Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do As I Say Not As I Do

An interesting thing has happened at school this week. After weeks of battling with some of the yard supervisors about the kids safety, and explaining to the kids that the teachers and volunteers at the school are the bosses and need to be respected, the leash seems to have loosened. When one adult to tried to stop about 60 kids from marching likes ants in formation on the snowbank that lines the school yard, the science teacher stepped in and asked her "What's the harm? It's actually pretty cool!" Most of our teachers and volunteers are truly great. She was absolutely right! It was cool! Nobody told them to do it, they just spontaneously joined in. I really wished I had my camera that day. It was awesome!

Now that the kids seem to be allowed to be kids again back there, the focus has shifted this week to the parking lot at the front of the school. Our school has sort of a horseshoe shaped driveway in front, where the drop-off and pick-up area is. All the kids on foot are funneled through a little crosswalk near the entrance, between the teacher's lot and the the driveway, and walk along a sidewalk at the front of the school. We are required to escort our kindergarten kids right to their gated yard, which is also in this driver's staging area. The driveway is wide enough for a bus and two cars, with a row of parking on the left-hand side.  Even though there are signs, orange cones and usually one or two people directing traffic, you're aren't going to get anywhere fast if you drive, especially on inclement weather days. That's one of the reasons we walk as often as possible. It's quicker. Walking to school is also better for our us. We're trying to develop healthy habits in our kids so walking makes sense. I also always thought it was safer too, until this week.

There are two signs at both parking lot entrances that look something like the ones below. "Do Not Enter" and "One Way".  Drivers are to enter at one end, pick-up or drop-off their kids, and then exit at the other end. The flow of traffic might not move very fast, and yes, there are occasionally arguments when someone abandons their car to run out and pick-up little Johnny or Jenny, but to the credit of all the drivers, everyone seems to obey the very basic commend that traffic shall flow in only one direction. Until this week - and it's the teachers who seem to be staging the revolt.

While tempting fate and letting the kids play in the snow in front of the school, we watched one teacher pull out of one of the front parking spots and drive the wrong way out the entrance. Wow, I thought, that was weird. She didn't use the reserved and partly empty teacher's lot, and she went the wrong way. Must be a supply teacher I reasoned.

If that was a one-off scenario I'd let it go, but seven separate times this week, we've watched teachers get into their cars in the Teacher's lot at the side of the school, and drive out the entrance instead of the exit. Granted, it's a much shorter route, and takes much less time than waiting to get through the chaos. It would probably be harmless if there weren't any kids around. All but once there was a yard full of kids and an ant line of cars waiting to chauffeur them home. Twice the teacher-driven vehicles even came face to face with buses trying to get in.

As part of their journey to independence, I'm teaching the kids to be aware of their environment and keep their heads up. People do dumb things, including adults, and accidents can happen even when we think we're being very careful. Just because there's a stop sign at the corner doesn't mean every car is going to stop, for example, so we wait until the cars have stopped until we step off the curb. No big deal and not a fearful thing, just common sense. They're learning that they shouldn't count on anyone else to keep them safe.

I think there's an important point to be made here. These are teachers at school, disregarding safety rules in front of the kids. The kids aren't dumb, they see who's driving the cars, and ask me why they aren't following the rules. I don't really have an answer for them. I don't want to go charging into the school to complain but, when one of those drivers turned out twice to be the snow angel lady, I had to do it.

If my kid isn't safe lying on the snow in his snowsuit, he's certainly not safe when he has to dodge teachers driving erratically through the parking. An outrageous overstatement? Absolutely!! But this is the snow angel lady, after all!


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