Yesterday, the weather got interesting (also here). The tornado sirens blasted while I was in the middle of my turkey sandwich. As part of our “extreme weather” procedures, my Creative Writing class had to relocate to an interior classroom without windows. We had three classes worth of students crammed into a single room. Then the power went out.
If I ever find myself at a job interview, and they ask me about my skills, I will tell them about the time I kept order in darkened classroom filled with over 50 teenagers. I can do anything.
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. Two other teachers were with me. Also, the students’ phones kept them entertained — and created a ghostly illumination to the otherwise dark room. Few had cell service, which was good and bad. It was good, because the panicked students begging their parents to come get them at school, tornado be damned, weren’t helping things. I tried to reassure these students that the school was built like a state penitentiary. It’s one of the safest sturdiest buildings imaginable. The worried students are sometimes worried merely out of a narcissistic fascination with their ability to be worried. Although, I can tell the routine wears thin on their friends. Having no cell service meant I was disconnected from April and the world. This was bad. It’s a double standard, I know. When service finally returned, I had a flood of texts from family asking if I was okay.
After an hour with no power, the room was warm and stuffy. The students became increasingly irritable.
“Mr. Hopkins, what would happen if I just leave?”
“Well, you’d get written up and probably a security guard or assistant principal would send you back into the room. It’s really not safe to leave.”
I had this conversation repeatedly with students weighing their options.
The biggest problem was students who needed to use the bathroom. They just had to go. They were fearing bladder infections and possible death, if they were denied this most basic right. Students had to be escorted, and it simply wasn’t feasible to migrate hundreds of students back and forth.
School ends at 2:45, but there were still tornadoes in the area. Now we were detaining them against their will. Another basic right denied them. It was no use explaining that it was not safe to be outside. After all, school ends at 2:45. We received regular updates from the administration, and they allowed more students to sit in the hallway, which helped.
The zombie apocalypse was my ally. If students started acting nervous, anxious, or irritable, I would explain to them that this was good training for the zombie apocalypse. For my zombie apocalypse survival team, I only wanted cool-headed people who didn’t crack in a crisis or need to continually stop for bathroom breaks. If they acted up, I wouldn’t want them on my team. Simple enough. And yes, this worked surprisingly well. This wasn’t a tornado. It was training for a more sinister world-ending disaster.
We were dismissed at 3:15. At that point, I learned how extensive the damage was. The tornado touched down at several points around our school. Nearby homes were damaged (UPDATE: photos from Pegasus News). My daughter was in “duck and cover” position at her school. April hid in the closet with her brother, sister-in-law, niece, and week-old nephew. Our dog was home alone. Sorry Berkeley.