The Sky is Not Falling

The best way to address any concern is when you are in a calm state. When things happen, and they frequently do, there may be little time to make a decision. It is important to come down from whatever initial emotion you went to in order to begin to remedy the situation.

Okay, it is more of a literary reference, but they did make a movie. In this opening scene Chicken Little is ringing the tower bell informing all the citizens that the sky is falling.

What is important to note is the domino effect Chicken Little’s warning has on the entire community. Because of his overreaction, cars get into accidents, city property is destroyed, and the entire city is in a state of panic.

At the end of the scene we learn that the sky is not falling (maybe it will eventually, but no spoilers here). But whether the sky is or is not falling is irrelevant, the way in which Chicken Little responds only escalates the situation.

Implications for Education

From a Teacher’s Perspective

Inclement weather. You were hoping to get the day off, but the school district thought the weather might pass. It did not. Now you have just been informed that you will be releasing students 3 hours early. Unfortunately, you do not have a 3 hour early release schedule.

As a teacher you have to work with administration and other teachers to put together a plan to get students through the day. How long will classes be? Will students go to all of their periods? When will you go to lunch? Are you eating in the classroom?

Additionally, the students’ energy has just been increased. They are getting out early, and who knows, maybe they will be off tomorrow.

Balancing all the logistical moving parts of a last minute early release with student behavior makes it no easy task to keep your cool, but it is what you have to do.

Students take their cue from you. Their behaviors are mitigated or aggravated by what they see from you.

In this stressful situation, students are already more likely to make poor choices because there is increased excitement and decreased routine.

By being the calming agent in your classroom you can de-escalate a situation where a 3 hour delay can feel like a 3 hour extension.

From a Principal’s Perspective

School threats are all too pervasive in our society. The majority of the time they are false, but that does not mean they should be taken any less seriously.

When dealing with school threats you have several stakeholders to consider: students, parents, and staff. The number one priority for an administrator is ensuring the safety of everyone in the school. That certainly includes physical safety but also emotional safety.

Because you have to consider students, parents, and staff when navigating a school threat, it is essential to maintain your composure. Most school districts have established protocols that need to be followed. When you let your emotions get the better of you, you are more likely to miss essential steps when investigating and mitigating the threat.

Word travels fast. It will not be long before students, teachers, and the community are all talking about the threat. You will have to address concerns in the hallway from school staff, phone calls from parents, and support (and questions) from district level personnel who will all want to know what you are doing. If you portray a sense of panic, that is what the people in your school community will reflect.

It is impossible to remove all stress and anxiety during a crisis situation. However, when the school community sees and hears you leading from a position of confidence and assurance, they will feel a great deal safer.

Whether the sky is falling or not, what really matters is how you react. Those around you will do much better in challenging situations when they see you responding calm and under control.

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