Friday, February 27 – The Importance of Fire Drills

My principal called me at home today; I'm still on medical leave. There's some report that's due on Monday and someone in the main office thinks that I have the information. But that's not what I was going to write about today.

In our conversation it somehow came up that tomorrow is the last day of the month and they haven't completed the mandatory fire drills for February yet. You see, there's a rule. You must have two fire drills per month. The secretary has to fill out a very detailed report for each one. She has to know how long it took to clear the building, how many people were present, visitors included, and what the temperature outside is. I'm not quite sure why the last bit of info is necessary but the other information is very pertinent.

I know it's not fire prevention month but I just wanted to reiterate how important that fire drills are. You see, I have actually been in a school fire. Back in the 90's, when I was subbing in the school district I had an assignment for a resource room teacher in one of our schools that was K-3. That particular day in the middle of March was pretty cold. In fact, the ground was still covered with snow from a late winter storm.

I had a class of five students in a room that was divided, and there was a teacher on the other side of the divider with students of her own. Now, usually on cold days we are given a heads up when fire drills will happen so the students (and teachers) can put on their coats. When the fire alarm went off, the other teacher and I looked at each other very quizzically. At first we didn't know what was going on because we hadn't gotten that "heads up" about coats (and we were in a classroom directly opposite the school office).

It only took a moment to realize that it wasn't a drill, that there was the possibility that there actually was a fire. So, I counted heads – 5 – and we proceeded out of the room and down the hall to the front door. We could see the principal in the hall with a slight look of panic on his face, but keeping order at the same time.

We were on our way to the front door of the school. The faculty room and library were right next to the front doors, but we all proceeded out to the sidewalk. We had the building cleared and were shivering already when, as we could see through the front door, the principal opening the door to the faculty room and quickly shut it. When he did this, the fire became visible in the window to that room and we could now see smoke coming from the roof.

Obviously we were too close to the source of the fire and we were told to move to the playground area. I can't tell you how many times in that short walk that I counted those five heads. We came to a stop at the playground and were being asked by the teachers who were in that area already if we knew anything. Not wanting to distress the children, we just nodded and quietly let them know.

Even though it was the middle of March we had students who were dressed in short-sleeved shirts who were shivering up a storm by now. But there was nothing to do but wait for the fire company. The fire marshall showed up first and what I most remember about that is the way that he pulled into the school driveway. I just thanked God that we had moved the children because he would definitely have taken a few of them out with the way he was driving.

The fire engines were on the way and now it was snowing. Not a heavy snow, but snow nonetheless. I don't know who made the decision, but lucky for us, our municipal building was on the other side of the playground. The playground that was covered with snow, remember.

We hiked across the snow and all filed into the meeting area inside the building. We could hear the fire engines outside and there were children who were crying because they were scared and in strange surroundings. The teachers counted and recounted heads and calmed the children.

The school secretaries had grabbed the student's emergency information and it wasn't long before parents started showing up either having heard through the grapevine, on the radio, or by phone that they needed to pick up their child at the municipal building. Each child had to be signed for.

They managed to contain the fire quite quickly, but the smoke went through the ventilation system and did the most damage. It was weeks before the building reopened. They had to have split sessions with the next school up, grades 4-6, until the building was ready.

But thanks to those twice-a-month drills, throughout the whole event, the students, grades K-3, really were remarkable. They were prepared as they should be.

The most ridiculous thing of the day was the parents who showed up and wanted to know where their child's backpack and coat were. Imagine having to explain to them that when the fire alarm goes off we don't take the time to gather personal belongings!

Friday, February 20 - What 5¢ Will Get You

We have a cafeteria in our school - so to speak. It's really the gym with a kitchen. Fifteen minutes before lunches begin, tables are rolled out and set up for the students to use. The kitchen doors are open and voila - a cafeteria is born!

Outside the kitchen door is a little cart that contains napkins and disposable eating utensils. The students are supposed to pick up what they need as they exit the kitchen after paying for their lunch. The cafeteria workers have noticed however, that there seems to be more utensil use than the number of lunches sold.

So I guess they put someone in charge to monitor the utensil cart and guess what they found? Yes, there were some students that were not buying lunch that were taking utensils. But the bigger problem - at least in their eyes - was the number of teachers who were helping themselves to utensils without purchasing lunch. (Bad, bad teachers!)

The cafeteria manager then went to speak to the principal and informed him that they are going to have to start charging 5¢ for each utensil.

The principal then tells the secretary to send an e-mail to the staff to remind them to bring their own utensils for lunch because of the cafeteria situation and the impending 5¢ charge.

The staff, no, some of the staff, no, some of the more vocal staff come up to the office to complain. That isn't fair! Who do they think they are? Five cents for a spoon, what are they nuts? This is ridiculous. And so on and so forth.

The secretary (and clerk) try to quell the dissention and remind them that the cafeteria is a "business" separate from the school and that they have overhead costs.... and so on and so forth. (Have you ever been in a situation when you say something and someone looks at you like you have two heads? )

But you know it's much easier for some to complain about something they consider unfair without ever really considering how they can avoid it.

Here's a few thoughts -

1. Buy yourself a box of plastic utensils and keep them in your desk drawer or classroom closet.

2. Wash the utensil after you use it and save it for the next time.

3. Buy your lunch in the cafeteria and the utensil will be free.

4. Get your mother to pack your lunch - I bet she never forgot to include a spoon!

5. If all else fails - make sure you have a supply of nickels!


Okay, it's not Friday I know, but I have been assigned some homework by Queen Bee fellow Jersey Girl, although she's much younger. It's a blog award and this is how it goes...

Step 1: respond and rework -- answer the questions on your own blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention, add one more question of your own.

Step 2: tag - eight other un-tagged people.

I'm going to get an incomplete on this because of Step 2. But here we go....

1) What are you wearing right now? My comfortable brown pants, white turtle neck and light blue hooded thermal.

2) What is your biggest fear? Losing those I love.

3) Do you nap a lot? How timely is this. Yes, I have been napping a lot -recovering from a radical hysterectomy will do that to you.

4) Who is the last person you hugged? My husband, or as he is referred to on my blogs HWNSNBP.

5) What websites to you visit when you go online? Splitcoast Stampers, Folding Trees, Merriam Webster's Word of the Day, Voy Craft Forum, and numerous blogs.

6) What was the last item you bought? I bought 4 fat quarters of fabric at a quilt shop on the way home from the Christmas Tree Shop today.

7) Last person you mailed a card or letter to? A birthday card to my godmother.

8) If you woke up tomorrow and were a boy, what is the first thing you would do and why? I would pray that my husband woke up a girl for obvious reasons.

9) Has a celebrity's hair cut ever influenced your own hairstyle? No.

10) What is your most embarrassing moment? Well, there was the time that I drove up to the drive-in window at Burger King with the kids in the car, ordered, paid, and then drove away without the food, only to have to park the car and walk in and get it.

11) What was the last movie you watched? Masterpiece Theater's Cyrano de Bergerac - not really a movie but longer than an hour.

12) If you had a whole day to yourself with no work, commitments, or interruptions what would you do? Seriously, I would procrastinate. I'm good at it!

Now according to Step 2 I'm supposed to pass this on, or tag 8 other bloggers who don't already have this award. Instead, I'm going to toss it up in the air and if you're visiting here and do not have this lovely award and would like to have it, CATCH. And if you do, let me know so I can legitimately add this to my sidebar.

In the meantime, please do visit Queen Bee's blog. And tell her I said hello.

Friday, February 13 - Lost and Found

I was working on a project at home earlier this week that required a piece of chain. I knew exactly where to find some - in a box on my desk at work. The box contains all sorts of "jewelry" that has been found in and around the school. Jewelry, you see, does not go into the Lost and Found. Neither do cell phones, cameras, wallets, or things like that.

What does go into the Lost and Found are articles of clothing, lunch boxes, books, toys, and things like that.

The Lost and Found in our school is located in what used to be a phone booth. Not the glass type that you might be thinking of, but a room the size of a small closet with a door that does have a partial window. The phone having been taken out long ago.

At any given time during the school year you can visit the Lost and Found and usually find things piled up at least 3 feet high. You see, while all the staff and students know that there is a Lost and Found and know that things that they find belong there, they seldom remember that that is the place to check when things are missing and cannot be found in the classroom.

You must remember to take a deep breath before you open the door because there are usually one or two lunchboxes in there that might have decaying food in them. There are also shoes and articles of clothing that have a fragrance all their own.

Once each marking period tables are set up in the gym during lunch and the contents of the Lost and Found are displayed. Students are asked to check the tables before leaving the lunch room to see if they can find something that they have lost. We have our lunchroom aides go through the items and check for names and you'd be surprised how many items do have names and how many students are certain that even if their name is in or on something that it is not theirs.

On several occasions we have had parents call the office and ask us to check the Lost and Found for a specific item. This may seem like a simple task, but the description of a coat or sweatshirt can be vague so we encourage the parent to have the student ask to come to the office or even to have the parent themself come in to check things out.

One mother called and was particularly distressed. It seems that her son had lost not one, not two, but three coats at school. She had already spoken with the classroom teacher and was assured that they were not in the classroom. She also had her son check the Lost and Found for himself and he assured her that he couldn't find them. So, she resorted to coming in for herself. Sure enough, all three coats were there. Two of them even had his name in them.

Even after the marking period checks there is usually a substantial amount of unclaimed items. We take the leftovers (clothing that is, not lunches) to a shelter if they are not claimed. Small items and lunchboxes are usually discarded.

The box on my desk has a couple of watches, several pairs of silver earrings, some key chains, Girl Scout pins and Cub Scout neck slides, and lots of junk jewelry. So what do you think - flea market, garage sale, or Ebay?

Friday, February 6 - Please and Thank You

As it happens, oftentimes students are sent up to the office for something that their teacher needs. Usually it is because they are in the middle of a lesson and have suddenly realized that they only have 20 copies of a worksheet or test and there are 22 students in the class. Or it may be because a student has forgotten their workbook at home and they are doing that page in class now. So they will stop at my desk and here is how the conversation goes:

"Can I help you?"

"I need a copy of these two pages."


At this point, I intently stare at them and don't move. This begins to make them a little nervous and they smile and/or giggle a little and shove the book a little further at me.

"Did you bring paper and a pencil?" I'll ask.


"Then how are you going to get copies of those pages?"

Now they're thinking a little harder.

"You're going to make them."

"I am? Oh, you mean you are asking me to do something for you?"


"Then you forgot something."

Some may turn the book over, some may look like they're going to cry, some may start to back out the door. And then there is the child who finally has the lightbulb go off.

"Oh. Please can I have copies of these two pages?"

Yes, I'm the "Please Police". I don't work without it.

Oh, and they don't get out the door without a "Thank You" either.

Sadly, the students are not the only ones who forget to use "Please" and "Thank You." The stare doesn't usually work on the "taller ones" though.