“Win the day” is a popular slogan in sports and is now creeping into education. When I began my last job, a wise veteran principal told me, “Don’t lose the car line.” He mentioned that he was out front every morning greeting parents and keeping his finger on the pulse of the parking lot gossip.
I was coming from high school where parents rejoice when the students can drive themselves! I had very little interaction with parents in the morning when I was in a high school environment.
But I found that the car line is the front line of a Catholic elementary school and it’s important to be there as much as possible. It’s crucial to building community.
Good things happen when you’re in the car line:
- You might hear of a death in the family and can share your sympathy.
- It’s a chance to see parents with their kids. Sometimes the struggles of a child make more sense when you see the parents. And sometimes the love shown by an attentive parent warms your heart.
- Sometimes you earn an ally as you share your struggles with a child’s behavior in an informal setting.
- You might catch wind of a potential controversy or bit of gossip. Not that I would ever look for gossip but if a parent approaches and says, for example, “I hear that you’re going to cut a teaching position,” you can nip it in the bud immediately.
- You might strike up a conversation and find common ground.
- Or you might be blown away to find out a little bit of a family’s story. One family came to the United States from Vietnam in a boat. Another family suffered a horrible tragedy in a fire.
I am not the most approachable person in the world. But when parents saw me every day, they figured out what made me tick and we found ways to connect. I made friends. We laughed. They asked for advice. It was real.
Try to win the car line. It might be the best part of your day.