Car circle duty is the one negative for teachers lucky enough to have end-of-the-day planning periods, the most coveted schedule in our building. Every year, our master schedule rotates, which means that each year one grade level of teachers enjoys back-to-back, end-of-the-day planning periods...just enough time to gather one's thoughts, make copies, plan for the following day, and meet with colleagues. End-of-the-day planning period means I don't have quite as many ungraded essays crammed into my book bag to take home over the weekend.
It's a wonderful schedule, really; but to keep us humble, we must cover car circle duty. We have more than 1,300 children in our school; and while many of our students are bus riders, and others carpool, and some have siblings in the building, it often seems that we have at least 1,300 cars inching their way around the pick-up circle.
On rainy days, we stand there, water puddling around our sensible shoes, rain dripping from the ribs of our umbrellas, our hair frizzing, our patience thinning.
"Hurry to your cars," we chant. "Look for your car, and be ready to get in."
We are thinking, "Please go home children. Please let us get out of the rain."
On cold days, we shiver in our hats and gloves and the mismatched layers we threw on before the final bell.
"Where's your ride? Do you need to call home?" we ask, through chattering teeth.
"Zip your jacket. Stand close together. Did you say you needed to call home?"
This year, even on snowy, rainy, and windy days, I have, surprisingly, looked forward to car circle. Somehow, in the drizzly, windy, flurrying course of the year, I have met two kindred spirits, one sixth grader (Sami) and one eighth grader (Zoe), who seek me out faithfully. While we weather the elements, waiting for their rides, we talk about books and friends; and we practice Pig Latin.
We have debated the benefits of hooded jackets over toboggans, philosophized over the beauty of dandelions, and taken a personality quiz. Sami read the questions, and Zoe and I supplied the answers.
For art class, Sami needed a piece of obsidian for the heart of her clay dragon; I managed to find a smooth black rock that suited her purposes to a tee. Zoe sometimes brings out Laffy Taffy for us to share. If one of us is absent, we know we are missed.
During school, Sami and Zoe have no classes together...and neither of them is in my class; but, for 20 minutes each afternoon, the car circle is a gathering spot for three kindred spirits.
The next time my turn for car circle duty rolls around, Sami and Zoe will both be in high school. Maybe the car circle will work its magic again, and I will meet two more students who share my love of stories and who don't mind speaking in a funny British accent some days just for the heck of it. Maybe not...but for the next 28 days, I will look forward to car circle duty, regardless of the weather.