Recently on social media, people have been sharing a news article about a teacher’s aide thwarting a would-be kidnapping. The gist of the story is that while driving to work, a teacher’s aide noticed a girl from her school sitting in the front seat of a vehicle with a man she didn’t recognize. The aide believed that the girl seemed scared and the situation just didn’t sit right with her. After talking with the girl and man, the aide then blocked in the vehicle, told the girl to get out, and called the police. If you’re interested in reading it, the article can be found here.
To break this down, we will look at and analyze each step as it occurred.
The first lesson is mindfulness and appropriate level of awareness. The teacher’s aide, Sandra Ferguson, was on her way to work when she spotted the girl in the vehicle. This shows me that Ms. Ferguson was using mindfulness to observe her surroundings and her level of awareness was relaxed. If Ms. Ferguson was tuned out and mindlessly driving to work, she would have most likely missed the cues that originally caught her attention.
The second lesson is baseline and anomaly recognition. Once Ms. Ferguson observed the girl in the vehicle, she immediately recognized that the girl’s behavior was not what it should have been. Being a teacher’s aide, she must have countless mental file folders of how children behave (we will go into greater detail on this concept in the next post). She used these file folders as a baseline of how the girl should be acting. With this experience, Ms. Ferguson was able to rapidly detect an anomaly: the uncomfortable behavior the girl was displaying. We don’t have to be experts in behavioral analysis to detect anomalies. We just need to pay attention and use what we already know. The method starts with a baseline, from which we can then detect anomalies. Once you see an anomaly, you need to make a decision on your course of action. With that being said, as with anything, having training will significantly help the process and accuracy of our findings.
The third lesson is creating a plan. Once you move from relaxed awareness to focused awareness because you’ve detected an anomaly, it’s time to start creating a plan for what you are going to do in case you need to move into high alert. It’s clear to me that Ms. Ferguson did create a plan. However, from what I’ve read, it appears that she overlooked some vital aspects to her and the girl’s safety. Although her plan worked, it was less than optimal. By maneuvering her vehicle in front of the man’s, it shows Ms. Ferguson thought that the man might try to flee with the girl and she planned not to let that happen. Which, as we know, was successful. The problem with her plan is that it appears she didn’t think or plan for any variables, such as if the man were to attack her in order to get away. Luckily in this instance, that wasn’t the case. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have done what she did, just that we need to think further ahead than one step. Here are some questions to ask: How will he respond when I talk to the girl? What if he attacks me or has a weapon? What if he drives off or rams my car/me? What can I use as means for self defense? When should I call the police?
Creating a plan is a very important part of the process. In all actuality, you should have most of these questions answered prior to getting to this point. You can accomplish this in your free time by doing what’s called a 5 minute drill. This is basically working through “what if” scenarios and formulating plans for these scenarios. Do this so that when something happens you don’t have to spend a lot of time coming up with a response, you already have a basic response and can adapt it from there. It would be near impossible to have a plan for every scenario, the solution is to have a general plan that covers as many circumstances as possible.
A quick review:
1) Practice mindfulness and use the appropriate level of awareness
2) Having a baseline is key to recognizing anomalies
3) Create a plan and adapt it to the circumstances