Schools are often targets for violence. Images and sound bites on the news continue to hit close to home for all teachers, students, and parents. Lock down drills have become as traditional as fire drills. Many students find lock down drills upsetting, as they are forced to reckon with the idea that these terrible events could happen at their school. There are ways to help students cope with these feelings. It comes down to listening and communicating with students in these situations.
Discuss the News
When these incidents occur and are covered in the news and media, it’s important to take the time to discuss it with students. The rapid news cycle can make these tragedies seem fleeting, but for students and parents these are traumatic stories to hear. Discuss with students how they feel about the news, why they think the tragedy happened, and how they can help the victims’ families and loved ones. Engaging with the reality is a way for students to become more understanding of why lock down drills are necessary.
Have Students Explain In Their Own Words Why We Do These Drills
When the school has a lock down drill, it’s time to engage with students anxieties, thoughts and opinions. Whether it’s before the drill, or after, have a discussion with students and have them teach the teacher why we have these drills. This can be done as a group discussion, or in smaller groups and then shared with the rest of the class. It can be done in writing, in art projects, in poetry, or any medium that allows students to express their feelings. The important part of it all is giving students ownership over the drills to help them understand that this is done for their safety.
Share with Parents and the Community
Drills that are repeated often have the risk of causing students to disconnect from the feelings associated with a disastrous event. This is not helpful. By sharing these drills with parents and the community, schools can help show students these emergencies and tragedies aren’t just about what happens in school. Ask parents to discuss the drills with their kids, and let the community know when drills are scheduled. This allows the conversation to continue beyond the classroom and helps students know they aren’t alone with their feelings.
Lock down drills can be difficult to handle for many students because of the fearful circumstances they are connected to. By communicating with students and helping them learn to discuss these feelings, they can learn to cope and focus on the intention of the drills- to keep everyone safe.