In the event of…

Lessons we didn’t learn when we were young

Children take part in a drill for a rocket attack in southern Israel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Children take part in a drill for a rocket attack in southern Israel
THE DIFFERENCES in the school education systems often dominate conversations amongst parents here in Israel. New immigrants from all over the world talk about the far more casual, laid-back and informal school system here, especially for primary school children. There is no school uniform, homework isn’t a priority at all at the age of twelve, projects seem to be completed in groups and there certainly isn’t much pressure at this level when it comes to class marks. There is no doubt that this changes the closer pupils reach “bagrut,” (matriculation level).
So, I was taken by surprise this week, when my twelve-year old son told me about the lessons they’d been having on how to respond “in certain situations”. What exactly did he mean? He went on to explain – with great excitement – that certain children had been chosen to lead the class, as a type of marshal, in the event of an ‘emergency’. These were divided into several so-called “situations.”
In the event of a terror attack.
Wait for instructions from teachers.
In the event of rocket sirens.
Go straight to the bomb shelter downstairs.
In the event of fire alarms.
Leave the premises, as directed by the teachers.
In the event of an earthquake.
Leave the premises – stay seated at a certain location, as instructed.
In the event of a “harmful” situation.
Wait for instructions from police or security guards.
Sure, I remember having “evacuation fire drills” when we were young. The school bell would ring several times in a row, we’d all leave class in single file and then wait on the school field until “roll call” had been taken. Once everyone in the school was accounted for, we’d return to class so lessons could resume. But I don’t remember young pupils being lectured about how to respond in a range of different scenarios. And I certainly don’t recall any young children being trained or coached about how to help in such cases.
Perhaps this is where the focus lies at this age? While children don’t seem to worry about their class grades, they are being taught about some pretty grown up scenarios – situations one can only hope they’ll never have to experience. But the reality is sobering. Children are very much in the loop about world events – or at least events in the Middle East. They know about the ongoing tensions on the Gaza border, the rockets that have been launched into southern parts of the country, the burning kites and balloons that are being sent into the country and the tensions that continue to intensify on the northern border with Syria.
Many young children receive the same SMS “news alerts” that adults do, wellaware that if the sirens in your city go off, you have just 15 seconds to race to a shelter or basement.
Children know exactly what to do if a siren goes off while you are in an apartment building, and there are no adults around at the time. They know how to respond if they are in a bus or a train with friends at the time. And clearly, they are being taught what to do if sirens are heard while they are in class. These are lessons one wishes one doesn’t need a child to learn, but they are a necessary and real part of the education system, for people of all ages.
New word of the week
Emergency – Hey-room!
News term of the week
Iron Dome (Kipat Barzel) –  Israeli defense system that intercepts missiles being launched at the country
Smile of the week
Chatting to a friend about how we wanted to take the children out of school a few days early, for a family simcha. She warned me that the school might refuse? When I emailed the teacher the request, she replied: “Of course. Mazeltov to your whole family!”