Last week, a gun went off at in a classroom at one of our sister high schools across the city. This happened around 11:15 a.m. Naturally, the ninth-grade students in my classroom knew about it by around 11:20.
"It was a freshman."
"It was in the bathroom."
"No, it was in a classroom. They're on lockdown."
"He had a Spiderman backpack."
"My cousin goes to school there there."It was scary to know about while it was happening. Everybody does lockdown drills and everybody complains about them, but nobody would have objected if it had been a lockdown for real in our own school.
After a few minutes of frantic following the thread of what was known, I turned off the lights. "Let's stop and take a moment to meditate and send them good energy."
One boy with a blue sweatshirt and a worried look said, "Like, should we pray for them?"
I said, "If that is what your heart tells you to do in this moment, then you should do that." He nodded, closed his eyes, and laced his fingers together with practiced intensity.
I guided students into a brief mindfulness meditation. We laid our phones face down on our desks, and I gave them the instruction on how to do meditation, focusing their attention on their breath coming in and out at their nose. Thirty-six wired, anxious fourteen-year-olds and I spent the next two minutes anchoring our crazy, overstimulated monkey minds together in our breath.
I felt the mood loosen in the room; then I flipped the light back on and we returned to our lesson.
I kept an eye on my Twitter feed, and when class was drawing to a close, I told them that the police had apparently secured the gun and the area and that they were just waiting for the all clear.
A few years ago, I would have lost the focus of the students and not been able to redirect it. Now I know better what to do and how to do it.
I just wish this weren't happening as much as it seems to be in our country.