This morning, like every morning, I left my workstation and headed to the kitchen at 7:29 where I saw the dog sitting at the door to the garage, ready for our morning walk. Shoes tied, a check of the thermometer to see which coat to wear, and we were out of the door. It’s always amusing to my wife to see the dog there ready to go. “You’re such a teacher, you’ve got him trained to tell time.”
On the road that we walk, there are two school buses that run by us. The first one is at 7:30 and picks up a student that lives south of us. The second one is at 7:25 and picks up two students that live north of us. Although it’s what I would consider to be bizarre, the buses end up taking the three of them to the same school. On the return trip later that day, one bus takes all three home.
I’ve very bus cognizant because one of the realities of being a dog walker is that people who are eager to get to work will pass any bus as soon as they can and can come very close to Jaimie and me as we head in the same direction, on the other side of the road, walking facing traffic.
This morning, the second bus was a bit ahead of time and the students that would normally have boarded were caught walking down the driveway. I noticed that the bus slowed, must have noticed nobody standing at the side of the road and kept on going. The students did try to run to the road but to no avail. They then turned around and ran to their father’s car as he was headed to work and caught a ride to school there.
I was thinking about this from a systemic point of view. If you’re a bus rider, the bus is there-ish at the same moment every day. If it’s early, you might run into the scenario I just described. But, if it’s late, it starts a series of dominoes tipping over.
If but one domino doesn’t tip at the right time, every subsequent domino is affected. So, if this was a school system, every following student is affected. So, a bus just can’t sit and wait for a tardy rider.
It could get worse.
Suppose the delay was so severe that the first class at school is affected. A school is scheduled to run like clockwork. Buzzer, bells, classes start and end, lunch and/or breaks are choreographed so that anything that disrupts the domino flow really messes things up. Education loves rules and a good clock.
As we continued our walk, I started to realize that it wasn’t just the buses that run like clockwork. Since we walk the same path every morning, there are similarly timed commuters. You start to recognize them, particularly those with personalized license plates or that lime green Camaro or that one person who is always on her cellphone. I came to realize that we’re not the only creatures of habit. I know that we walk as fast as we do every day. Our total distance is about 5km so I think either the walker in me or the teacher in me knows how to set the pace for success.
Bizarrely, we often meet the same vehicles in the same place on the road. We’re not the only ones who have a regular routine!
Then, we pass this one house with a child who doesn’t go to school yet. By our logic, we pass the house at the same time each day but things are different. If the child is still asleep, the big screen television that is easily seen from the road is either off or turned to CNN. If the child is up, the television is turned to Dora the Explorer. (Believe me, when you walk the same route every day, you notice these details)
Because this child isn’t part of a school system yet that runs successfully by all the dominoes falling at the right time, a schedule isn’t crucial. Sleeping in or rising early is left to nature and not so that the morning routine is synchronized to a school or work system that requires adherence to a clock.
I can’t help but think that every student’s life changes when that first bus schedule is received. They become a domino that falls into place for school and then more than likely in the workplace.