by Muddy Waters
Traffic at The Pike School. Why on earth would I choose to write about that? One reason is that I have spent the equivalent of fourteen weeks of 24 hour days standing out front. In that time, I have seen over two million cars pass by me. This topic was thrust onto my radar within an hour of sitting behind my new desk on my first day of work at Pike in July of 1994. Two Andover police officers walked into my office with their hats and Raybans firmly in place and began not by welcoming me to town but asking what I planned to do about the “traffic problem”. I asked them what they meant and they explained that Pike traffic backed up onto Sunset Rock Road making it impassable every day for some period of time.
I admitted that traffic directing had not been in the job description and that I had no expertise in that area. I asked if they would be willing to come to Pike on opening day to examine the situation and provide any suggestions. What must the carpool line have been thinking as they watched the new Head of School being escorted by police on his first day? The police officers mainly shook their heads and left without providing any input. Now you know how I got out there, but why have I stayed out there?
The first reason was that I knew that many members of our community were stressed out by the daily routines of drop off and pickup. We are all busy people with places to be, so we want traffic to move as swiftly as possible while ensuring the safety of our children, a very delicate balance indeed. In fact, I could argue that those two priorities are in conflict with each other. Therefore, I did not want anyone to be able to say that I was ignoring the issue from the comfort of my office. Is that really enough to keep me out there in the challenging New England weather? After all, as the Head of School, I could choose to delegate this responsibility.
What keeps me out there is the strong sense of community here at Pike. I truly enjoy seeing members of our community, albeit in a literally drive-by kind of way, each and every day. At times, a quick wave or a kind word can make my day. Out of those two million drive-bys, I can honestly count on one hand the number of times when the encounter was less than pleasant (stories for another blog). The other part of my reason for being out there is the influence of my father.
My dad got into teaching a little later in life and taught for 25 years. He was often asked to consider administration and he always said no because he wanted to spend his time with his students. Even though I have become an administrator, I chose education to be with the children. I wanted to be sure when I came to Pike that I did not become an administrator who was removed from the children who wondered who that Head of School was. It is a gift to be able to see our students every day even if it is only for a quick wave or nod.
I will admit that there are some days when the umbrella is trying to turn inside out that the idea of delegating my post to someone else does occur to me, but the reality is that the hours spent out there nourish me in important ways. See you tomorrow and the day after and the day after….
P.S. Remember to drive safely and keep those cell phones put away. Thanks. (I couldn’t help myself.)
The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit pikeschool.org to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership.