Collaborative vision and problem-solving are the key to the success of this initiative. First, school adults talk about how they want time to stop and agree that increasing traffic flow is their main goal. Then they identify things that are blocking that goal:
Termination procedures that free all students at the same time
- Only one exit
- A group of students gather at the place where the two main aisles of the school meet
- Create a New Termination Procedure
- With the same understanding of the problem and shared goals, the staff devised a new dismissal procedure.
Here are the main elements of the plan they made:
Instead of stopping all students simultaneously at 3:00 pm, class termination will be staggered between 2:50 and 3:00.
To further reduce barriers at the main exit, the teacher will walk out of the classroom to the exit. Only one class will leave at a time.
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The teacher will stop with their class where the two main aisles meet, and the class will switch out.
The teachers will say good-bye to each student quickly – a natural extension of how they use greetings on arrival and in the Morning Meeting class. Four Corners chose soft "high five" because it was interactive, creating a moment of connection between the teacher and each student.
Just as they would when teaching a new routine, the Four Corners teacher teaches a new stopping routine by showing students what each part of the journey should look, sound, and feel. Then students practice, while adults watch and mention specifically what the children are doing well, such as "I notice that all your hands remain by your side as you walk down the aisle today." Because the hope for moving through the aisles is in the same school, every adult can offer such reinforcement or provide reminders when students need them.
Enjoying Orderly and Peaceful Dismissal
The new Four Corners firing routine makes this potentially chaotic time calmer and more efficient. On normal days, it takes about ten minutes for twelve classes to get out of the building. Because all students in each class pack and leave their classrooms with their teacher, the time for the stop is not very rushed, and children tend to lose their bus.
Walking down the hall together and high five at the door creates a relaxed atmosphere and ends the day with a positive tone for students and teachers. Time spent waiting while other classes out allow the teacher to touch the base with students informally, and students to chat and wave to friends in other classes. Many nonteaching staff help with dismissal as well, making this a daily time when the entire school community gets together.