The bell rang for fifth hour. Leah Plante shut her door and yelled at her class. "Hey! Sit down and shut your mouths! We have a lot to do today, and you'll have homework if you don't sit down and be quiet! Let's go, class."
The class of eighth graders sat down and was silent. "Thank you. Aliysha, would you please pass out the journals and Paulie would you help her?" She told two students.
Leah tapped her Promethean Board, a computerized touch- screen notebook. Their agenda appeared and she read off the topic she wanted them to write about. "Now, since we went to the Holocaust museum in Skokie last Wednesday, I want you to write a memo on the trip. What it was like, what was in it, what you thought. I want you to write about the Holocaust museum. I will give you ten minutes. Go!"
The students scrambled to get their pens out. They wrote as the intercom bleeped on. Mrs. Machalan talked into the mic. "Teachers, I'm sorry for the interruption. I just sent you an email. Please check your inbox immediately. Thank you."
Leah opened her inbox and read the email. As usual, it was to notify the teachers about a soft lock-down. The teacher sighed. "Of course," she muttered.
The class was quiet the rest of the hour. Leah was thankful for that. The bell rang and she dismissed her class. Sometimes fifth hour was a pain, others were a breeze.
A student named Kaitlyn ushered her back inside the classroom. "Come on," she yelled into the hallway.
Leah was dazed for a minute. "What's going on?"
She looked her in the eye. "Ms. Plante, Mr. Polyfrank just screamed at us to go back in your room. Are we under lock-down?"
They both heard the beeping coordinates for code blue. Panic seized Leah's heart. "Oh my gosh. Kaitlyn, get every last student into this class and tell them to get under their desks. On their bellies, and have it silent. Get Mr. Polyfrank to help you."
"Ms. Plante, aren't you supposed to be doing this?" Kaitlyn asked her teacher.
"Yeah, but I'm going to call the office and see what's going on. I'm not sure if this is a drill or not. I'm counting on you. Okay?" She was shaking, trembling, and trying not to go into shock.
"Yes, ma'am." She waved everyone into the class and the principal helped her. "Come on, you guys! Let's go."
Leah dialed the main office's number and heard a disconnection tone. She stayed calm and tried again. "Come on, Joanie. Please pick up. Please," She pleaded softly with the telephone. She set the phone down on its cradle and tried again. "What?" Joanie hissed into the phone.
"Is this the real thing? A real code blue? Why didn't anyone else release their class? Is there a gunman in the school?" Leah rattled off a list of questions she needed to know.
"Yes this is real. We sent out one beep to every teacher's phone. That's the signal for 'no release.' How stupid are you?" Joanie's remark pierced Leah's heart, but she kept a steady tone.
"Okay, why didn't I get it," the girl asked.
"Maybe you need to control your class and get them to be quiet. Do you know anything?" Ms. Kissing's response again sliced her soul, but she said "thanks" and hung up the phone. Leah pulled a chair out in front of her class and waited for them to settle down. She talked in a low tone and hoped to soothe them.
"Ladies and gentlemen, relax. I apologize I didn't hear the beep for 'no release' in the class. You guys were real quiet. I'm sorry for not hearing it and risking your lives. Now, we need to be silent. Get off your seats and lie on your bellies on the floor. Guard your head. I assure you it'll be just fine. If you stay quiet like you did today. Whatever happens, if we have school tomorrow, no homework for fifth hour." Leah slipped off her stool and onto the floor by a student named Abe. She heard students panting because they were scared. The teacher winced at the sound and wished she could calm them. If only her students could hear her thoughts, then maybe they'd know she really did care.