Today my reading students were reading silently and I was engaged in a one-on-one reading conference with a young lady, when an audible, yet unintelligable ripple went through my classroom. I turned my head and saw 19 students staring up. I looked up. Black smoke billowed into our room from the air vents.
I knew maintenance was on the roof working on the air conditioner. Sometimes when the air first comes on dust billows forth. I got up and walked over to one of the vents. That stuff wasn’t dust — and it smelled foul.
The connecting door between my classroom and the next opened. The first year teacher next door said, “What should I do?” I wanted to respond, “How the bleep do I know?” But a decision clearly needed to be made. I thought of calling the office … but if this was real, and not some wierd side-effect from maintenance, then precious time would be lost. “Line up!” I ordered my students, then told the Rookie teacher, “Take your kids outside.”
I calmly ushered my class out the door, where I paused, looked back at the billowing smoke and pulled the fire alarm.
It was just a maintenance glitch. At lunch another teacher asked me, “How did it feel to pull that alarm? Was it cool?”
Uhm, no —. I was far too aware of the possibility of a real fire … too scary to not pull the fire alarm; and too scary to get a thrill out of doing so. Then there was the “little” matter of disrupting dozens of classes and evacuating 650 kids for possibly no reason — not to mention that the fire department, and likely my boss, would not be too impressed by a false alarm.
Happily, my boss felt the same way I did — if an error was to be made, better to error on the side of safety.