Karma. The Big K. I knew it was going to happen one day. Eventually, Karma gets everyone.
My Karma showed up with a phone call one afternoon from our school district superintendent. It was a couple of weeks after Columbine.
It was completely unexpected when the superintendent called late on a Thursday afternoon.
You already know a lot of cops and you know how to work with different systems. Say goodbye to your students tomorrow. New assignment on Monday. I want you to figure out what to do before a Columbine happens here.
Monday morning I reported to my new boss, a tall, lanky, curly grey hair administrator with cowboy boots. He was also ADD and Bi-Polar (and very open about it, so no confidentiality is being violated) which, in comparison, made me look like a quiet English teacher armed with little more than a red pen.
I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve him, but the SWAT teams always wanted to know if I was getting hazardous duty pay for working with him.
No hazardous duty pay in education, but I learned more from him than I ever could have imagined, so that was not my Karma gotcha. It came a bit later, after we had one of the first Columbine simulations with over 600 police, teachers, administrators and students.
We didn’t even know what we didn’t know.
I was handed the task of developing procedures and a training for staff at twelve high schools. Topic: what to do in an active shooter situation and integrate it with the new First Responder Training for Police.
The first challenge was getting everyone in the same book and more or less on the same page.
As one of my law enforcement colleagues complained, Collaboration used to mean we got to do it our way.
And now it’s an unnatural act between two non-consenting adults. Let’s make this work.
Quick comebacks are the mainstay of high school teachers.
I had almost forgotten about Karma, and then it got me.
I had spent a career being the bane of staff presenters. I knew every game possible to avoid being at these meetings. Or, if completely trapped, I could feign interest while being a thousand miles away, usually at some beach. Or playing a game with another bored colleague. Anything to avoid listening to another presentation.
And now, I was the presenter.
All of which proves there is a Karma Goddess with a very wicked sense of humor.
I wrote; I re-wrote; I revised. I practiced until I had the timing down cold and could end the training within a minute of its allotted time. There was humor interspersed to keep the anxiety level down, even though I had always been a poor to middling joke teller. I had the poor young police officer co-presenting with me practicing until he thought I was truly mad.
I still remember the first Code Red Training, in front of a hundred or so colleagues. I had never presented to adult audiences; teenagers, yes; colleagues, oh no.
Within a minute or so, both the officer and I realized this was not going to a typical school presentation. The teachers, classified personnel and even administrators were starving for the information and, at the same time, terrified to hear it. You could have heard a pin drop in the room, except for the nervous laughter at our initial attempts at humor. It was the most attentive audience I had ever witnessed.
We had expected that it would take over a year to get the one hour training and follow up drill into the twelve high schools in our district as it’s virtually impossible to schedule a staff training once the yearly calendar was set. This time, the entire district was trained and had conducted drills in under six weeks.
That led to training 300 more schools citywide…and, heading down a new career path, I realized that sometimes Karma can also be a new best friend.