If you have ever had carpool duty as a school employee, you know how stressful it can be. There is a long line of parents who make jokes, tik toks, and memes about how they sit in carpool lines for what seems like hours to them. The teachers are trying to wrap up the day make sure all 25+ students have everything they need to go home. Busses are driving in as dismissal starts, and there are after school activities that are organized for students to go as well. You may be a school that gathers their students in one location to be dismissed or carpool students stay in their classroom. Either way, dismissal needs to happen. Students need to go somewhere safely (bus, afterschool care, club, carpool, etc) during this time. Why is it so important for you to have a plan?
For me, that answer was mental health. I could have had an amazing day... My lessons could have flowed without a hitch. My students could have had the best light bulb moments ever. My lunch could have actually been eaten in silence (those of you with lunch duty, you know what I am talking about), and the weather could have been perfect for recess. All of these things could have lined up perfectly, but if I end it with chaos, I am taking that stress and anxiety home with me to remember about my day.
If I end my day yelling through a megaphone, asking parents to please give me some ID, or trying to organize kids who don't know where to go when they have just been told to stand outside because their ride might show up in the next 30 minutes, then my amazing day has just been erased by dismissal chaos.
Being a teacher is rewarding, but stressful. If there are things that I can do to take ANY of those stressors away, I do them without hesitation. So, why do we as teachers hesitate with putting things in place to end the day strong? We shouldn't. We should make sure that we finish that day confidently and without a hitch, just like my perfect day was described. And who knows? Maybe if I had a really bad day, but the end of the day dismissal was so organized, I might even rethink how my day went because I feel so good about the end.
Sit down with your carpool dismissal team and brainstorm. What would help us at the end of the day?
We did this. We even talked about our vision to make it happen. We came up with a safety plan. We came up with a plan to make things move faster. We came up with a plan for students and parents. We talked about every scenario. We talked about the pros and cons, and lastly, we talked about how to make this happen. We documented this so that we could put this into place and anyone who joins our team would feel better because we had a plan.
We took our plan and organized it. We had a location picked out for all students to go to after school. We labeled all of the areas of this location. We had a place for each grade level to be, we had locations for staff and volunteers to help, and we had labeled the flow so each person knew where to go. We also had a "loading zone" for students whose drivers were close in line, and we organized each spot for students. Maps, labels, and color codes were necessary for all of this. Next, we organized the drivers. We created signs, spaces, and spots for drivers to pull in when their student may be taking too much time or because they didn't have the proper ID to pick up a student. We organized the spaces we were using and made sure that worked by doing a trial run and talking through everything. It may seem overboard, but truly, you can't be too organized when you are trying to safely dismiss 3-12-year-olds.
All of the above organization does us no good if we don't communicate any of it. We presented it in staff meetings before school started, we mapped it out and posted it on the website for parents. We made sure that PTA had been given our plan, and asked them to communicate with friends, social media, etc. We wanted everyone to be on board and know what was going on. When it came time for school to start, we communicated it to students. Luckily for us, students are amazing at receiving communication and doing what is asked, as long as it is clear to them. After a few conversations, and run-throughs (especially for our kindergarten babies), the students knew expectations.
After all of that, enjoy the fruits of your labor. Put a smile on your face and know that things come together with a plan. I'm not saying that every single day will go without flaws, but the vast majority will. Having this in place will help you not feel as frazzled every single day. It will help your mental space by knowing expectations for different situations.
As teachers, we have enough stressful things that we can't plan for. There is no reason that dismissal and end of the day chaos have to define our good days. We need to end the day in the best mental space possible, and having a great dismissal plan will help that more than you know.