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An Exciting Day

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.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. I love reading your writing. It just reminds me of how much I miss being around you. I hope to hear from you again soon.

  2. i have this horrible fear of burning in a fire. it kinda started when i was little watching a soap opera with my great-aunt..a man burned terribly…his image has never left didn’t help that in the war i saw many men burn alive in a tree..i know how heavy the responsibility weighs on me with my 5 kids in case of any emergency. i think you absolutely did the right thing. you handled yourself with control and organized. i’m very happy that school has you..they are lucky..

    God is good alright. Today Keka was home with me. Yesterday she walked into a chunk of wood at the end of she cuddled through dizzy spells and headaches she told me how much i and Marshmallows were helping her to feel well again..I cannot tell you what he means to her and what she means to me…wait, i think you understand…love, much love.

  3. So it was your room that was smoke filled. I heard there was classrooms with smoke. Thanks for keeping us safe. With the winds we had today anything was posiible:)

  4. When the school where I used to teach had fire drills, anyone who would have difficulty moving (like injured or wheelie kids) would be told to leave the class 5 mins before the alarm was due to ring. We had a drill just before I went on mat leave. I had busted my ankle so was 8 months pregnant and on crutches and I was supposed to follow that procedure as well. I always thought it was such a stupid procedure as if it was a real fire, they couldn’t send the wheelies and crutchies five minutes beforehand so how was it really going to prepare them? I told the janitor that if it was a real fire, he had to carry me and my heavy belly down the three flights of stairs!

    Glad to see that everything was ok in your neck of the woods.

  5. Good job and quick thinking! I would have been the first year teacher in a panic.

    I’m pleading temporary insanity – be merciful. 🙂

  6. ahhhh, I don’t know if you remembr fire drills from you were a kid, but as I kid I LOVED them. Getting up and going outside, a break in the day, and with actual SMOKE……WOW, aside from the fact that the classromm might have gone up is flames, just how cool is THAT…..just looking at it from the perspective of a kid. Now from the perspective of a parent. You did the right thing……take em outside, then assess the smoke……

    Now back to my dark cave of thoughts regarding me life crisis. Haha. Quill……I can only laugh about this with you, the rest of the world, NO.

  7. I don’t know how many times at work I’ve said it’s better to be safe than sorry. I agree with you totally about that. And I agree with my sis that you really never do have a dull moment, do you? lol

  8. That surely was the sensible thing to do, QD. I wonder how many people have died in the past because they have been afraid of of potential embarrassment?

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