Listen: Teacher Alicia Stenard, addressing school lockdowns

Alicia Stenard



Alicia Stenard believes that a topic percolating just below the consciousness of the American public — school lockdowns — needs to be addressed. As a longtime Albany teacher, she worried about the effects lockdown drills had on her students’ psyches. Not only did the drills distract from learning but they could leave lasting scars, leading kids not to trust school as a safe place. Still, Stenard could see that the drills are needed. So she came up with a solution. She told her kindergartners a story — serious enough to get them to do the drills promptly but not frightening. It worked so well, she wrote a book, “The Elephant in the Room: A Lockdown Story,” to share with other teachers. The book is colorfully illustrated by Greg Matusic, the father of one of Stenard’s former students. The story, Stenard says, works for kids up to age 7 in the stage of Magical Thinking that allows them to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Her story tells of escaped circus elephants who roam a school seeking the children’s peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches but, as the students perform their lockdown drill, the elephants, monkeys, and ponies are safely lured away by clowns bearing peanuts. In this week’s podcast, Stenard shares more than her light-hearted story; she shares her deep concerns about modern children’s anxieties and also shares ways parents as well as teachers can help their kids deal with stress.

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