I remember when emergency preparedness in my classroom had nothing to do with violence. If a student asked me for something I didn’t have, I made sure I’d have it the next time. I filled a closet with tampons, band-aids, stain removers, duct tape, screwdrivers, hair ties, safety pins. If someone needed tape, it was a point of pride to reply, “carpet, book, scotch, or duct?” Students laughed and compared my room to Mary Poppins’ magical bag.

Now, they cheerfully say: “When we are in a lockdown, this is the room I want to be locked in!” I take this as a compliment, as it was intended. But 27 years into my career as an educator, I need to step back, breathe, and let myself be horrified by the implications of teaching against a backdrop of peril.

After a neighboring district went into lockdown due to a student threat, I spent 90 minutes of planning time emptying a second closet in the back of my room. Teacher friends told me what lockdown was like — the initial terror, and the five-and-a-half hour-long wait to be cleared from lockdown even after they knew they were safe. Attention turned from quieting anxiety to dealing with the physical discomfort of full bladders, thirst, and empty stomachs. They told me how they dug up snacks, shared water, and tried to negotiate a modicum of privacy when students had to urinate in the trash can.

From my next paycheck, I will purchase kitty litter (for silencing streams of urine), a camping toilet seat that screws on the bucket, and a light to mount in the closet. There’s a pack of masks because if we have to huddle together, assuming we survive, we don’t want to catch COVID.

We have to resist perpetuating an understanding that constant physical peril is an acceptable way of life. We must speak up for legislation that funds infrastructure improvement, mental health support for students and educators, and reasonable gun control measures to keep weapons designed for murder out of the hands of children who can’t even get their driver’s licenses for another 10 years. We must refuse to let anyone tell educators to “fight back” without including specific instructions on how or allowing questions about why we are in danger to begin with.

Let dedicated educators restore an equilibrium in which we can expect more than to survive, and to be more than guardians of children’s bodies, more than stewards of this unacceptable new normal.

Read the full article about safe classrooms by Alicia Wein at Chalkbeat .