Have you ever had a fire drill failure? Fire drills in any early childhood classroom are so chaotic it’s difficult not to fail. Getting the kids out of the building at lightning speed is next to impossible, especially in the beginning of the year when all they want to do is cry or wander aimlessly into the street. Have you ever tried to get an entire class of 4 and 5 year olds anywhere quickly? Don’t get me wrong, I think fire drills are necessary safeguards against disaster, but that doesn’t make them any less stressful for teachers and kids.
Many years ago I worked for a Head Start program in New England. Those of you who live in colder climates know there is a law mandating that you open any and all windows whenever the temperature rises above 60 degrees. You also know that along with nice weather in the north comes the dreaded “construction season”. So, one fine day in May there I was in my classroom with the windows open serving lunch with my assistant to our sixteen students. The ancient building that housed our Head Start program was in the process of having a new wing constructed- right outside my classroom window. The new wing would house the administrators of course, not the classrooms- that would make too much sense! Picture the classroom windows open and the delightful sounds of backhoes and earthmovers doing their thing outside.
Suddenly, the school nurse burst into the classroom red-faced and ringing a miniature dinner bell. The only reason I knew it was ringing is because I saw her hand moving, the noise coming from outside the window masked the delicate tinkling of the tiny bell. She was screaming “We’re having a fire drill and you’re just sitting here! I’ve been ringing this bell for five minutes!” Now, you’re probably wondering a few things, 1) why is the nurse ringing a miniature dinner bell to signal a fire drill? and 2) why is she the one in charge of the fire drill? The reason she was using a dinner bell is because the building we were housed in was so old it didn’t have a real fire alarm (yes, I’m aware that’s 8 kinds of crazy and dangerous). She was in charge of the fire drill because she was in charge of everything and that’s the way she liked it uh-huh uh-huh.
Despite my explanations and the fact that the assistant didn’t hear the bell either Nurse Ratched insisted on writing me up for “failure to follow school policy”, making this an official Fire Drill Fail.
Do you have a Fire Drill Fail story?
Stay tuned for a “Fire Drill Fix” post later this week and find out how to tame the fire drill monster.