PF: Through the Looking Glass

I want to preface by stating unequivocally that I am very excited to be teaching 2nd grade again and am really looking forward to the coming school year. Catherine Flynn wrote in her post this week about finding and holding onto the “shiny” things, and I’ve noticed and appreciated many of them in my life recently. With that in mind, and the desire to stay upbeat, I debated about whether to share this poem or not. Still, this has been on a loop in my mind. I drafted this today to try to make sense of it all.

I still can’t.

Through the Looking Glass: Getting Ready for School in 2022

On this Thursday
four days before school starts
they allocate two hours
for us to learn how to be more alert
in our environment
How to maximize 
not student learning
but the chance that more of us
might survive
if there’s a “critical incident”

Average police response time
6 minutes
(unless you’re rural

in which case
all bets are off)
Average duration 
of a “violent critical incident”
4 1/2 minutes

Do the math.

They call it ALICE 
Training on how
to make the best choices
to maximize chances

Always know where your exits are.
Don’t use code. Speak plainly
to share maximal information:
male intruder 
wearing a plaid shirt and a red baseball cap
heading toward the 1/2 wing 
with a rifle
You, the teacher, have options 
Barricade or evacuate
(Break windows from the top corner
so falling glass won’t cut you)

You determine the best response
(No heroes required

I sit and focus on not weeping.
I sit and grieve for those who have already been murdered.
I sit and ponder the horror of making the wrong choice.  

When did we step through the looking glass
into this new normal?
When did this dizzying unreal reality
become so solid
so sordid
so sad

I realize,
it doesn’t really matter 
when we first stepped through.
The critical question is
Can we ever leave?

©Molly Hogan, draft

I do want to add that this training was handled with sensitivity by our administrative team. Still, the fact that it needs to happen in our country speaks volumes.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Tanita Davis at her blog, {fiction instead of lies}.

30 thoughts on “PF: Through the Looking Glass

  1. This is sad and beautiful. “Can we ever leave?”, indeed. It brought back memories of the active shooter training we went through in the early childhood center (ages 2-4!). Since my office was right at the bottom of the entry stairs, I was the one who had to shove my rolling chair out the door (hopefully to momentarily distract the shooter) and run down the hallway of early childhood classrooms yelling, “Bad man in the hallway!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patty McLaughlin says:

    Molly, Adele mentioned that you folks had ALICE training for a couple hours, and only that the responses to to an event have changed so much. With my whole heart, I wish that no one had to have this training or even think about this. Jim just read to me from a news log that a federal judge struck down a ban against 18 year olds doing open carry in Texas. They can’t legally drink, but by God they can carry a weapon. WTF?? I hope your year is filled with wonder moments and joyful times with your kids. Warmly, Patty

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Patty. I would bet that we’re the only country in the world that has to do this kind of training. How is it that we think that’s okay and do so little to address the underlying problems? On an upside, I really am excited for the year. Thanks for the good wishes 🙂


  3. Wow, powerful poem Molly, I appreciate your sharing it and hope that it also finds a wider audience. I also hope that there’ll be a time when we slip back through that looking glass. Safe journeys this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tanita says:

    “Can we ever leave” is a helluva question. How did we get here, and where is the exit. On one hand, it’s good to know some things. Maybe. But on the other hand, in that four and a half minutes, are you going to remember…anything?

    I think concentrating on not weeping is the response I would have had, too. I’m so sorry. I hope you have a joyful – and most of all, gloriously non-eventful – school year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      4 1/2 minutes. Crazy, right? Thanks for the good wishes. I had a lovely time Thursday afternoon at a Meet and Greet with many of my new students. It was such a joyous way to end a day with such a stressful beginning.


  5. margaretsmn says:

    We had less than two hours and I’m sad to say it was not taken all that seriously. I think most people believe it can’t happen to us. Your poem is too real, too true. I’m not sure I want to be in the world we actually live in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Yikes! I can’t imagine not taking it seriously. I feel the weight of responsibility so heavily. I have no idea how we’ll approach drills with students this year.


  6. Molly, my heart breaks for you, and for my sister, my two nieces, and my nephew — all of you who entered the teaching profession never expecting to ever face the possibility you might lay down your lives someday for your students. No greater gift – one wholly unwished for, unwanted. I’m so tired of offering prayers-only; I support EVERYTOWN with the hope that we might break through our country’s twisted sense of priorities. Thank you for what you do everyday in your classsroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. gailaldousmsncom says:

    Wow, Molly, powerful and honest! I hear you. These facts and thoughts “I sit and focus on not weeping.
    I sit and grieve for those who have already been murdered.
    I sit and ponder the horror of making the wrong choice.”, “4 1/2 minutes”, “Barricade or evacuate/You determine the best response”, and “When did this dizzying unreal reality/
    become so solid/so sordid/so sad” are chilling, and gut wrenching. I agree with you. I also think that this added responsibility for teachers to bear is horrifying. Writing your feelings out is excellent therapy and I am glad you shared them.

    My youngest daughter is starting her student teaching in music education in an elementary school and a high school in Buffalo, NY. Yes, that Buffalo where people were gunned down in a grocery store. I also have been positive and excited for her. Luckily, her schools are in the suburbs, but both of us know violence in a school can happen anywhere. She has wanted to be a music teacher since sixth grade.

    I also want to go back to substitute teaching when I recover more from my back injury because I miss working with children, I miss those smiles, I miss the happiness I feel when I’m teaching. I prefer to sub in elementary schools, in special education k-5 and elementary first and second grade. I taught special education for many years before I had children and then I taught poetry and reading enrichment classes for eleven summers right up to the pandemic.

    I am so happy and excited that you’re back in second great! I think second grade is my favorite grade. You are going to have a fun and wonderful school year with your enthusiastic second graders. I look forward to you sharing about your class. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I wish your daughter the best as she starts her student teaching and hope you get to have some time in the classroom soon. I already received a delightful picture highlighting me and an incoming student and the words “Yay, 2 grade!” 🙂


  8. Linda Mitchell says:

    Amen. I am determined to be my best self for my teaching — for the students that need and deserve it. And, the fact that this has to be part of my “teaching” more than just un-nerves me. It’s tragic that we even have to learn about this. Great poem, Molly. It’s honest in all the right ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow this hit me hard. This is my 25th year of teaching and I was brand-new newbie teacher when Columbine happened and I remember sobbing all the way home when I heard it on the radio. How are still here now? The drills and training is so much a part of our jobs, but I pray we never have to use them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When I was at UNE, my goal was to prepare you and your classmates to be good beginning teachers. There would be so much you would learn once you began the art of teaching. Never would I have imagined the scenario you described in your school district (and in districts around the country). Bless your heart, and Marcie’s heart, Linda’s heart, Gail and her daughter’s hearts, and Patricia’s family of teachers hearts. Molly! Your poem is what Mainers need to hear. Consider sending it to major newspapers in the state. I’m begging you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lindabaie says:

    “Can we ever leave?” Please, Molly, as Dan above asks, send the poem out. I was in California with students when Columbine happened, in my city! We finally had an evening of quiet and told them. At first they wouldn’t believe us. A lot of years and more terrible tragedies, too, have happened. I still wish young students didn’t have to do the drills, feel it is not good yet my granddaughters, now older, rarely mention anything except something like, “oh, yeah, we do them.” That to me is one sad part. Best wishes to you finding much joy with those 2nd graders this year. Thank you for writing the poem and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      What a sad memory, Linda. I can’t imagine having to share the news about Columbine with your students. I also find it sad that kids are mostly matter-of-fact about these drills. Thanks for the good wishes for joy-finding in 2nd grade. It’s already started 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a powerful poem, Molly. I was at an outdoor concert in my sleepy little town last week and during a break in the music, I suddenly realized we were literally sitting ducks. There was no place to run to or hide. My heart was broken that I even thought that it was a possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. maryleehahn says:

    “I sit and focus on not weeping.” This is my response to your poem.

    But you as a second grade teacher…they are such bundles of potential…THAT makes my heart happy! Have a GREAT year!


  14. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, it is sad that instead of concentrating on what teachers can do to bring joy into the classroom, they have to worry about high alerts. Your back-to-school day for staff is so different than it used to be but this is reality and it is scary. May your year begin with blessings not worries. May your classroom be filled with the joy you can offer. Have a good start, Molly.


  15. Tabatha says:

    I wonder if Republicans would be more likely to vote for gun safety laws if they had drills in restaurants? I think they expect to be protected at work and they are willing to drop and run there or whatever, but they would have real issues with their meals being interfered with. (I used to be less cynical, haha)
    Wishing you a very safe and happy school year! xo


  16. Molly, wow! So sorry that has to be part of your training as a teacher–but looks like great advice. Turning it into a poem is a great way to remember the main points, I think.


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