The school gate and cliques. For so many parents, predominantly mums, the school run and having to stand in the playground and wait for children to come out of school is one of the things that fills them with dread about children starting school. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Thankfully I’ve not experienced anything like that at our school. It might be different for others who do the school run everyday. Because I only picking up one day a week and then drop off at morning club most mornings. It means I only really seeing other parents for any amount of time on a Friday afternoon when everyone’s happy picking up their children.
We also have small school which means most people are recognisable and everyone mixes in. You tend to know people from your year plus the year above and year below as we have mixed year group classes.
It also helps that I knew mums and children from higher up the school when N started school. From friends outside of school and my sisters-in-law which did make it easier and help me feel more confident when walking into the playground amongst other people I didn’t know.
I did make sure that I went to the parents open day which meant I was able to chat to some of the parents even if I couldn’t remember all of the names afterwards. Settling in sessions aren’t just for the children. They’re for the adults as well and give you the chance to know where you’re going and to meet other parents.
I did quite fancy being on the PTA and joining in with activities there but working isn’t conducive to that when a lot of meetings can be during the working day. So I just try and take part when I can, whether it’s baking cakes or turning up to support events. I really think, especially in small schools, it’s important that everyone plays their part. It also helps get your face known, and makes it easier to speak to other people when you’ve got a reason to.
Talking to mums from outside of our school, so many seem to find anxiety causes them issues with approaching others at the school gate. There are worries about people who already know others, not wanting new joiners, little cliques, or they don’t want to be fobbed off or ignored. Sometimes it only takes one person to make the effort and speak to someone else to break the ice and to get others talking.
Making that leap can make such a difference to school life for mums at drop off. Sometimes you can’t rely on others to make the first step and you can bet that others will be so relieved that they’ve not had to be the one to do so.
If you’re the one doing the approaching, you’ll be seen as someone approachable back. Chances are, others will come and speak to you and you won’t end up being the one having to do all of the asking and the speaking. I always think, what’s the worst that can happen?
Someone could turn away.
You could be ignored.
You could still be standing alone in the playground.
But if that’s already happening what have you got to lose? There’s an awful lot more to gain from a simple hello or ‘which one is your child?’
In my experience conversations in the playground are really simple. It’s about the weather and how it always rains or is miserable and windy at school drop off and pick up time. Or it’s having a nosy in the school window and wondering out loud what their class is up to and why your child is always the first one or last one out.
It’s nothing political or intrusive, just simple everyday small talk. Sometimes it’s just standing there next to each other and a brief comment that gets conversation started.
What’s so scary about that?
So why not try some of these tips to make life in the school playground easier for mums (and dads doing the school run).
Tips for mums at the school gate
1, Go to the school settling in sessions for reception parents as this is the easiest place to meet people in the first instance
2, Try and find out for your children or the teacher who their group of friends are and set up playdates where you can meet the other parents
3, , Don’t necessarily dump and run when dropping off children at parties with school friends because when they are younger that’s a great opportunity to chat to other parents who are staying
4, Why not organised reception parents or mums meal out for Christmas. I think for us all but one attended and we’ve not had one since but it really did help get to know people
5. Try and speak to at least one person in the playground at each pickup.
6, If you notice someone on their own in particular if they’re standing by your classroom go and chat to them. It doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies or a full-on conversation but just a generic high and smile might make their day if there someone who feels lonely at the school gate
7, Volunteer to help with the PTA or other school events where they need a few parents to volunteer. Start off in the early years when parents are keen otherwise if you leave it till later you might not meet as many people who are in your child school year because they’ve already done their volunteering years ago
8, If you’re in a political school where there’s lots of parents vs teachers conflicts don’t get over-friendly with the teachers otherwise it might put other parents off getting too close to you for danger of having conversations reported back to the school
9, Relax. Remember that other parents probably feel just the same especially when their children are just starting out in the school so if you can be the one to make a first effort you’ll probably be respected and more approached by other parents.
10, Smile. You might not want such an early start in the morning or might have had a horrendous morning getting the children out of the door but a smile really helps make people more approachable
How did you find the school run when your children started school? How has it improved?
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