The Car Line #sol21

The Car Line #sol21

Yesterday, the car line didn’t look like this.

Most days the car line doesn’t look like this.

It looks like this only in the hopes and aspirations of all of the parties involved.

I want it to look like this.

I am a literacy specialist. I have no special training in traffic. I have slightly more training in trauma. But I have decades of experience in school car lines.

You see I’ve had car line duty since 2000. That’s right. Through two schools, six or seven principals, and how ever many days that might add up to, I have been assigned to help students get out of the car.

At my old school (AM, I owe you a dollar), I had this drop off and pick up duty with my friend, the PE teacher, every morning for nine years, we stood out on the sidewalk and help students start their day. When I moved to the east coast, I had several other duties in the afternoon, but most mornings, I have drop-off duty. It’s easy to assign a specialist to duty, he or she doesn’t usually take in students until after attendance, lunch count, etc.

Day in and day out, sun, rain, snow, cold, heat, catastrophe…. you can find me out on the sidewalk in the morning opening car door.

Car line might not be rocket science, but it is tone-setting.

There is a reason that parents drive their students to school. They need an extra minute. They want to see the child enter the building. They can’t get it together to get to the bus stop on time. They can’t get their child to get on the bus. and in these time… they want to lower the exposure to the virus. There are most likely one hundred different versions of why people make this decision, but anyway, a LOT of parents do.

Drop off evolves with any given administration, but basically ten minutes or so before the ‘tardy’ bell rings, we rush to get as many students out of the cars as possible. Even though there are a half dozen of us out there, there are too many cars and students to get into the building before the ‘tardy’ bell. It’s simple math and perhaps physics. We just can’t get them out fast enough.

Sometimes, it isn’t fast at all. We open the door to a microcosm of whatever is going on in the world of that student. All of their abilities to get going, self-regulate, organize, separate, and think positively are wedged into that twenty seconds of time between me opening the door and them moving toward the school.

In those moments, I try only to think about those two or three people in the car. I make eye contact, I say good morning. I pet the dog, undo the seat belt, grab the backpack.

I lean in and say hello, are you ready to go?

Sometimes, they aren’t…

I hold a backpack, grab a water bottle or a lunch bag, tie a shoe, and wait for just a second.

Ok, then, off we go… I say.

Most of the time we do. We get the backpack on both shoulders. Why is this so heavy???

We take the food drive food, comment on the tshirt, the sneakers, the umbrella, the haircut, ….and the pleasure of seeing you little scholar again today at school.

It’s a minor miracle.

Some parents need one last wave or word or look. Savor that, when they come home this afternoon, they will have grown in ways that you notice right away and some that will sneak up on you.

I stand on that curb and smile until I mean it. I help those families start their day every single day, Monday-Friday.

Those seconds, that’s the start of their school day. If they are tardy and go to the office, that’s ten minutes of instruction lost, an anxious child, an anxious caregiver, a disrupted teacher. If they forgot their whats-it or their favorite something-or-other, we can talk them into solutions.

Yesterday it was raining. I have professional carline rain gear. A rainbow golf umbrella, leopard spotted rain boots, and a rain jacket for almost anything crafted by those Mainers, LL Bean. I know, right? On rainy days, everything is just a little intensified. The parents don’t want their precious cargo to melt. We don’t want to get soaked. The traffic is heavier. The bus stop more problematic… and frankly everyone wanted to sleep in because it’s well, dark and rainy. Those are the days when it really matters to slow down and exercise all your patience.

It’s true. I use nearly none of my skills as a literacy specialist in the carline. It’s not rocket science. It might be more important. It’s about setting the table for our relationships with families. Setting the table for the day ahead. Being a community that cares. Relationships matter.

Today it’s raining again… I’ll be the one out there with a smile and a rainbow umbrella.

3 thoughts on “The Car Line #sol21

  1. Car line duty = CHAOS!
    Great slice, Susan. So many reasons for car lines including the fact that school buses in our area don’t pick up town kids (or there is a specified distance they must live from the school). As a former special ed. teacher, I often also had daily duties and loved my recess coat (AKA stadium coat)!

    And of course: “It’s a minor miracle.”

  2. Such an important time of day. It sounds like you set the tone beautifully. What a lucky community. This line hit home: Savor that, when they come home this afternoon, they will have grown in ways that you notice right away and some that will sneak up on you. it’s the truth.

  3. What a well crafted slice on what an outsider might think is a meaningless job – some might even complain having that job! I can relate — I love morning duties — getting them off the bus, out of the car, squirting hands with sanitizer — it’s a gift to have the time, the moment, to set the tone, to connect with kids. Thanks for such an appreciative perspective on a seemingly simple job.

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