You know those days when the traffic jam at dismissal time at your elementary school feels like the parking lot after an NFL game. And you think this might finally be the day when there’s a full on mom fistfight. Well, this principal might just have the answer. Paula Jones, this principal at Davidson Elementary in Lexington, North Carolina, says their dismissal protocol works like a well-oiled machine—90 percent of the time anyway. Here is how she describes it.”
At our school, we teach dismissal procedures from the first day. The classroom teachers work hard the first week of school teaching procedures, and the kids seem to enjoy the process of the routine. Parents know they must send in written documentation when a change is occurring for pickup purposes, and the office staff then notifies classroom teachers. Students know at they should check their agendas, get their backpacks, and pack up. Bus riders line up in the hall, while car riders line up in the classroom next to the door. Certain staff members always take car riders out to the back lot where other staff members monitor students. Classroom teachers take the students to the bus lot and ensure they get on the correct bus. On an ideal day, it works like magic …
Here are some tips that can make your dismissal go more smoothly.
Dismissal routines have to be flexible.
No matter how clear your dismissal routine, some days Olivia’s going to throw up on the way to the bus lot. When kids get sick, routines get tossed out the window as well. Find yourself the most adaptable attitude you can muster and roll with the punches. Even better, early in the year, ask your team to brainstorm possible scenarios and how to manage them. This way, you’ve got a plan for most eventualities.
Use every forgotten item as a point of learning.
Martine forgets her lunch box on the playground; Xavier says he’s supposed to be a car rider today, but the teacher has no note. Kids are learning about routines, and they are rarely in control of most parts of their lives. Notes from home, lunch boxes, coats, and even shoes are going to be forgotten or lost. Hold it together and try to find the lesson in these issues. Always try to remember that students need to feel safe at school, and it’s your job to show them they can trust you. Be kind, always.
Prioritize and triage during dismissal.
Everyone is tired at the end of the day. This is a time when students (and teachers) may hit a wall. It’s not surprising to have one or two conflicts break out right before kids head out the door. Do your best to prioritize by severity while keeping your eye on the things that can go right. Spectators will be more than happy to give you the scoop in the morning. So, make sure you’ve taken inventory of the handful of those reliable eyewitnesses to chat with tomorrow. For now, they’ve got a bus to catch.
Be prepared for all circumstances at school dismissal.
Dismissal time is the one time, besides assemblies, that you’ll need to manage the entire school at once. This means all hands on deck. Since you need everyone, it also means you don’t have time to go get wipes, tissues, pencils, cell phones, or even hair elastics. So put together fanny packs with all this stuff for the people roaming the halls and keeping the world in order. This would be a great PTO ask.
Remember that teachers are human.
When kids show up for dismissal without the things they need, it’s easy to feel mad at the teacher who didn’t follow up. But hold that thought because teachers are chasing after more than 25 kids at the same time. It’s not an easy balance for anyone. We’re all in this together, and the more we remember that, the better our students will be for it.
At the end of the day, we’re all doing our best to make decisions quickly and efficiently for all. We make sure our students are safe, cared for, and get home as they should.
How do you make this easier at your school? Share in the comments.