Sunday, October 26, 2014

Locked School Doors - a New Normal (that really isn't.)

One day last week, one of my colleagues had misplaced her school keys.  For an entire day, she attempted to get her classroom unlocked and secured through the kindness of the people deemed secure enough to have a master key.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for security.  But the way things are today, the people who have master keys are custodians, office staff, and substitute teachers.  Yup - the day - to - day folks can get into any room, but the rest of us are relying on finding Jose and his crew to access a classroom due to an oversight of keys...


 A New Normal...???


Our district has recently completed building or renovation projects in every single building within the last eleven years.  With the renovated and new buildings came a giant increase in security.  Our badges get us in through the first door and second door, into the office, and other inner sanctums that are secured.  We've become adjusted to the ideas of locked doors -- even if sometimes they keep us from doing something, or anything, in the most efficient manner - all in the name of safer schools.

It's the weekend, and I am fully aware that the viewership of this blog drops significantly on Sundays, especially.  This seemed like the perfect time to tell one of my favorite stories about locked doors and collaboration.

Prior to the complete renovation, our district repurposed small farm buildings into storage spaces, classrooms and offices.  The marching band actually housed their trailers, pit equipment and tractors in a former chicken coup.  An additional building, which has a silo attached, but I'm from outside Philly and have no idea what the proper term for this building would be, was converted into the Alternative Education program site, the IT department, and the Special Education offices.

One evening, prior to a board meeting, I noticed the light on in my boss's office.  Given that she literally flew from one building to the other at a speed unheard of in a Prius, the fact that she was (potentially) accessible and available for 10 minutes forced me to stop.  I peered through her window and knocked.  She was on the phone, shoes off, unwinding and rewinding for a presentation to be given at the impending school board meeting, no doubt.  She motioned to me to meet her at the front door about 20 feet away.

Remember that this space was renovated for educational purposes.  The main door opened into a small vestibule approximately five feet wide and ten feet long.   There was a reception window with a ledge approximately 4 feet off the ground directly in front, with steel doors to either side that were controlled by a push button in the receptionist area.  My boss pushed open the locked door to let me in from the outside, while holding the steel door to her hallway open with her shoeless foot.

You guessed it.  One tiny hop, and the door slipped from her grasp, slamming behind her.  It was winter.  It was cold.  She was shoeless, and had a meeting starting in less than a half hour.  Her keys were in her office along with the phone call she had left on hold.

I turned to shield my phone screen from the fluorescent lights overhead to find the phone number of the maintenance guy on call for the district, scrolling through my contacts when I heard multiple thuds.  There she was, my boss, bench-pressing herself on the small ledge outside the receptionist window, which she had forced open.

WHAT?

I still laugh when I think about this.  She was convinced she could get in faster than waiting for someone with a key.  She tried again -- thud, thud, thud.

I offered her one of those "laced fingers" hoists up, which she accepted -- and became WEDGED in the window.  The buttons on her blouse were trapped in the sliding tracks for the window.  My head went to Winnie the Pooh.  Seriously.

Through laughter, and a lot of giggling on her part, we hatched a plan.  She would anchor her hands on something stable and straighten her legs, and I'd lift her up and let her "walk" wheelbarrow-race style into the receptionist's office along her counter.  I couldn't see where she was going, so I was just LIFTING, and following.

The next few seconds are a blur, ending with a memory that will be etched in my brain for a very long time.  I lifted her stiffened legs, and she went through the window much more quickly than I ever imagined.

You see, she had chosen the ROLLING OFFICE CHAIR as her stable resource.

She must have been a gymnast in a former life.  Somehow she flew across that small, tiled office in a rolling office chair while simultaneously flipping her body to the full and upright position required by the chair.  By the time the chair hit the filing cabinets on the opposite wall, her hands were in the air as if she were traveling down the last hill on the Great Bear rollercoaster at Hersheypark.

Sadly, this predated the district's use of security cameras.

If this blog were a FRIENDS episode, I'd have to caption it "The One Where I Pushed My Boss Through a Window."  Fortunately for me, we collaborated in an innovative way that allowed both of us a bonding moment that translates to probably the best retirement party story, ever.  I really hope that she remembers to add me to the guest list, since she's now a honcho in another district.

The new normal for school security continues to prey on the minds of parents, administrators, and teachers.  Especially when there continues to be lead stories on national news broadcasts about security breeches, threats, or actual shootings.  Thankfully, we are, as educators, able to rise above the inconveniences of locked doors to support each other.  (And create great memories along the way.)