Being in a school lock down and using humour to heal stress was not a situation I ever thought I’d be in. My day in a semi-remote community began with grand intentions to help teachers and staff learn strategies to Play Nice in the Sandbox, and by 11 am shifted to edutaining a grade 7/8 class while their teacher stepped up to lead the school in the principal’s absence, through a few challenges including an emergency lock down.
There was a person with a firearm outside and emergency services (police) are an hour away if they’re rushing. You can imagine the tension, trepidation and timidity of the students and staff on the inside, and the parents on the outside.
I froze for a moment and wondered how I would lead this group of youth through the next period of time. How much time? I’m not a teacher of children, I’m a teacher of adults. What are they thinking? Feeling? I went to the first thought on my mind … let’s play. And so we did. We played “I’m going on a vacation, and I’m bringing (fill in a word that starts with the first letter of your name). Can I come?”, but we practiced alliteration, so you needed at least two words, and it wasn’t long before the kids were running for dictionaries to use as a resource. Then Pictionary using random words from the dictionary, then charades…they were having lots of fun, laughing, playing and to my amazement…learning.
At the end of the tense situation, there was a gathering and a debrief, culturally rooted in their Indigenous ways, and then an early dismissal with a safe escort home for all kids.
The grade 7/8 teacher that took the lead is my very solid friend Rachel. Her leadership was second nature to her, and it was very reassuring to know that she had our backs. After the school cleared out, the staff let down their suits of armour and got real about what happened. Some parents came to the school to talk about the effect that the incident had on them. It just so happened that besides myself, there was a therapist serving the school that day as well. Once everyone was well on their way to healing, Rachel and I went to our residence.
I find comfort in cooking, and Rachel loves having me work and live alongside her because of my desire to nurture with food and peaceful thinking. While I cooked, she cranked the tunes to some of our favourite songs and we sang at the top of our lungs, danced around the kitchen and even found two instruments. A broom and a mop. They were air guitars, microphones, heck they were even dance partners. We laughed so hard at each other’s silliness, trying to outdo each other with crazy dance moves and adlibbing the words to songs that we didn’t even know.
My point…humour and fun are within our control. Even though we can’t control everything in the outside world, we can make healthy choices for ourselves, and in doing so influence and lead others toward great experiences.
Today is a new day. Life is back on track here at the school. There is a sense of gratitude, faith, hope and determination to keep living, learning and laughing.
Remember, your greatest leadership day is with Penny Tremblay.