On a recent Friday, I experienced something for the very first time: the carpool pickup line. Being a teacher, I never had a reason to be in the car line before. When my own children were students, we arrived at school early and we left late. The car line was completely unfamiliar to me. Until I had a Freaky Friday type experience and the teacher/parent role was reversed …

The 5th -8th grade teachers were provided with substitutes so that we could attend the morning sessions of our Great Conversation Series guest speaker event. Since the sessions ended at 11:30 am, we had free time until the afternoon luncheon session, so, of course, we headed to Starbucks for the hour. Sanctioned leaving of school during school hours for coffee and camaraderie? Yes, please. 

As we returned to the campus before the end of the school day and rounded the corner, there it was: the immovable snake of steel, a stationary line of stand-still traffic. And we were in it. There was no going forward, no going back. We were trapped. The other two teachers in the car hopped out (almost gleefully, I will add, with a quick “Bye, Mom!”) to trek on foot the rest of the way to help with dismissal. 

I sat all alone in a seemingly endless train of vehicles. Motionless metal. Static cars. I felt claustrophobic. I fidgeted. I dug in my purse. I wondered how much longer! What was I to do? Then I glanced at the clock.  My heart sank. 

It was only 12:19. Eleven minutes until the line would come alive and begin to move. I knew that much. I knew students were in the busy throes of pack up and their siblings would not all arrive from their various locations to their designated dismissal classrooms until then. I knew at that moment what was happening on the other side and that no matter how many cars pulled up, the line would not begin to budge until 12:30. 

Eleven minutes. I kept drinking my coffee — which earlier seemed like a symbol of freedom, of reprieve. Even though my liquid capacity was already met, I just kept swigging away.  I couldn’t tell the students to hurry with their packing or rush the siblings to their destination spots. I would have to wait. 

Ah, just then, I saw a flicker of movement as adults began appearing under the awning. A few students appeared… and ever so slightly, movement, glorious movement, and then beautifully, wonderfully, the line began to move.

As I drove into the parking lot, I was filled with thoughts of joy and freedom, but also of the realization of the importance of being in someone else’s shoes (or vehicle!). Seeing, feeling, and knowing their perspective. Empathy. Understanding. Experiencing the other side. Learning to view things from the eyes of another. Less self-focus. Listening. Learning. Truly hearing.  

So, the Freaky Friday switch was a healthy reminder to remember to think about life and experiences from others’ points of view. And, it was a good learning experience for me:

Next time, car line, I will be more prepared … less coffee, more audio books!

By Stephanie Boss, CCS 5th Grade Teacher