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Code Red: Teacher Describes How Students Helped Her Be Strong After Shooting

Code Red: Teacher Describes How Students Helped Her Be Strong After Shooting

A teacher details moving on after what she thought was a drill turned out to be a real tragedy and how she owes the unity of her students to staying strong herself.

On January 5, 2011, Tessa Adams initially thought nothing of a call for the "Code Red" drill in her school. She shared her story on the site xoJane.com.  

"As educators, we’ve all been through them. They have always been an eerie part of our routine," she said.

After nearly a half hour, however, she began to suspect that something wasn't right.

"As 12:51 turned to 1:20 ... My heart beat harder; the kids got restless. There were many bathroom complaints; many hunger pangs; many innocent worries. "

There were 27 students in the classroom with her that day. As more and more of her students began to get worried texts from loved ones, Adams appointed one to be the "cell phone kid" to check the news and find out what was going on.

It was then that Adams and her class tragically learned that a student, angered by a punishment given to him by an administrator, had come back with a gun. He shot dead the administrator and wounded the principal before turning the gun on himself, according to Adams' account.

"As we checked the news, I used my best judgment that day. I’m not saying it was right or perfect, but I had all of them contact their loved ones explaining that they were safe. I would need to know that my children were safe," she said.

After the tragedy, Adams and her class barely had time to grieve. The superintendent wanted to restore "normalcy" and asked his staff to come back to work as soon as possible. Adams was shocked at the response.

"Our beloved leader was murdered, our principal was in the hospital trying to heal from bullet wounds, and we were to come back a day later and teach students. Students were expected to learn. Could this be right?"

Although Adams was not sure if she could do it- face her class and remain the fearless leader she always was, it was her students that gave her the strength. On what she describes as the only day she questioned her leadership, the students in that fateful creative writing class showed her that they would persevere together. 

I learned that the entire student body—ours is about 2,300—showed up outside our school doors before school, and they all marched in together. As a family, they marched through those doors arm and arm, shoulder to shoulder, innocence to innocence, and they entered their school as if to take back what evil tried to steal from them. What we lost on that horrible Wednesday, these students fought to bring back on Friday. 

"Hate gave way to kindness. Youth does that. It saves us from the cruelty and damage of darkness. The most tragic event in my life knocked me back far enough to see, really see, the power of young people."

Read the full article here and comment below. Have you been through a harrowing drill or emergency lockdown? Write to editor[at]educationworld.com to share your experience.

Story by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

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