Today we had a Code Red drill at school. We’ve practiced before, so the kids know what to do:. Head to our assigned spots on the floor by the cubbies, be quiet, and wait. Pretty simple yet also overwhelming. I warn them beforehand that someone will try the door to make sure it is locked, so they might hear that. Then we wait and wait and wait for the “all clear notice.” I hate practicing these drills. I hate what they represent.
We try to keep it matter-of-fact: “This is just another drill to make sure we can be safe in an emergency.” “It’s just like a fire drill.” At our school Code Yellow means we have to stay in the building because something isn’t safe outside. Code Red means we have to stay in the classroom because something isn’t safe in the building. Many teachers have cited examples of Code Yellows that can happen at a rural school—bear seen in the area, rabid fox, whatever. The kids can create long involved scenarios about how a fox might be outside so they can’t go to recess, or maybe a bear has been sighted and that’s why it isn’t safe. They generally accept the fire drill analogy for Code Red drills.
At 6 and 7 years old though, some of them don’t quite get it. Today after I told them about the impending drill, one student asked, “Well, who is going to be the bear? Mr. P or Mr. S.?” Apparently somehow this student had the impression that the Principal or the Vice Principal was going to dress up like a bear and wander through the school checking to ensure the doors were locked. I guess he combined his understandings of Code Red and Code Yellow. It would be funny if it didn’t bring tears to my eyes.
During the actual drill the kids did well until one of them had a sneezing attack. Sitting near her cubby, she grabbed her stuffed animal and proceeded to sneeze into it repeatedly. Several students nearby began giggling. It was contagious. One student climbed into his cubby and peeked out from behind his coat—again and again. More stifled giggles. With some stern looks, I managed to quell most of the noise and finally the drill ended.
After a quick debrief, we took a break for snack. One student who had done a super job is typically a bit “squirrelly” and has a hard time managing his energy. I made it a point to compliment him on how well he had done. He said, earnestly “You know why I did such a good job, Mrs. Hogan?”
“Well,” he said, “It’s because if it was a real Code Red, I wouldn’t want to make noise ’cause I wouldn’t want to be dead.”