Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A "Why I love teaching middle school" Moment: Haunted Lock Down Drills

(photo @ conflictingclarity)


The following story was relayed to me today by a teacher in my department. It was far too good to remain in the confines of our lunch area, so I asked if I could share it here on the blog. It also involves one of our school's more infamous urban legends: The ghost of Mr. Jefferson.

                                                 magnetmagazine
No, not that one.
But how awesome would that have been?


Years ago, the school had a janitor by the name of Mr. Jefferson. He was before my time, but those who remember him said that he was a very nice man.Years after he passed away, a few teachers in our old building noticed that some of the classroom doors near the back of the school would swing open or close randomly.  This was due to the draft that could occur when the back door to the main building was open, but most would jokingly refer to this natural phenomenon as a visit from the ghost of Mr. Jefferson.

                                                          imdb.com
Those teachers were sitting on a 
hit movie and they didn't even know it.


This tended to freak out a few of the kids, but most of them were old enough to realize that the ghost was not an actual apparition of a deceased janitor. Some, however, would give nervous glances towards the doors to their classrooms or even flat out refuse sit near them. This gullible group must have all ended up in one class, because one of our teachers decided it would be hilarious to take things to another level.

She told the terrified children that on Halloween, the ghost of Mr. Jefferson would wander down the streets where they lived, checking each door to see if the children had set out fruit for him outside their doors. Why Mr. Jefferson required fruit was not clear; ghosts cannot get scurvy and most likely do not deal with the gastrointestinal problems that can arise when one does eat enough dietary fiber.  

Regardless, she insisted that they must have fruit placed in front of their houses when the ghost of Mr. Jefferson walked by...or else. If they did not have it waiting there for him (and they had misbehaved or talked excessively during her class), Mr. Jefferson would go inside their house and “take care of them.”


Despite the impending death, 
he would still do this dance upon entering the home.


Some children were terrified. Others predictably laughed it off as a silly and scary tale, but in the back of their minds were mildly terrified at the prospect of the ghost that always opened and closed our doors coming into their homes. The story had spread around the school enough that whether a child believed it or not, the doors randomly opening and closing tended to get quite a bit more attention and gasps than it had before.

Flash forward to a couple of weeks later. Our school was preparing to have its first “lock down” drill of the year. For those that are unfamiliar with what this is, a lock down is a state of high alert and security that the school is put on if there is an immediate physical threat on the premises (usually assumed to be armed with a weapon). It may seem a bit morbid to have a drill for this type of thing, but you want the students and faculty to be prepared for what to do in this unlikely but horrible scenario.  s far as the individual classrooms are concerned, it is simply a matter of locking the doors, turning out the lights, and moving all the children away from the doors.

                                                     chilly-wallpaper
...and making sure not to crap these.


For some reason, schools used to have secret codes that they announced over the intercom to alert the staff that they were on lock down status (or engaging in our required drills). These codes were fairly useless since the students knew something was up as soon as class stopped and everyone had to move away from the windows, but schools continued to use them.  hen I was in high school, our code for a lock down drill was when an administrator came over the intercom and said "Attention faculty: Officer Malone is in the building."

"Officer Malone" was a retired security officer that had once worked at my old high school. I learned that for some reason, many schools liked to used retired and/or deceased staff members mysteriously entering the building as their lock down code. My current school was no exception.

As my friend was going through her lesson on that fateful day, an administrator came over the intercom and ominously announced:

"Attention all faculty and staff:  Mr. Jefferson is in the building."


                                                                                         wallpapersfolder



As you can imagine, the class proceeded to absolutely lose its collective mind. Instead of calmly moving away from the windows, students began to run about the room, screaming panicked cries of fear that Mr. Jefferson had finally come to collect his debt for their bad behavior...and lack of Halloween fruit offerings.

Fortunately (and unfortunately), my friend kept a bowl of fruit on her desk.  The students saw her attempt at keeping a light and healthy snack available throughout the day as their only possible way to salvation.

"PUT THE FRUIT OUTSIDE THE DOOR!" they screamed.  "PUT THE FRUIT OUT THERE OR MR. JEFFERSON WILL FIND US!"



                                                                        foodsubs
 But not the grapefruit!
Those taste like pure evil!


Eventually, ours and just about every other school realized that it was simply more efficient and less ridiculous to announce that the school was having a lock down drill.  I would say that this took away from the mystery, but all it really did was take away anyone else's chance to be immortalized as a dire warning, the signaling of a drill that will get everyone out of class for 10 minutes...or a child murdering apparition.

                                                                                                   freerepublic
...or the central character of an awesome sitcom that has a wife named Weezy

 
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