Dismissal and the Parking Lot

Posted by Ian P. Kelly, M.Ed.

Over the years I have spent countless hours discussing safety in our school’s parking lot. The congestion and lack of available parking are issues that have been with us for a long time. The fundamental problem is that the parking lot was never meant to accommodate a school of our size. Presently there are just over 100 designated parking spaces available to accommodate a faculty of approximately 100 professionals and over 400 families. Roughly 50% of our students ride buses home or take transportation to after school programs in town. That leaves over 300 students who dismiss to parents and families using the parking lot.

It goes without saying that the physical capacity of the lot is woefully short of what the school would need in order to provide adequate parking for the number of vehicles and people that we need to move through the lot in a safe and efficient manner. While this is a real limitation, it should not be used as an excuse to disregard clearly defined rules and procedures in the parking lot. I understand these limitations and the inconvenience that comes with them. When it is ten degrees and snowing it can be a difficult choice to park across the street and walk to the front door instead of parking illegally in a much closer location. That being said, the decision to park illegally is a conscientious choice on the part of a parent or family member between personal convenience and compromising their own safety and that of others.

Recognizing this limitation, we, as a community, have to work with what we have and make every effort to maintain safety. Over the years I have worked closely with my staff in coordination with town officials to do everything in our control to maximize safety and efficiency in the lot. I have implored parents to think about safety first. I have put letters on windshields, collected license plate numbers and turned them over to the police department, closed the lot, and re-directed traffic. At the end of the day, I don’t have the human resources to staff the parking lot and monitor compliance with our policies and procedures and we do not have space to add an additional 75 spaces. I would argue that, even if we did have the resources to do these things, parents would prefer that resource be directed towards teaching and learning.

No intervention, policy, or procedure will ensure safety and that is because safety is primarily a function of choice. This is a reality because, simply put, I can’t control the choices people make. I can provide information and guidance. I can reiterate my concerns. At the end of the day individuals weigh the information they have with their desires and impulses and they choose. Compliance with policies and procedures that are designed to ensure safety is a choice and all I have is the power to ask that the members of this community choose safety over convenience.

How do kids learn to work together?

Posted by Ian Kelly and Heather Smith



In our last post, we focused on independent work skills and provided guidance as to how families can support the development of those skills. In this post, we continue to focus on skills identified by the ROSP and turn our attention to working well in groups.

The ability to work well in a group is a life skill that takes time for children to master but is one that will take them beyond the walls of the classroom.  As with learning any new skill, “failure” is an important part of this process.  Children have to take social risks in order to learn from their mistakes.  No matter how well we try to prepare our children, there are things that they have to learn for themselves.  Navigating social relationships and working with others towards a common goal is simply one of those things.

Works well in a group

  1. Embedded Skills

    • Social negotiation:  Social negotiation is the ability to try to understand another person’s perspective and compromise, when appropriate.

    • Self-regulation: Children learn how to regulate and manage their emotions by learning strategies to deal with them.

  2. Strategies

    • Social negotiation: The art of negotiation is a skill that we want all children to develop.  Depending on whether or not your child has siblings, you are likely observing social negotiations every day at home (and maybe sometimes you act as the arbitrator)!  When your child is at school working collaboratively in a group, she is learning how to work with others towards a common goal and work through conflicts along the way.  In school, we try to teach children about the roles they can play in the process by assigning them “roles” to perform within a group.  For example, we might tell students that one student is responsible for keeping the group on task while another might be the “peacekeeper” etc.  One of the reasons that young children take time to learn these skills is due to their cognitive development.  According to Piaget, children remain in an egocentric (or preoperational) stage of development until about age 7 (one in which they focus on themselves and have difficulty taking on someone else’s perspective).  This doesn’t mean that they are incapable of understanding how another person feels but does mean that they need a good deal of coaching from caring adults who can ask good questions and help them try to identify another person’s perspective.  Asking questions such as: “How do you think your friend feels about this?”  or “How would you feel if you were in this situation?” can help.  If they are playing with another peer and encounter conflict, you might try to help them find a “common ground” where both parties can make a compromise.  You can also try to help your child with this by encouraging him/her to take turns with a peer (or sibling) or offer a peer help whenever possible

    • Self-regulation: It hurts to see our children upset.  Our instincts drive us to make the situation better for our children and, after all, we want them to be happy!  But dealing with frustration is part of growing up.  Instead of removing your child from an undesirable situation, coach them through it.  If your child is upset because everyone in her group is using the crayon she needs (we’re sure you’ve never had to deal with that one before), ask her: “How are you feeling about that and what can you do about it?”  Children could try a number of strategies in this situation: try taking a deep breath, ask a friend when they will done with the crayon, move on to something else that she can accomplish, etc.