Wednesday, April 26, 2006

a drive-by and a barbecue


"... a barbecue in the slow lane ..." came the hourly traffic report during my drive home. I was tempted to turn around and head for the northbound 15 just to find this BBQ. Maybe I'd pull over on the side of the road and join the crowd of hot dog eaters and frisbee throwers. We'd be mingling with the rush hour traffic, sipping cold drinks and talking about things that don't really matter.

Long day today. While five other schools in five other states are busy wrestling with the anniversary of Columbine and alleged plots of disgruntled teenagers looking for revenge, Minnesota schools are now slated to practice more lock-down drills than fire drills each year. Not necessarily a bad idea.

Today we had a lock-down of our own. The third I've ever experienced that was not a drill. I've honestly never heard gunshots before when they didn't come from the television, a sound studio, or my great-uncle's Civil War era rifle (were they called rifles? I don't even know). I didn't actually hear them today either; I'm so congested I can barely hear the person on the other side of the room talking to me. But my students heard it. Multiple shots.

The shots were fired during the 6th grade lunch break (the first of 3 breaks). It was a drive-by, directed not at the school but across the street. Here in sunny California, students eat outside and there are no shelters. Understandably, our school automatically went into lock-down, addressing teachers to keep students in class with the doors locked (the unspoken advice hung in the air: stay away from the windows). Unfortunately my closet of a classroom doesn't have a loudspeaker, so I had little clue what was happening except when I poked my head out the door for a VP to give me the scoop. We spent the next 2 hours calling back and forth to other teachers, making sure we hadn't missed any more announcements, etc. Students were nonplussed, almost frighteningly so. They played hangman, talked about the chicken sandwiches they wanted to eat. I fed them Tootsie Rolls and Hot Cheetos from my teacher bribery cabinet. And after an hour, I even got them back into fractions and greatest common factors.

The irony of the whole thing was an article published not two weeks ago that featured the great work of a fellow teacher at the school. He was miffed that the reporter had added a bogus quote about how tough the neighborhood was and how we had to practice lock-down drills for drive-by shootings. They have an agenda of their own, no question, but sometimes I wish the media was not so accurate.

4 Comments:

Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

Wow, how frightening! Did you find out anything more about the incident? Is your school in a bad neighborhood?

The school here in my town does not do that. The elementary school is on top of a very large hill and would not be an easy target and the middle-high school, while not on a hill is equally difficult to target, due to its floorplan. The small rural town environment also makes it easier to keep an eye on the students. I attended both schools when I was a child and I always felt like all the teachers knew everything about everybody. (We called it the "fishbowl") I didn't appreciate it at the time, but now I'm happy my kids are there today.

4:48 AM  
Blogger James said...

It's scary what can happen and you're right scarier still (in a different way) that kids can be so ambivalent about it. It's sacry how edgy schools can get this time of year.

11:22 AM  
Blogger James said...

That was 'scary' not 'sacry' and I ought to have found another word altogether.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Drive by a a way of life.

11:54 AM  

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