Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The new normal at school

I always love hearing how the kids' school days went. Just a week and a half into a new school year (first week recap to come!), everything is still shiny and new, bright and exciting. Usually, I ask questions over dinner, and the kids jockey for verbal position to be the first to tell me about what they did at recess, at lunch, in the classroom that day. 

This evening was another late evening at work, and I missed dinner again. Add to that the fact that Tuesday is piano lesson night, and it was a hectic hour of cleaning the playroom, piano lessons, and showers, alternating between the kiddos. As I helped John into his pajamas on his way to piano lessons, I tried to get the download on the day. 

Apparently the most exciting part of the day was the fire drill. I remember those! I remember the excitement, too; the break from the classroom routine, and five minutes out on the playground waiting for the all clear. I relayed my enthusiasm to John, saying we used to do that when I was a kid, too. 

Did you do intruder drills too, Mommy?

Intruder drills?

In that split second, as I fought back tears, it hit me just how different it is in schools these days. Fire drills, tornado drills - those I know. But intruder drills - John says that's when you lock the door and hide in the corner so nobody can see if there are any kids in the classroom - the idea of the necessity of the drill brings me to my knees as a mother. The recent, horrific incidents of school violence have changed things all the way down to my little community here in Northwest Arkansas. 

Yes, schools have changed. More calculators; less cursive; more computer labs. More testing; less play time; more homework. And. More danger; less innocence; more vigilance. Change is hard, and accepting a new normal is uncomfortable. But uncomfortable is nothing next to the unthinkable alternatives. Vigilance is the new normal. 

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