Later my Vice Principal, who spoke a little English, came up to me. He said, “Amanda-sensei. Today, Stranger Drill. Amanda-sensei, stop stranger!” He made battle motions like I should single handedly take on the scary intruder. Then he laughed and said, “No no, Amanda-sensei run.” My JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) however was in the group of those who had to stop the stranger. Most of the men were in that group, while us girls were to run and make sure the kids were safe.
At the end of the day the P.E. teacher, who is quite tall and large put on a sweat suit on top of his clothes. He put on a baseball cap and a mask and sunglasses. I was told that he would play the part of the stranger that the students would have to run from. He them pulled out a giant blue inflatable baseball bat. This was less than intimidating, so the teachers rummaged around in a closet and produced a kendo sword.
|A typical "stranger"|
|Elementary teachers practicing how to subdue the stranger|
We all went outside to where the students had gathered for the police officer to give his report on how everyone did. Unfortunately, my kids didn’t respond well at all. My third graders (9th graders) never even left the school during the drill. They are up on the third floor and all of the action happened on the second floor (where the other two classrooms are). I think someone was supposed to alert them to evacuate the school, but since no one did and they didn’t “know” there was danger they all stayed in their classroom. Also, a large group of kids ran out the teacher’s entrance, which they are not supposed to do. They are supposed to run down the stairs closer to the classroom and then exit the school building on the first floor. I assume this is because there are no less than 3 exits on the first floor. If the stranger is not alone then someone could be blocking an exit, such as the teacher’s entrance. That way would become a dead end. But if they go down the stairs they have lots of options they can use if necessary and it would take a lot of strangers to block them all.
The kids didn’t really take it seriously, but it didn’t take long to be reminded of why they should have. The day before our drill, at another junior high school in Amakusa someone had been seen after school with a knife near the school grounds. One of the track kids had spotted the person and alerted the teachers. They called all the kids into the gym, canceled club activities for the day and told the kids to go home in large groups and to keep an eye out for anything suspicious while teachers and police searched around the school. They never found the person to my knowledge, although it was suspected that it had to do with a custody battle.
|Sasumata in the hallway|
While Stranger Drills are a big deal and should be taken seriously, I can’t help but love them. I admit that I get excited when I hear we’re going to have one. It’s just so different from anything we did back in America so I look forward to taking part in it. I never want a stranger to actually try to hurt any of my students, but I really enjoy taking part in the drills.
One other item of note: this is one of only two times I know of where it is acceptable to wear your indoor shoes outside, the other occasion being a fire drill. When we come back into the school after the drills everyone has to wash off the bottoms of their shoes to make them clean again and acceptable to be worn inside.