Children’s worst threat should be boredom: Column

Students in Cheryl Logan's second-grade classroom at Kendall Elementary School take cover beneath their desks during the Great Central U.S. earthquake drill in Marion, Ind., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013.
  • It%27s the first year I%27ve ever had to teach children how not to get shot.
  • Is that what they do in countries with the best schools%3F.
  • My disbelief is exceeded only by my fear that we will realize such measures are futile. Then what%3F.
  • What do you remember most about grade school?

    My fond memories include field trips, birthday cupcakes, Treasure Island, and, of course, recess. But I asked what you remember most. Because if you’re reading this, you probably spent years of your childhood in the classroom. And the memory that suffuses my school days is boredom.

    I’m still in the classroom, but now I’m up front. I’m in my 13th year of teaching, and I’ve taught over a thousand students. And I’ve seen boredom on over a thousand faces. Some look like I imagine I did, with expressions of placid compliance. Others have a lower tolerance for tedium; their reactions tend to the more expressive. Teaching is largely the business of getting a bunch of kids to do something when they’d rather be doing something else. There’s a reason children run out of school at dismissal.

    Explore more:  WestJet adds two new cities, new route to Florida

    A couple of weeks ago, however, my classroom was filled with interest, excitement and even delight. About 20 minutes into second period, the principal broadcast the coded message to run the lockdown drill for an intruder. I instructed everyone to move desks toward the wall and tip them to serve as shields. I’d been dreading this drill, expecting chaos or at least alarm. However, the kids performed not only excellently, but … Cheerfully, which took me aback. Then I realized they were reacting with the same joy I’d felt whenever I heard the fire bell. It’s that wonderful reminder that boredom’s dominion isn’t unchallenged in school — teachers will call in sick, snow can fall on Sunday night and the law mandates fire drills.

    My students and I are fortunate to be in a school whose primary concern is our safety. And we’re fortunate — if that is the word — to know how to run lockdown drills. But my 13th year is indeed unlucky. It’s the first I’ve ever had to teach children how not to get shot. It’s the first I’ve told kids to be still because movement and noise attract attention and the first I’ve checked to make sure they’ve concealed themselves as best they could. And as I went from desk to desk, I saw what I don’t always remember to see 20 minutes into second period: beautiful children full of life and promise.

    My mom and her classmates used to hide under their desks from the Russians. Eventually it was understood that desks were no match for nuclear weapons. I’ve just taught a roomful of kids to hide from Americans. My disbelief is exceeded only by my fear that, as with the old duck and cover drills, we too will realize such measures are futile. Then what?

    Explore more:  'The book's closed': Former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer says he's done coaching

    I tell my students I’ll only ever raise my voice if it’s an emergency. I’m afraid, however, I can’t shout loud enough for the gun “debate.” But an old teacher trick is to lower your voice when you want to be heard. And so now I whisper to you: we are deciding that our children need to learn to avoid murder in the classroom.

    Is that what they do in countries with the best schools? Is that what a civilized nation does? Maybe David Letterman — of all people — put it best when he asked, “Honestly? That’s really life now? That’s what it’s going to be?”.

    Can’t we decide something else?

    I hope my teaching career is filled with fond memories. But what I hope most is that our children remember the worst threat they faced in my classroom was boredom.

    Peter Sipe is an English teacher at Boston Collegiate Charter School.

    In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.

    Related Posts

    Terms & Conditions

    Maybe you are interested best soccer leagues ranked central high school football Georgia LB to Baker Mayfield: ‘Humble yourself’ NYC officer discussed ‘girl meat’ for Thanksgiving Cardinals…

    Return & Refund Policy

    Maybe you are interested The Women’s World Cup has produced some big moments. These are some of the highlights & lowlights Trump trolls Rep. Omar, who was…

    Cookies Policy

    Maybe you are interested Ravens promote Ogbuehi to 53-man roster The Latest: Brees, Saints hold off Panthers 31-26 gvsu football schedule USA TODAY football fields near me…

    Disclaimer

    Maybe you are interested FBI: Ex-gymnastics team doctor had 37K child porn images soccer games near me Jim Jordan loses first speaker of the House vote with…

    Privacy Policy

    Maybe you are interested No. 4 Florida State storms back to beat No. 12 Ole Miss 45-34 Fantasy Golf Power Rankings for the 2020 Mayakoba Golf Classic…

    Social

    Maybe you are interested Mills looks to build on success after 1st NFL win for Texans Panthers sign rookies Gross-Matos, Pride to contracts Cubs call up C…