This is a post I really don't want to write as I don't want to think about this problem.. but I want all of our students to be safe and these are tips I did in my classroom that will help you in your special education classroom too. These tips can also be beneficial for any drill in the classroom as well.
I am going to write this article like I am ripping off the stickiest of band-aids on the hairiest of legs. Quick and still probably painful. I am going to give you just 3 tips on how to best support your students during a shooter drill. Please add below anything you feel needs to be added for others!
When your school does their first drill of the year, observe how your students are reacting.
If your school isn't doing a drill within the first month of school, you should at least be discussing drills with students. Preferably with a social story with your own pictures of your classrooms and protocols. I have some example of social stories here. They are for holidays but should give you an idea of how to write one.
When your school does practice their first shooter drill ask yourself the following:
* Are your students having a different reaction to a shooter drill?
* What is triggering the behavior?
* How can you. best support them?
Take notes on each student. Note who followed instructions. Note who got nervous, anxious, or scared. Note if someone started screaming, hitting, or crying. Note what the aides in the classroom are capable of. Do you have some aides who are stronger and can move furniture quickly? Do you have aides who are more tech savvy and can get a iPad out quickly? Do you have aides who also get a lot of anxiety with these drills?
Here is a free worksheet for you to track notes on behaviors for shooter drills (or click on the image below).
2. Find solutions for them to complete the drill. This would be a time to use whatever you can to keep the students calm. Snacks, iPad time, sensory input, whatever.
The first time I was in a shooter drill with my elementary school classroom, I had a student screaming and crying the entire time the room was dark. He was so loud, the police officer on duty who had to check all the doors to make sure they were locked, asked our principal if our classroom was ok. This opened my eyes to the terrifying reality that we are an easy target for school shooters.
In that moment, I knew I had to find a way to protect my classroom. If you are reading this, I am assuming you know that I do not agree that teachers should carry guns. I am a teacher. Even if someone was pointing a gun to me, I don't think I have it in me to shoot someone. I would sit there and try to help them. That's what teachers do.
Teachers do carry a special set of skills. It is figuring out where behaviors are coming from and how to best support our students. My students who were afraid of the dark, got the iPad and headphones and they sat under the teacher desk (which was the darkest nook in our classroom). If a student didn't want to be near everyone as everyone's anxiety soars during these drills, we would split up into two groups into two different hiding areas in the classroom.
Every aide had their job and every student had a job that was discussed BEFORE the drill. Everyone also had access to a fidget, a sensory toy, a iPad, whatever could keep us quiet for an extended amount of time. Keep these things readily available.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
Practice the sudden change in the schedule. Practice big emotions and feeling scared. Practice what we do for different drills. Don't avoid these scary feelings and big behaviors. You need to face them head on.
Here are a couple of books to help have the conversation with your students.Click on the image to be redirected to Amazon.
Both of these are more directed towards elementary school students but I feel like these are still great starters for any conversation about school shootings for children.
And @slumberkins did a post about school shootings. You should definitely follow them, but I did screenshot the post so you could easily find it.
This is not a post I have ever wanted to write or even think about. But the importance of keeping our students safe is bigger than me crying in a Starbucks while writing this for you.