August in Nebraska usually means three things for students. Back to school, heat, and setting classroom/school routines for success. It is also a requirement and good practice to teach and practice routines for fire and tornado drills. Every August, as schools get up and running, a mandatory “practice” fire drill is scheduled for each school and practiced with all kids. Pretty good idea to practice being safe and create muscle memory of how and where to evacuate in case of a fire. This has been true for all 17 years of my teaching career in Iowa and Nebraska and only one time do I remember things not quite being up to par.
It was 2006 and I was preparing my students for the practice fire drill, setting expectations, and talking about the importance of procedures in times of danger/crisis. Sure enough at 10:15 the piercing fire alarms went off and startled most of the students even though they knew it was coming. My sixth grade class without missing a beat rose up out of their seats, formed a straight line, and followed me out of the north doors by Center street. We quietly walked down to the playground to our assigned spot. It was at this time everyone was staring at an exit door from one of the kindergarten classrooms. Kindergartners were pouring out the classroom door, hands in the air and yelling, “FIRE!, FIRE! RUN!” Following the kindergartners was their loveable teacher trying to corral them and have them form a quiet line at their assigned safety spot. Sure enough, they all lined up and settled down. When the all clear whistle blew, everyone went back to their classrooms and went on their merry way.
Two hours later I had forgotten about the kindergartners and went to the lounge for lunch. It was here where I laughed for the entire lunch period. The 25 year veteran master teacher had forgotten about the fire drill and she was explaining to her embarrassment and amusement about the chaos of the morning. During small group reading time, she had been so focused on teaching her students that the fire drill had slipped her mind. At 10:15, her classroom went crazy. The alarm, sounded, everyone froze with open eyes, and then one kindergartner yelled FIRE! It was all over from there. Kindergartners running and yelling, the teacher was trying to open the door to get the kids outside, kindergartners spilling out of the door onto green grass of the playground, and running for their lives. Thankfully, all kindergartners were safe and did not receive life long scaring however the teacher might not have.