November 17, 2017

Extreme Teaching: What’s in YOUR Bomb Bag?

Those of you used to teaching under nearly constant threat of evac will be used to these. For those who are only starting to explore the overseas option of working in intense locations, this article will be a primer. Either group will likely benefit from the list of ideas. Read on for some strategies to make the unexpected classroom evacuation process as smooth as possible.

For whatever reason, I was not introduced to this concept until I went to work for an American school in Kuwait. We were required to be able to get out on the fly with our students, as well as maintain intact administrative data such as grades, attendance, parent contact information and lesson schedules. For extra fun and excitement, we never knew how long an evac might last before we were either cleared for re-entry or picked up on site. So emergency rations and student entertainment options were key. After getting several of these events under my belt, I developed the following list, and always kept my bomb bag (otherwise known as a go-bag or storm bag) stocked with these items.

Your grade book.

Obviously, you’ll need to have it out almost daily for attendance and grade recording. But instead of putting it away in your desk and always needing to remember it in an emergency, make the bomb bag your permanent stash location. You’ll be ready to rock and roll on less than a moment’s notice, and your boss will think you’re a rock star.

Pens and pencils.

You don’t need a bunch, just a couple of each for note taking, attendance at evacuation collection / check point, and marking off who gets picked up early by parents when these things drag on . . . and they do. Trust me.

Parent contact info.

Even if you think it’s just a quick drill, you never know when it’s an actual threat called in by some wacko. It can take longer than you might think to get the building cleared for re-entry. If you have to leave the building after lunch time, chances are the parents will be willing to just come pick up their kids. Check with admin first to see what they want, but we found that sitting out in the desert sun of the Arabian Gulf was way too intense to monkey around with, even with loads of extra water. If we even suspected it was going to be a long haul, we started calling parents as soon as possible.

Toilet paper.

Enough said.

Water.

Hydration is critical, and the more nervous your students are, the higher their rate of aspiration is likely to be. Make sure you have at least one two liter bottle with a squirt top to start off with. You can give each child a drink that way without having to touch mouths or carry cups. Your administration will need to coordinate additional drop offs.

Crackers or other simple snacks.

You don’t need enough to feed an army here, and they don’t need to be the fanciest variety available. Just a couple of sleeves of your standard soda crackers will suffice. Something to soak up the nervous stomach acid and take away the hunger pains if you have to beat it before lunch.

Your current read aloud book.

If you teach older grades and don’t do this, consider keeping a great collection of short stories on hand. Anything that will enable you to gather your group under a tree (hopefully there’s one available) and keep them focused. If you do have a read aloud you are currently enjoying with your class, make the bomb bag your storage location for that as well. You’ll always have it if you need it.

Your lesson plan book.

Chances are your schedule is in here as well, and if you truly are forced to migrate with your kids to the nearest refugee camp, you can all get things up and rolling in a hurry if as a staff you know how to get back to your old routine as soon as possible.

Playing cards and other simple light-weight entertainment options.

The read aloud title is only going to get you so far. Long term sitting and listening will get old after the first half hour or so. Having a deck or two of cards along with some simple review questions, or an inflatable ball to play hot potato with will add to the maintenance of calm.

Sunscreen.

Something you can spray on is what I recommend, but whatever you are able to get is better than nothing.

A clipboard and loose leaf paper.

This will assist you with management checklists on parent communication and keeping score on any class games you are able to play.

These are the main items that helped keep me sane during repeated school evacs. If you have spent time under such conditions, or just want to be prepared for the unexpected . . . feel free to share your thoughts below. Just an extra thought? My students in Kuwait were old pros at this, and the term bomb bag didn’t upset them. In fact, it was the term the administration used as well. However, if you are in suburban America and your students have never dealt with this before, you may want to refer to this as an emergency bag or the fire drill bag. The important thing is to have it on the ready.

Flickr Photo Credit: P. Body

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