I was teaching yoga to a group of second graders this morning when an alarm sounded. “Lock down drill!” all the kids yelled. The teacher’s aide walked over to bolt the classroom door while the teacher quickly herded students into the coat closet. After the last child was safely inside, I squeezed in with the teachers and we stood by the door. The children sat on the floor in two rows facing each other.
The lights were off, but sunlight was shining through a closed window so we were able see one another. Some children looked scared, a few looked bored, a few were whispering and giggling quietly.
“Welcome to our world today,” the teacher whispered to me.
Five minutes passed. By now, the alarm had stopped sounding. More students joined in the whispering and the volume grew a little louder. Some of the students began shushing their classmates. With the door closed and 27 bodies packed inside, it was getting hot. I could feel sweat forming on my forehead, and I began to wonder about my own kids in a school not far from where I stood. I knew they had lock down drills, but I never knew what they were like.
Ten minutes passed. A boy sitting near the window tooted. All the kids around him broke out laughing and the teacher quickly told everyone to quiet down. The teacher’s phone tweeted to indicate she’d received a text. More giggles and now there were questions about what the noise was. I noticed some kids who were sitting near the windows holding their noses.
We heard footsteps running down the hallway, then a voice: “This is the police, the drill is over.” I reached for the door knob, but the teacher stopped me and whispered: “We don’t leave until someone comes to get us.”
Smart, I thought. I suppose a gunman could pretend to be the police in order to draw teachers and students out of hiding. But, I wondered, how can someone come and get us when the door is bolted from the inside?
Fifteen minutes went by. So much time had passed, I began to worry this was more than a drill. I listened for gun shots, but it was hard to hear anything because the kids were becoming restless and their noise level was rising. Fears poured into my head and worry kept them in, guarding the door to my mind. They jammed tightly together, consolidating. I felt shaky so I tried doing some of the deep breathing I had just been teaching the kids. My body relaxed a bit, but my mind remained on high alert. Nobody came to get us.
We were nearing the 20-minute mark, when the principal’s voice announced over the loud speaker that the drill was over. The teacher opened the door to the coat closet and the kids went back to their places, ready to resume yoga. Some looked scared, a few looked bored, a few were talking and laughing.
The teacher reminded the students about the importance absolute silence during a lock down drill. One child raised his hand to second his teacher’s words. “If somebody broke into the school and we were making noise, they could hear us and find us,” he said.
I didn’t want to teach yoga. I wanted to have a group hug with all of those kids and tell them I’m sorry about the world they are growing up in. When they’re at school, kids should be filling their minds with knowledge, not fears, and the only time they should be hiding is during a game 0f hide-and-seek on the playground.
I asked everyone to take a deep breath in then let it out. My worries opened the doors that had trapped in my fears. As my fears drifted apart and floated away, I relaxed and felt calmer.
I looked back at all the kids and thought: They need yoga now more than ever.