Two weeks ago, we all experienced shock and heartbreak as we learned of the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary and the 1 victim in a residence nearby. As I have watched CNN this week and learned more about the children and teachers who died that day, I have reflected on my experience as a substitute teacher in the local public schools. I have thought about what I would have done under the same circumstances. Unfortunately, I have also thought about the fact that I would have had only my instincts to rely on, for I never received emergency or crisis training as a substitute.
With this post, I implore school districts to provide substitutes and guest teachers with the training they need to face situations such as the one that teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary encountered. It is amazing to me that I received absolutely no training to be a substitute teacher – and that includes training in emergency procedures. Only one district included emergency procedures in their “sub folder.” The others, quite frankly, ignored the possibilities altogether. There were “emergency folders” in the classroom, but the procedures covered fire drills and little else. Perhaps it is different in other areas of the country. Those districts should teach other districts how to train all personnel to respond to these crises, including the per diem staff.
I decided to write this post after I received a text message yesterday evening that stated one of the local high schools would be closed today due to a bomb threat. Most likely, the threat is a hoax and was called in by someone who wanted to start the winter holiday early today, but still I am dismayed. It frightens me that the number of threats to the safety of our children is growing exponentially each year in my locale. We have received numerous calls from our school district advising us of threats this year alone. If all of the teachers and staff are not trained, the risk to our children increases exponentially as well. If money is a factor in the decision to forgo such training, let me ask you this: How much is a life worth?