Carpool Etiquette

carpool sign on dashboard

You know that really talented teacher who announces names in afternoon carpool? Well, I am that talented teacher at my school. I share the job with another teacher who used to be the caller full time. She is really good at it; I am but a humble apprentice. The veteran caller and the caller-in-training (me) switch off every grading period. That way, if one of us is absent, carpool still runs efficiently. I should mention that most teachers do not want this job. It is a fairly high pressure situation. If carpool does not go well, riots develop, mass hysteria; it can get ugly. With that in mind, be kind to the carpool caller.

Rule 1: Keep your sign in the window of your car ALL year round. When your child is not standing next to you, and you are wearing sunglasses, the carpool caller does not know your name or who you are.

Rule 2: Tip the sign up a little when you get within range of the carpool announcer. If it is sunny, and the light is reflecting off the windshield, we can’t read the sign resting on your dashboard. If it is raining, and the windshield is wet, we can’t read the sign resting on your dashboard. Basically, anything resting flat on the dashboard is hard to read.

My daughter’s school distributes tags that hang from the rearview mirror. You write names in Sharpie pen on them. They are easier to read from a distance. I am trying to convince my school to invest in them.

carpool sign hanging

Rule 3: No extraneous conversation of any kind. The only time you need to talk is to let the caller know who is riding in your car if you don’t have the sign in the windshield (refer back to Rule 1 and please put the sign back in your windshield). Don’t try to ask questions about homework or have a parent/teacher conference with the carpool caller or the loaders. I will admit I am a little guilty of this. I will make a quick comment to a parent, and then I lose track of the car order, and then I remember why I should not be talking to drivers.

The caller is counting cars. She/he can’t have a parent teacher conference and announce names at the same time. The loaders are trying to get children in seats as quickly as possible to move the whole line forward.

Rule 4: Stay in your assigned slot unless asked to move forward by a faculty member. If you hear the caller announce your child’s name at position 3, or the green cone, or whatever it is at your school, go to that position and wait. If the cars in positions 1 and 2 load and pull away, continue to wait at station 3 unless a teacher waves you forward. If you pull forward thinking you are making room for more cars, you reshuffle all of the students. I am The caller is still down the block calling numbers based on your number 3 position. Once students are lining up at the wrong carpool stations, it slows down the whole system.

Most of the time, the caller knows who you are. She/he does know who rides in your carpool. But just in case, and for the sake of all the families in carpool, use your sign with the student name, do not talk to anybody, do not talk on your cell phone, do not fill the loading side car seat with groceries or the younger sibling, do not get out of the car, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.

And, that is the way a teacher sees it. To read a totally hilarious carpool blog post from the parent’s perspective, visit this post. The Hot Mess Mom gets it! What are your carpool pet peeves? Everyone with school aged children has them.

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13 thoughts on “Carpool Etiquette

    • You are allowed to say hello– The caller job is tricky, though. As soon as I talk to a parent, I lose track of the numbers. I now do a “hey, I see you” wave and keep announcing. Now, the veteran caller can probably handle the friendly hello and counting.

      When I load cars, I always say something to the parent as I get the child in the car and close the door.

      (fixed your lips typo!)

  1. My kids know that I will always pick them up late because I can’t stand the stress of the carpool lane. I’d rather be stuck in 5:00 traffic on a Friday in the SF Bay Area than stuck in the pick up lane at our school.

  2. Now we need a post on morning drop-off etiquette. Who are the idiots that, when faced with 100 feet of open sidewalk, pull up and stop directly in front of the steps/front door/break in the bushes, so that no other cars behind them can take advantage of the 100 feet of open sidewalk, or get around them to pass? And then they proceed to get out of their car and get into their trunk to search for some useless something, and then get back in the car, and still sit there talking on the phone. I think they are dads.

    I like the Hangtag idea – suggesting it to my school!

    • I do not have as much experience with drop-off. I get to be in my classroom and do not have a morning duty. It’s the “my time is more valuable therefore I won’t be accommodating to others” attitude that ticks everybody off.

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