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Checking In Virtually

Now that the school year has come to a screeching halt for many students, digital learning and online instruction is becoming the norm. However, in addition to content-specific questions and online discussion threads, educators can also take this time to remotely check in on students’ well-being.

 

It goes without saying that this is a crazy time full of many uncertainties. For children and teens, this global pandemic can be even more troubling, especially since the adults—the ones with all the answers—seem to have no answers at this point. One way that teachers can lend an ear, even if digitally, is to post daily check-ins using a platform like polleverywhere and Google Classroom.

 

With Google Classroom, students are likely already enrolled in their teachers’ courses and may be set up to receive messages from Google when teachers post. Therefore, the process for getting started with daily check-ins is fairly seamless. Teachers can simplify the process initially by creating a Google form that asks students to choose an emoji that represents how they are feeling today. This process takes mere minutes to set up and can provide key insight as to how children are doing at home during quarantine. Educators have many options within Google forms in terms of answer responses. For a simple poll, teachers can ask the following questions:

  • Using the rating scale, rate your level of comfort/understanding of the poem I posted yesterday.
  • Using the drop down options, select the emoji that corresponds to your mood right now.
  • Did you have enough food to eat today, yes or no?
  • Based on our digital packet, which concept are you finding to be the most difficult? Select all that apply from the drop down menu.

 

If teachers want to get more of a detailed response from students, they can select the “short answer” option in Google forms when asking for responses. One idea for teachers to check on students’ emotional well-being is to utilize the short answer function. Ask students to list their pit and peak or rose and thorn of the day. In essence, teachers are aiming to identify what is going well at home and what students may be struggling with more specifically. Google also provides options for teachers to provide an example of their own response. This allows students to see that everyone is in this together—we are all experiencing highs and lows while schools are closed.

 

Furthermore, educators can then use this data to reach out to students or families directly who may be struggling more significantly. Whether due to a lack of resources or the emotional impacts of isolation, teachers can relay these concerns to school administrators and/or community members to provide necessary resources and aid to families based on their needs.

 

Another way to utilize these web-based platforms is to open assignment threads to allow students to post back and forth to one another. Some English teachers are finding that they are still able to practice book talks and literature circle conversations during the school closures using these features.

 

A word of caution, since teenagers will be teenagers, especially when cooped up at home—teachers should set clear guidelines for participation. Make sure students know that their posts will be viewed by all members of the Google classroom and that the instructor (teacher) has the option to revoke any individual’s posting privileges if necessary. Finally, ask parents to join in the classroom discussion threads, posts, polls, etc. Google Classroom has an easy option to “invite guardians” through MCPS, so with one click, parents can join in the discussion as well!

The Art of the Apology

An interesting thing happened recently when I asked my students to write an apology note to the substitute for treating her disrespectfully—they had no clue what to do. As I distributed paper and demanded that they begin, I quickly realized that my students were not being intentionally uncooperative. They truly didn’t know how to approach a genuine apology letter. I was appalled, to put it lightly. This woman, who in my absence, had tried her best to help my 7th grade students with the work I had left, was ignored, defied, mocked, and ridiculed, yet the class had nothing to say? Was this due to a lack of social awareness? Had they never heard a formal apology before? Was their reticent response just a new level of entitlement? I was not prepared to teach them about the art of a formal apology—I’d wrongfully assumed that they knew how to tackle this task.

Cut to a quickly thrown together, yet comprehensive, mini-lesson on the key components of an apology.

  • Begin with the actual apology, “I’m sorry…” DO NOT follow up or continue your apology with the word “but.” This simple subordinating conjunction completely negates the actual apology. It implies that you are not fully remorseful, and even worse, writing “but” indicates that you believe you have an excuse for wronging the other person. Tell students to explain themselves at a later time if necessary; it shouldn’t be part of the apology.
  • Take responsibility and genuinely own your mistake. Admitting your error is half the battle when delivering an apology—until you acknowledge your misstep, any apology will be considered insincere.
  • Owning your mistake also means explicitly stating what you did to hurt the other person. This requires children and teens to be reflective and to truly consider how their actions had a negative impact on the other person. Stating your mistake shows the other person that you have acknowledged their feelings and put yourself in their shoes to identify how you may have hurt them.
  • Offer a solution to the mistake—this could mean promising to do better next time or perhaps to try your best not to repeat this mistake again. Sometimes the solution comes easily; however, it is also kind to ask the other person what you could do to mend the situation. If their response is reasonable, follow through on that request.
  • Ask for forgiveness. This can be difficult because it requires kids to leave themselves unguarded and open to rejection. They may worry that the other person will claim that they can’t forgive at the moment—this is okay. Asking for forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’ll always get it, but putting the ball in the other person’s court after apologizing is pretty much all we can do.

Word Choice and Why it Matters: Part I

As an educator, I am always trying to convey the importance of word choice in students’ writing. Finding and using appropriate terms and phrases is critical—not only because it is almost always a significant component on an essay rubric, but because word choice in writing is a reflection of one’s ability to communicate precisely and effectively. Furthermore, a student with a knack for appropriate word choice in his writing is typically known to have a higher rate of expressive vocabulary. Regardless of a student’s future college major or career preference down the road, the more comfortable a student is with his ability to communicate, the more confident he will be when navigating the professional world.

 

Since there are such direct links between vocabulary and intellect, it strikes me as odd that there isn’t more of an emphasis on acquiring vocab skills in the primary, grade-level English classes these days. Of course, students will often be confronted with bolded or underlined terms in a class reading, accompanied by a brief definition in the footnotes, but this level of vocabulary exposure is hardly effective. Vocabulary taught in a vacuum, relating only to the current text in front of them, does nothing to provide students with a robust repertoire of word usage. Instead, these vaguely “brushed over” terms are taught briefly in isolation and then cast aside, rarely to be revisited.

There are strategies, not just for English classrooms, but for all subject areas, that can help students build vocabulary without the typical rote memorization that comes to mind from past decades.

 

Bring back the word wall

In elementary classrooms, we used to see brightly colored vocabulary words taped to the front wall, encouraging students to use these terms in conversation. This same level of visibility goes a long way in the secondary classrooms as well. The key for success is to present students with these terms and then connect them cross-curricularly. If foreshadowing is on the English classroom word wall, the teacher should make a point to relate this term to other, perhaps more familiar terms, like forecasting or hypothesizing in science, or indicate, imply, or symbolize in math or world history. The intent is to build connections to as many familiar terms as possible so that students better understand how this new word could be used to more precisely convey what they mean.

 

In addition to the word wall display, teachers should also instruct students to capture the new terms on paper, along with the related terms that they already know. Essentially, they are constructing a word web to illustrate subtle differences in terminology and how certain scenarios would utilize foreshadowing, while a similar scenario would be better suited by saying “hypothesizing.”

 

Color coding these word webs and word walls in the classroom can help students begin to categorize terminology as well. Perhaps science-related terms could be highlighted in green, while history/civics-related terms could be displayed in orange. Below is an example of how one word could translate through multiple contents: English class: adaptation; science class: evolution; math class: modification; history class: transformation.

 

Each of these terms is related to some sort of change from the original. An adaptation in English class means to take a classic work and rewrite it through a different lens. As students see the relationship between these terms, they are better able to distinguish the subtle differences and how each term would be more suitable to a certain scenario.

Management Strategies for Noncompliance

Strong-willed children bring character, fierce energy, and clear opinions into the classroom, which are all positive attributes that help to stimulate engagement and learning. However, when fervid determination crosses the threshold of acceptable behavior, teachers are often left in a sticky situation when deciding how to proceed with a defiant student.

Keep a level head

When given an instruction or directive, such as, “Please sit in your assigned seat,” students are generally expected to oblige or at least attempt to follow the request. You may be met with an eye-roll or exasperated retort, but 9 times out of 10, the request will be a non-issue. However, when a student is outright noncompliant, it is important that the teacher consider the potential catalyst of the defiant response. Often, this type of isolated obstinance, especially when it occurs out of nowhere, is a response to some unknown frustration or concern. The frustration may not even be related to this particular class or the directive. Because the trigger is typically unknown, teachers can assuage the emotions by considering how to de-escalate the situation before reacting. This is easier said than done, but suggestions might include:

  • Walk away to provide the student with a moment on his own to consider the request or directive; this also allows you to take a breath before asking again.
  • Provide the student with a reasonable alternative, such as sitting in his assigned seat or sitting up front away from other students.
  • Calmly rephrase the directive in a soft manner that is only audible to the individual child. Too often, non-compliance arises from a public power struggle, so a defiant student is less likely to comply when he feels as though he is performing as “the rebel” for an audience of peers.

Consider the individual personality involved

When confronted with what could be considered defiance or task-refusal, teachers should pause to consider whether the student is actively defying the command, or if there is a misunderstanding. For instance, a student who struggles with auditory processing may fail to respond immediately. On the outside, she may appear to be ignoring you, but in actuality, she is simply interpreting the request at a slower rate. Similarly, a student with ADHD may also need a few additional moments or some repetition to grasp the directive—this isn’t defiance. Students with autism may also present as noncompliant at times. Typically, this refusal is linked to a lapse in social cues and/or a need for further clarification. It is not unusual for students on the spectrum to require an explanation of why they are being asked to do something. Again, this is not meant as a defiant remark. The “why” question is quite literally asked as a means of gaining further explanation in order to meaningfully invest in the task.

 

Provide alternatives, but hold your ground

When a student has dug his heels in, another option is for the teacher to present opportunities for student choice. This doesn’t mean going back on your word. If a student is refusing to complete an assignment, provide him with the choice to complete it now or at lunch. If a student is hesitant to read aloud, give her the choice of which passage she’d prefer to read. A student who is demanding to go to the bathroom can go, but only after he’s completed the front of the worksheet. These options allow students to negotiate, but only on the teacher’s terms. In essence, you’re giving an inch without permitting the student to take a mile.

Combating School Refusal: Part II

In Part I, we discussed that school refusal involves more than stubborn non-compliance and cutting school to spend time with friends. School refusal stems from psychological stressors that, for whatever reason, are triggered by the school environment. While school refusal can be a result of many different factors from child to child, there are universally effective strategies that families can utilize.

Managing School Refusal

  • Ask your child why he or she is anxious about going to school. This conversation must come from a calm and understanding place—you cannot show frustration, anger, disappointment, or judgment when seeking to understand the underlying issues. Let children know that you support them by legitimizing their concerns, but that you need to know where their nerves are coming from in order to help. Ask whether this began with an isolated incident with a teacher or peer, or if the triggers are truly unknown.
  • Talk to the school about what is going on. School refusal becomes a bigger issue when teachers are left in the dark. When the school is aware of the underlying anxieties that a student might be dealing with, they will take extra precautions to make sure the student is handled with “kid gloves” during his or her time at school. The school can also help to manage the student’s workload if he or she is missing major assignments due to stress and anxiety about coming to school. On occasion, the school might recommend a half-day or partial schedule so that the student is receiving important instruction in small doses. The school can also work to arrange supports for parents who may be looking into an IEP or 504 plan to ensure accommodations are provided.
  • Plan for small successes and occasional setbacks when your child makes it to school. The anxieties will never dissipate overnight, so it is normal for a child to try to attend school, but then become overwhelmed and ask to go home. This is okay. As a parent, you want to make sure you’re acknowledging your child’s effort and bravery for attempting something that you know is difficult and scary. The process of re-entering school on a regular schedule isn’t going to be swift. Therefore, your best move is to celebrate the small steps and gently encourage them to move forward with their progress.
  • Consider hiring a tutor to help manage the workload that is accumulating due to your child’s frequent absences. The tutor can also, with your permission, act as a liaison between the school and home to ensure that academic goals are being met. The mounting workload can make students even more anxious because they know that, when they return to school, they’ll be confronted with a pile of work. This can make for a never-ending issue of avoiding school because of the stress of all the work from missing school in the first place. The tutor can work with your child in the comfort of your home and help to manage the assignments and tasks, while also providing 1:1 instruction for skills that are necessary for meeting grade-level objectives.

Combating School Refusal Fact vs. Fiction

Whining and groaning about going to school is bound to happen from time to time. Children will undoubtedly have a few instances when they beg to stay home from school for one reason or another. Other students may skip the parental piece altogether and skip school without adult permission. While both of these issues can be problematic, they do not fall under the more severe issue of school refusal.

Fact: Experts estimate that anywhere from 2-5% of school-age children develop this level of refusal because of deeper emotional issues at play. This non-compliant behavior can develop out of depression and/or anxiety, and sometimes a combination of both disorders.

Fiction: Some people believe that school refusal encompasses any case where a child refuses to attend school; however, it is more complicated than that. School refusal is not the same thing as truancy, where students decide to skip certain classes or ditch school altogether without their parents’ knowledge. A student who is routinely truant is avoiding school in favor of some other desired alternative. Whereas a student who is refusing to go to school is doing so out of emotional distress associated with being in school. Similarly, a child who feigns illness to avoid a math test, for instance, does not fall under the same category as a student who adamantly refuses to attend school because of unexplained dread or apprehension.

Fact: School refusal is a response to or an attempt to alleviate or avoid the trigger—school—by refusing to attend. For students with social anxiety, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, or depressive disorders, the school environment can exacerbate symptoms and create added distress. Incidents of bullying, the desire to be the perfect student, negative peer influences, and other emotional trauma associated with the school environment can also contribute to school refusal, but it does not happen overnight. School refusal is often a last resort or “breaking point” for children who have been experiencing pent up anxiety and/or depression for an extended period of time. When other strategies and methods for managing stress have failed, their last resort is to avoid stressors altogether by staying home from school.

Fiction: Contrary to popular opinion, school refusal does not occur out of nowhere in one fell swoop. There are known behaviors or signs leading up to outright refusal that occur systematically beforehand. It is important for parents to recognize these patterns and intervene early:

  • Children may begin by intentionally oversleeping several days or weeks in a row to prolong their time at home before leaving for school.
  • They may make numerous trips to the nurse with complaints about chronic, unexplained pain or injuries that are not visible, such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, muscle strains, or heart palpitations. Often times these ailments, while they may seem fictional or feigned, are actual physical responses to the anxiety that the child is experiencing—they are not necessarily “faking” the symptoms.
  • Children may also continuously call or text parents from school asking to be picked up for early dismissal. Often times they will claim that they are too sick to finish out the day. While this may be true on occasion, the likelihood is that the anxiety/depression has reached a threshold where the child feels that escaping from school will be the only solution.

Unfortunately, caving to these requests for partial school days will only create further issues with school avoidance. Intervention is required to address the core triggers and help these children to cope with their feelings of anxiety and depression within the school environment.

Look for strategies for intervening and managing behaviors related to school refusal in part II!

Use Student Work to Increase Motivation

I, like many others, fondly remember the pride I felt when I walked into the classroom and saw my work hanging up on the wall. Aside from the glittery star stickers and “great job!” written in impossibly perfect teacher handwriting, the notion that my hard work was good enough to be hung on display was exceptionally satisfying. For me, that instance of recognition went a long way in terms of motivation—it solidified the belief that my effort and success mattered to someone other than myself.

As educators, we can also foster this mindset for our students. Beyond displaying student work, teachers can utilize numerous instructional strategies to highlight this work in the classroom.

Error of the day

This is one of my personal favorites because, as a self-proclaimed math loather, this exercise helps to illuminate the value of our math errors. Also, from a teacher’s perspective, the activity takes minimal prep time.

  • Teacher will provide students with a daily warm-up sheet that includes one math problem. The question should relate to a unit concept that the teacher has already taught, as to avoid discouraging students with an unfamiliar math problem.
  • Teacher will collect and sort the warm-ups into two piles: correct answers and incorrect answers, with the intent to choose an incorrect example with a common or understandable error. (Often times, these common errors are made by several students.)
  • Using a Promethean document camera, or by taking a photo of the student sample and projecting it on the board, the teacher will display a student’s incorrect warm-up. Be careful NOT to show the student’s name; the point is to highlight a common error and explain it without embarrassing anyone.
  • The teacher will use the sample to go through the problem step by step, carefully hinting at where the student took a misstep.
  • It is important that the teacher help students dissect not only where the error occurred, but also the thinking behind that error.
  • After the collaborative error analysis, the teacher should thank the anonymous student for his contribution, specifically mentioning how errors allow for growth.

Writing samples

A great way to celebrate student writing, while also discussing an essay’s strengths and weaknesses, is to ask students to create a scrap essay using various paragraphs from multiple students’ essays. The activity would look something like this:

  • After collecting essays, teacher would identify strong examples of intro paragraphs, body paragraphs, and concluding paragraphs.
  • Without labeling the samples or leaving any written feedback yet, the teacher would crop the essays into separate paragraphs and distribute them to small groups.
  • Collaboratively, students would piece together an exemplary essay using the student sample paragraphs.
  • Ideally, the puzzle-pieced essays would include multiple students’ work.
  • The activity could be extended by having students then analyze the various strengths of each group’s newly constructed essay using the assignment rubric.

Connect with parents

Another underutilized way to celebrate student work and increase motivation is to snap a quick picture of the student’s work or project and email the photo to parents. In this instance, teachers will want to be sure that the assignment has been graded and includes positive written feedback. This allows parents the opportunity to see exactly why this work sample was exemplary. Of course, any positive parent contact helps to motivate students. However, taking the extra step to display the great work to parents can go a long way.

Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities

Assistive technology in special education refers to any sort of device or resource that is used to make learning more accessible to students with disabilities. Assistive technology is not reserved for any one circumstance. There are various types of technologies that can be used to support students with any disability, whether it be a physical, emotional, or mental disability. Read on for suggestions and resources to support students with special needs.

 

Text to speech

Text to speech, TTS, can be used to support students with various obstacles that might impact learning. The technology scans and modifies print text so that students are provided with audio of the text. TTS resources are especially helpful to students who have difficulty absorbing and/or processing print text. Some conditions might include visual impairment or blindness, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, or other health impairments that impede the ability to read print. Some advanced devices that utilize TTS are portable and can be carried around during the school day to photograph any piece of text. The device will then use its camera image to translate the text to audio that students can save.

 

Proofreading technology

Assistive technology that helps students become better proofreaders can be beneficial to all students, but especially for those who struggle with executive functioning deficits or attention issues. Proofreading one’s own writing is inherently difficult, especially if it is something that the writer has already read through a few times. This is because we often overlook our errors because we know what we are trying to say, so our eyes fail to recognize a careless mistake. Furthermore, several proofreading systems also utilize TTS software so that students can hear their potential errors aloud.

 

Electric handouts

For students who may struggle with the physical process of writing and/or lack the cognitive ability to process thoughts and commit those thoughts to paper, digital handouts can be immensely helpful. The key is to allow students to exhibit their ability without the barrier that pencil-to-paper writing might cause. Depending on the students’ needs, teachers might create digital documents that allow students to drag and drop appropriate responses, as opposed to writing them out or drawing lines to match them up. For math items, digital handouts ensure that multi-step math problems remain clear, organized, and aligned properly for students that struggle with the physical aspects of writing.

 

Low-tech options

While many examples of assistive technology in the classroom involve the use of computers or digital programs, there are various low-tech approaches that can help students with special needs. Many of these suggestions are considered best practices for all learners. Flexible seating, which allows for stools, bean bags, yoga balls, or standing desks help students with ADHD try to refocus during class work. Flex seating can also be used for students who struggle to self-regulate or who depend on movement to expel stress and anxiety. Even simple classroom items and modifications, such as pencil grips, wrist pads for keyboards, slanted table tops, or colored overlays are considered assistive resources. While relatively unsophisticated, these tools can make all the difference for students whose learning is impacted by a disability.

Promoting Self-efficacy

Because of the major focus on “growth mindset” in today’s educational world, it only makes sense to discuss self-efficacy alongside it. The two go hand-in-hand. Students with a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, believe that, through effort and tenacity, they can improve in their endeavors. Similarly, self-efficacy refers to one’s confidence in his/her ability to execute specific actions in order to attain a goal or arrive at a desired outcome. Essentially, self-efficacy promotes the idea that learning is all about setting your mind to something and going for it, no matter the obstacles. This level of grit and self-confidence is crucial to young learners, which is why it is imperative that teachers help students to develop self-efficacy. Below are suggested instructional strategies and practices can actually help to promote self-efficacy in the classroom.

 

  • Ask students to talk through and/or write down their method of arriving at an answer or conclusion. This deliberate level of analysis requires students to tap into their reasoning on a metacognitive level—they are asked to think about their own thinking. In being able to articulate why they arrived at a certain answer, students are subconsciously building confidence and developing self-efficacy.
  • Create lessons that promote Socratic dialogue and ask students to question what they are learning, reading, and exploring. This promotes a level of agency over the learning; they are no longer passively receiving the information, they are asked to engage in it and critique it.
  • Design activities and projects that allow for student choice. When students are invested in what they are researching, their exploration becomes more immersive—they more readily dive into the material and gain confidence while doing so. Choice also boosts motivation to succeed, reaffirming one’s self-efficacy once the goal is met.
  • Require students to “create the test” as a review or practice before an assessment. Then, if students’ sample questions are appropriate, include those student-created questions or concepts on the actual exam. Again, this practice helps to hand over the control; the teacher is not the only “keeper of the knowledge.” Instead, students are also given a hand in measuring their own learning.
  • Utilize reflection forms or surveys to practice error analysis and boost students’ self-confidence for the next task. Reflective questions after an exam, essay, or project that hone in on a student’s genuine level of effort and preparation help to show students how they hold the keys to their own success. Include questions on the survey such as, “How did you expect to do?” or, “Based on the time, effort, energy and focus that you put in, did you perform the way you anticipated?” These reflective questions encourage students to think about the way that their preparation or lack thereof has a direct impact on their success. Over time, they will recognize a sense of control over their education, which ultimately builds self-efficacy.
  • Consider creating student portfolios, in which students organize and track their work throughout the year. It is important that students have a clear view of how they have progressed over the course of the school year and how they can set goals for growth in the future. Students also develop self-efficacy by critiquing their own past assignments. Teachers might consider asking students to respond to teacher feedback to include in the portfolio as well. That is, after reflecting and seeing the feedback, how would the student modify the work or assignment?

 

New Emergency Procedures in MCPS

A dismal update, but essential nonetheless, pertains to Montgomery County Public Schools’ new emergency response initiative. Teachers and students have been or are currently receiving training and information regarding the new procedures. Parents are also to be briefed on the updates at some point in the coming months. While these are trainings intended for “worst case scenarios,” we unfortunately live in a day and age where the “worst case” is becoming a woeful reality.

 

Original protocols

The original or former protocol for intruders and/or immediate threats to the school was to simply lockdown. A lockdown meant that, no matter the circumstances, location, or immediacy of the threat, teachers would uniformly follow lockdown procedures. This meant completing a brisk hall sweep to collect any students in the hallway, locking the classroom, pulling shades, and shutting off lights. The point of the lockdown was (and still is) to make it appear as though the classroom is vacant. There should be no noise, movement, or activity once the lockdown has been put into effect.

 

Alterations and considerations

Because of the fact that, depending on various circumstances, a lockdown may not be the best strategy for surviving an intruder or immediate threat, MCPS, as well as state and national law enforcement, saw a need for more specific measures to be put into place to protect students and staff against instances of school violence. As opposed to the original plan of locking down no matter what, the new acronym, ADD, offers staff more options to consider when facing a potential threat at school.

 

Avoid (A)

“Avoid” is the first option that students and staff should consider if circumstances allow for safe evacuation. Essentially, the goal is to avoid or flee the area if at all possible. For instance, if a shooting is taking place on one side of the building, teachers and students on the other side of the building, farther removed from immediate harm, should evacuate the building using the nearest exit. In this instance, teachers would instruct students to silently and swiftly flee the building.

 

  • Through the training, teachers have been instructed to call 911 en route or once they have reached a safe distance from the building; they should not call 911 from inside the building if planning to then evacuate, as getting students to safety is the first priority.
  • They are also supposed to take students to a location that is far enough away so that the building is no longer in direct sight.
  • If students get separated from their class or teacher during that evacuation, students should continue to run to a safe location in the neighborhood and call for help or ask a neighbor to call 911.
  • Parent/student reunification plans would be made once the situation has been resolved and there is no longer a threat to public safety.
  • Under no circumstances should students or staff return to the school building once they have evacuated. Only after safety is assured and the crime scene(s) has been processed will anyone be permitted to return to the building.

 

Deny (D)

“Deny” is the second option of the new procedures for active assailants. Essentially, deny is similar to the former lockdown procedure, except for the fact that makeshift barricades have been added as a suggestion when locking down.

 

  • Teachers will still do a quick hall sweep to bring in any students who may have been in the bathroom, health room, etc. Then teachers will lockdown, quickly securing the door and covering any windows.
  • Teachers, with the help of any capable students, should begin barricading the door using as much furniture as possible. Even doors that swing outward should be barricaded as much as possible. The point here is to put as many obstacles as possible between the assailant and the civilians in the classroom.
  • On average, police arrive on scene 3-4 minutes after the first 911 call has been placed. Therefore, mere seconds can make a substantial difference in the casualty count. With this knowledge, anything that impedes an entryway or slows the assailant buys vital time for students and staff.
  • Suggested barricade items include desks, chairs, bookcases, laptop carts, work benches, etc.
  • Once the door has been thoroughly barricaded, the lights should be turned off and the room should be silent, just like in the former lockdown guidelines.

 

Defend (D)

“Defend” is the final option—essentially the last-case scenario when dealing with an active shooter in the building. Defend is the back-up plan when avoidance or evacuation is not possible and the “deny” efforts have been compromised and the room is no longer secure. As scary as this sounds, it is critical that staff be prepared to defend if necessary.

 

  • Defense measures would come into play if the lockdown and barricade fails to keep the shooter out of the immediate area.
  • Teachers have been instructed to fight off or disarm the assailant by any means possible. SWAT trainings, provided to MCPS teachers, instruct teachers and/or capable and willing students, to aim for eyes/face, throat, and groin areas if attacking the assailant.
  • Using any item in the classroom as a weapon or shield is also suggested.