Traffic Duty Is Punishment For Parents

POSTED BY JESSE

I feel the need to preface this by saying I love the girls’ school. In addition to being a place that is both academically challenging and supportive, it is a great community. Much like my relationship with Danny’s family has grown and become a bright spot in the darkness of Lisa’s passing, I have been blessed and delighted and thankful and honored to become part of the St. Timothy’s community. And we are eternally indebted to the school: the support and shared grief through Lisa’s illness and death could be felt every day and continues to be. Its walls, its staff, and its students have been a true safe haven for DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle.

But I do not like traffic duty. I do not know the full logistics behind traffic duty, nor its purpose, nor its origin. I can only assume that it is founded in sound logic, because it existed (and probably even began) when Lisa was working there. If it had been totally useless I have no doubt she would have crusaded against it and had it eradicated, much the way she did the cumbersome risers in our church’s Christmas pageant. She would not have stood for anything this illogical (from my perspective), so I can naturally conclude there must be a practical reason for it. Maybe.

Not if I keep driving back and forth to school I won't

Here is what traffic duty looks like to an uninformed uncle: students in grades 6-8 (thanks goodness it doesn’t include 5th grade or we’d have two involved) are assigned by homeroom to “traffic duty” for the week. I am certain each homeroom’s week only comes up for duty once a quarter at most, but would you believe me if I said it feels like we have it every other week?

The student has to be there at 7:30 a.m.  instead of the usual time, 7:55 a.m. (that’s if Danny’s driving, more like 8:05 when I’m running the shuttle). Understandably the school does not have bus routes to and from school, so this of course means at least one parent also must rise half an hour earlier. And for parents with multiple children (that don’t happen to be twins in the same homeroom)? Well here are your options:

  1. One parent leaves at 7:20 to take the “traffic duty” kid to school, the other parent drives a second shift at 7:40 (that would be two cars leaving the same house for the same destination, 20 minutes apart).
  2. One parent takes the “traffic duty” kid while the other preps the younger siblings, then sends them out to be picked up by the parent who drove the first kid (that would be one car making the same trip twice, 20 minutes apart)
  3. You take the whole crew early and make the other two wait (not a lot of fun to roll everyone’s morning routine back 30 minutes for a week, and it probably means you’re either a) springing for breakfast at Panera to keep the non-”traffic duty”-bound kids happy or b) dropping off cranky kids at school. Or both. Enjoy that, teachers!)

And if you’re truly a single parent of multiple kids or live farther from the school than we do then your options just get worse.

As for what goes on at “traffic duty”? Well here is what I surmised, again admitting

We had Safety Patrol when I was in school. And it was voluntary.

that these are merely the observations of an uninformed outsider:

  1. 5-10 kids opening doors of cars. My guess is this was the great need and that some teachers grumbled loudly enough at the suggestion of making it a regularly rotating teacher task (as I most certainly would if I worked there) that someone came up with the plan of using students. Bear in mind these are middle-schoolers who have never actually driven a car and are not necessarily aware of the best flow, so they are liable to walk to your door even though you can see the line is about to move and everyone is going to move up a few spaces. Some kids give a warm greeting, but most seem embarrassed that they are looking inside your car. Some actually improve at learning the best way to carry out their task as the week goes on. Then we get new kids on Monday.
  2. 2 kids walking kids back and forth in the crosswalk. Bear in mind the crosswalk is where the full-time traffic guard/school security monitor stands. He is not only very good, but very necessary in directing the flow. He is kind to all of the student/parent/teacher pedestrians and not afraid to stare down an impatient car. Again, my issues are not with this wonderful man. But with him standing in the crosswalk with a large stop sign and a whistle, plus a faculty member on either side of the walk, I feel pretty certain that the kids in the walk would be safe without the “traffic duty” middle schooler escort.
  3. 5-10 kids assigned to guard a door. Ok, so I’m sure they’re really there to open the door for others and greet them warmly, but since almost every kid I see walking to school has a parent in tow, again, I do not believe unwatched doors would be a huge loss for anyone. I see kids go ten minutes without talking to another person because they’ve been assigned a remotely located door. Also, since we’re talking about middle school kids who patently object to wearing pants, their options under the uniform guidelines are shorts for boys and skirts for girls. This morning I heard them talking on “Good Morning, America” about how it only takes five minutes of exposed skin in extreme temperatures to get frostbite. Then I dropped off at school and saw more skin on the “traffic duty” kids standing outside than I did at the St. Timothy’s Dads pick-up basketball game the night before (the 30+ crowd is not big on playing shirts and skins).
  4. Remaining kids on flagpole and announcements These are two tasks that surely no one would argue take 30 minutes to prepare for, but because it has to be fair to the pre-teen popsicles who are outside opening doors, everyone has to show up at 7:30. Flag duty is definitely a good thing to learn, but why not make it the realm of the Student Council? Or at least Tom Sawyer the thing and sucker kids into getting their turn to raise the flag by making it an honor. Every kid in the school could have their official day to raise the flag and parents would come out with cameras and load the pictures onto facebook with the caption “Mikey’s first flag raising!” And I’m quite sure you could get 5-10 students to volunteer to read the announcements because getting to talk over the loudspeaker still has to be one of the coolest ten things that could happen to a kid at school. Call it the “Radio Club” and you might even inspire a career.

So with apologies to the school and whoever came up with this plan, I’m not feeling traffic duty. You can double the price of cupcake day and I’ll back you up (come on, we’re in tough times and everyone can find an extra quarter somewhere in that car). You can assign projects that no kid could possibly complete without parental help and I won’t object. But until I hear a better explanation of traffic duty, you can count me as a detractor.

Maybe I’m just grumpy because I was informed by Danny that he’s got a morning meeting tomorrow and I get to make the double-commute or buy Panera. Either way I know I’m getting up earlier.

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6 Comments

  1. Hmmm, not having moved into middle school yet, we haven’t experienced this. I always assumed those kids were volunteers. Maybe it’s considered a growth opportunity for them?

    But we face something similar with one child in band. That elective meets twice a week at 7am and we usually opt for Panera to occupy the younger sib’s time. Although there are days when he simply wants us to park up front, so he can wave to the teachers as they arrive betwee 7 and 7:30. I doubt that will last as he ages out of kindergarten, though.

    Hang in there, and thanks for all you’ve done for them!

    Reply
  2. Susan S

     /  January 24, 2011

    Amen, brother. I have been and will always remain a detractor on all things traffic duty.

    Reply
  3. Jean

     /  January 24, 2011

    Right on, Jessie! Is always feels like busy work to me when we have morning duty. I’m with you. I think they can learn responsibility a little later in the day. Grumpyness can last all day and into the night so why encourage it with lack of sleep?
    Good blog. Hang in there uncle. We appreciate you.

    Reply
  4. Brandon Blackman

     /  January 24, 2011

    This sounds like some contract work for you and DD

    Reply
    • Dude…I totally meant to include that EXACT same sentiment. Honest. Was going to say “I got a buddy who would whip this system into shape FAST. Or scrap it.”

      Reply
  5. Aunt Susan

     /  January 24, 2011

    So Uncle Jesse, is traffic duty your new project? May DJ and Stephanie could work together on it ofr DJ’s senior project.

    I know you would help them.

    Reply

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