Saturday, March 2, 2019

Lockdown in Dramatic Play


School lockdown drills have been a sad reality in our educational system for years. Lockdown drills require teachers to lock the classroom door(s), turn off the lights, open the shades, and gather the students in an area of the room that isn't visible from the hallway. Children hide, stay very quiet, and huddle together until an announcement is made stating the lockdown is lifted. The drills were created in response to horrific incidents of gun violence and murder played out in schools across America.

In September 2012, just before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, my kindergarten students were scared and cried as they propelled a discussion towards the notion of never seeing mommy and daddy again.

In February 2016 my first graders were seemingly less frightend. It appeared lockdown drills were now part of the modus operandi, devoid of an alarming emotional component but just as f@#*%d up as ever.

In 2019 lockdown drills continue, but I learned they are not always initiated by the school administration. This week one preschool child caught my attention when he announced to the other children in the dramatic play area, "The lockdown is now over".

I glanced over and noticed he was looking down at three other 4-year-olds who were crouching down behind the play kitchen. They remained huddled together even after his announcement was made. I was working with another student, so I turned my attention away from them. It wasn't until I got home that I actually processed what I had witnessed.

On the one hand, it is wonderful to see the tenets of dramatic play in full effect. It is through dramatic play that children come to understand the world around them. It gives them agency and is "a great stepping stone for learning to self-regulate their emotions and actions".

But, Lordy! It is so messed up that the realities of hate, mental illness, violence, and easy access to weaponry has resulted in the need for this kind of dramatic play. And it is messed up that it is so commonplace that it took me a day to realize how messed up it is.

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