Usually I rather enjoy unexpected fire drills. Normally, teachers at my school get the heads-up email so we can avoid starting a test right before them. Then there are those fun times when students and teachers alike are at the mercy of surprise. The sudden jolting of a calm learning environment transforms into momentary chaos containing yelps and squeals. Personally, I just let out a big “WAAAHHH!” Then I regain my composure, grab my class roll and head to the door.
There are three types of responses to the monthly mandatory fire drill. The strong silent students routinely are not phased. They get up and are in line waiting for the overresponders to get it together so we can escape the “burning building” before we all “die.” Then there are the screamers who levitate themselves about six inches out of their seats in response. The third group tries to play it cool but they’re really screamers. It’s just that they add an audible laugh afterward to kind of “shoo away” the fact that they’re, well, screamers.
The orderly procession of students “escapes” the building; they wait in silence outside and then backtrack to their respective rooms – all the time enjoying the mandatory break from note taking and between-class hallway drama.
Recently, I escorted my 6th graders out during an unannounced drill – one that did interrupt a test. They had been deeply thinking and contemplating the universe during my open-note quiz when the alarm jolted us all to action. Screamers screamed. The other screamers screamed and then laughed. Simultaneously, others rose silently, got in line, and waited for the screams and laughs to stop.
The usual exit ensued. The “all clear” was given and just about the time everyone had gotten out, lined up again and had been accounted for we did an about-face to head back in. On the way, one of my 6th grade boys hustled up to me to ask a question. It’s not one I would have been comfortable asking a teacher of the opposite sex so it sent me into a momentary dumbfounded stupor.
It was then that he whisper-asked, “Hey Mrs. Lemine, have you ever peed in your pants during a fire drill?”
I hate these types of questions. How am I supposed to respond to something like that? Couple that with the fact that spontaneous responses are not my strong suit – but don’t tell me students that. I assured him that I had not had that misfortune despite the fact that I drink a gallon of water a day (yes, of my own accord.) They know it’s true and see my huge insulated water mug each day.
And then, as if his question wasn’t enough, I got even much information as he continued.
“I did, once,” he said. “In first grade.”
So now my life is complete and you know a tantalizing tidbit about fire drills and what they really involve.
Fortunately, our students are well trained because we practice drills regularly. That is, unless they’re asking their teachers odd questions like the aforementioned.
After resuming our pre-drill activity but before resuming his quiz, another male student beckoned me to his desk. Oh, no, I thought. What now?
I hesitantly headed his way.
“Hey, Mrs. Lemine,” he said. “Did you know that fire drill was gonna happen?”
Whew, I silently breathed in relief.
“I can’t say,” I responded in my teacher-like tone. “It’s a teacher secret. If you grow up to be a teacher, you will know!”
“Some of my teachers tell us ahead of time,” he forthrightly continued – sort of in a questioning way like I’m supposed to clear up that discrepancy.
So what’s a teacher to do? I don’t know but I think my water’s kicking in!