Fire drills in Alaska are a bad choice.

Sometimes, I substitute teach at one of the Glennallen schools.
It’s an adventure.

Today, I was “Mrs. H,” the elementary librarian. But Mrs. H is so much more than that.
She tutors different groups of kids all over the school… a half hour working with six graders on their math (WHO thought THAT was a good idea for me?), a half hour working with second graders on their writing, half hour with first grade reading, etc.

Oh… and recess duty. Cold, snowy recess duty.

But the best part of the day today was when I had the kindergarteners.
There had been a rumor circulating that a fire drill was going to be held. I don’t know how the rumor got started, but I find it convenient, since it allowed all the kids (and teachers!) to keep their coats handy rather than in their lockers in anticipation of the bell. So, when the kindergarteners came tromping into “my” library ready to read a story, I wasn’t surprised when they all wore their snow boots and had big coats slung over their shoulders (or heads, or legs, or their neighbor’s head or legs…). Fortunately, the teachers had mercy on me (a poor, inexperienced substitute teacher!) and split the kids in half… I had six kids in the first group, and five in the second.

We tried to read a book about wind. “When the Wind Blows,” it’s called. And it’s supposed to be an interesting book, but it just couldn’t capture their attention.

“Windmills are big machines that spin around and around and make electricity,” I read.
“One time our electricity went out, and my little brother went nuts!” a five-year-old announced. “He had a heart attack!”
This was hilarious to the rest of the kids.
“That’s nice,” I said, glad we were at least, somewhat, on the same subject. I pressed on.
“What makes flags fly? The wind. What makes our kites fly?”
“He stole my seat!” said someone, pointing accusingly.
“I like her seat better,” was the only defense.
“That was a bad choice,” nodded an onlooker knowingly.
“So, sometimes the wind blows the snow, and it makes a blizzard!” I offered.

“Do you know what my name is?” asked one little girl.
“No, what?”
“Veronica. It has a V in it.”
“That’s nice.”
“My name doesn’t have a V in it!” someone announced.
“Mine does.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Yes it does!”
“No more arguing, kids,” I told them.
“Yes, arguing is a bad choice!” said Veronica.
“Okay, guys, let’s talk about the wind!” I suggested. “What happens when we stand on the beach and the wind is blowing the sand against our legs?”
“I’ve never been to a beach,” one little guy stated mournfully.
“Me, either,” said someone else. A chorus of “me, eithers” followed.

You poor children, I thought, but out loud I said, “Well, it stings your legs. That’s what happens.”
A couple of kids across the table from me were whispering, but I let it go.
“Sometimes the wind blows sand against rocks, and it makes the rocks smooth and pretty,” I told them.
“JOHNNY SAID BUTT!” hollered one of the whispering kids. The other one looked at me guiltily.
“That was a bad choice,” one of the kids who’s name didn’t have a V in it told Johnny.
“Johnny, let’s not say words like that. Let’s talk about wind.”

Two pages later I gave up and broke out the crayons and coloring paper. Everyone was happier.

The second group came tripping into the room, still dragging their huge coats along with them (I swear, some of these kindergarteners looked like they were borrowing a coat that belonged to their dad.) They “settled” into their seats (or some version of settling) as I launched into my story about the wind. These kids listened a little better… or at least, they talked less.

But once again the crayons came out, and once again the kids were happier coloring than learning about what a hurricane was.
“I think I’m done,” announced one cute little guy, holding up a very plain looking Thanksgiving turkey.
“Hmm, why don’t you add some color to it?” I asked him.
“Okay!” he cheerfully agreed. He searched the table until he found just the right shade of blue, added a bit of it to the turkey’s beak, then dropped the crayon on the table.
“Okay, NOW I think I’m done!” he said.
“Welll…. I think you could add five more colors to it.”
“Okay!” He was nothing if not agreeable. “ONE…” he chose a pink crayon and scribbled with it a bit. “TWO…” some green. “THREE…” some yellow. “FFF…FF…- what number is this?”
“I think it’s four.”
“Yes. FOUR…”
Two colors later, he definitely thought he was done.
“Good job, buddy,” I told him. “Now why don’t you write your name on the t-”


All six of us almost fell out of our seats.
“PUT ON YOUR COATS!” I tried to tell them over the alarm, leaping for my own coat. They quickly lined up at the door, and as they trotted past I tried to help them get adjusted. Their coats were everywhere… arms in the wrong holes, inside out… one coat was on upside down. They looked hilarious.
NO, I told myself, You can not let the giggles get in the way of getting kindergartners out during a fire drill.
Since the priority was getting outside, though, I hustled them to the door (where, fortunately, their teacher met me) and THEN helped them zip and button and snap themselves into some semblance of warmth.

They lined up outside, hopping back and forth to keep warm.
Apparently, someone hadn’t had enough excitement, though…
“IT’S A REAL FIRE!” they announced.
A panic set into the entire kindergarten class at large.
“NO, IT’S NOT!” their teacher broke in. “It’s just a drill!”
“No, we couldn’t have!”
“Johnny said poop!”

Yay, kids!



  1. gotta love kids…..teaching middle school is basically the same except that the words they tattle on each other for saying are worse. 🙂

  2. LOL…oh this is so my life as a nanny. I don’t think I’ve had a lunch where someone didn’t end up spilling something, telling on someone, or crying.

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