There is a lot to be learnt from watching what happens on the school yard. Of course you can observe different teaching styles and different behaviour of children, but have you ever stood back and observed the other adults?
I say adults and not mums very deliberately, as although it is largely mums at our school there are lots of dads, step parents, grandparents, carers, and other relatives dropping off and collecting children.
The morning drop off has a particular pace and aside from a few lingering adults left chatting on the yard, most people do the drop and dash to get on with the rest of their day, whatever that might be.
The afternoon pick up is a little different. At our school the collection times are staggered depending on the age of your child. This, combined with anyone who doesn’t walk to school scrabbling for a parking space, means that there are people around for the best part of 45 minutes to an hour some days.
This is when you get to observe the dynamics of the school yard in their full flow.
- There are the people who stay in their cars until the last possible moment before grabbing their children and jumping back in their cars. We often assume these are the anti-social or shy ones. Perhaps that is true, or perhaps they use the time to catch up on phone calls, emails or even social media. Perhaps they use the time to listen to a few tunes or just take five minutes to themselves? Or perhaps they have another child sleeping in the car they don’t want to wake until they have to.
- There are the people who stand in twos in the car park and we assume they are gossiping. Perhaps they are, or perhaps they are trying to just have a quiet chat with another parent about something.
- There are those who stand alone, often in a corner but always away from the crowds. We assume they are shy, don’t speak English, are anti-social or just plain rude. Perhaps they are, or perhaps they are anxious about coming to school, crowds and talking to people. Perhaps they just can’t be bothered with chit chat and prefer to be on their own?
- There are those who huddle, often in large groups, often with an alpha mum who leads the conversation and they always stand in the same place on the yard. We assume that this group is a click and impossible to penetrate. We assume that the alpha is uber confident and charismatic. We assume that these groups talk about everyone else all of the time and have nicknames for us all. Perhaps all of this is true, or perhaps these people are the insecure ones who can only function in a group. Perhaps the group and the specific yard coordinates of that group mean that those people feel more confident to stand on that yard everyday. Perhaps they are swapping supportive tips and advice?
Perhaps all the things we already think are all true but perhaps it just might be something else.
The truth is, that even the most non judgmental of us assume things and make judgments without knowing people or facts. The school yard is a breeding ground for utter nonsense but it can also be a supportive community of people all sharing a journey….raising children.
If we let it.
It doesn’t matter what these adults wear, what car they drive, what pram they push, what accent they have or what language they speak. It doesn’t matter if their child is top of the class or verging on suspension. It doesn’t matter if they wear their heart on their sleeve or maintain dignified silence, because behind all of this we are all trying to do the same job.
Let’s not make life more complicated to navigate than it is already by adding judgement, criticism or gossip into the mix.
What is your school yard like?