather her students to the inside corner of our room, where we huddled on the floor, criss-cross applesauce, waiting for the all clear signal to be announced. As the first minute passed, each child settled into their position while we continued to wait. And wait. And wait.
It’s funny what sounds you hear when you sit silently, even in the midst of twenty children. The hum of the fluorescent lights suddenly becomes an annoying mosquito, buzzing in your ear. The creaks of the building make your eyes dart much like playing the arcade game “Whack-a-Mole”… where would the next sound appear?
That’s when I heard the footsteps. Louder. Harder. Faster. Approaching. Silent. I felt my hands clench tighter in fists that formed without my knowledge as I waited for the next sound. My heart pounded, even as my brain tried to reassure my body that this was only a drill. Suddenly, without warning, the door handle jostled and I understood with complete clarity the purpose of this drill.
In that exact moment, with no uncertainty, I knew I would sacrifice my life for your child.
A few minutes later the drill ended, the students returned to their tables, checking off just another task on their daily agenda. For me, however, my mind remained huddled in the back of the room, arms outstretched, reaching, covering, protecting. So many emotions raced through my body, but one held constant: purpose.
When your children are in my care, whether it be in school or out, I have a defined purpose. I am to keep them safe while teaching, learning, playing, or even surfing on the Internet. Safety first, as the mantra says. But today I was reminded if I had to choose in an instant, I would absolutely, without hesitation, give my life for a child.
I know I am not alone in this mindset. Teachers around this world take on this responsibility daily. While we may have our differences and sometimes get caught up in the trivial topics of the day, please know that the role of “teacher” far surpasses one who simply teaches. Drills like these are important, not only to practice procedures, but to redefine purpose. I look back at the shining eyes of your children and realize I have one of the most important jobs in the world, second only to you being their parent.
I keep your child safe every day.