I answer questions in email and on the web, and this particular question got me thinking. I was asked what advice could I offer new drivers (and seasoned drivers alike) in order to make the school year start out properly. So without further adieu, I give my suggestions for what bus drivers should have on hand at all times.
Kleenex - You can never have too many Kleenex. Kids are always asking for a tissue.
Paper towels - Not to be confused with Kleenex, paper towels are always handy for cleaning up spills and other larger messes such as when rain comes in the leaky roof of a bus.
Hand sanitizer - more for yourself than the kids, but some drivers keep it handy for the kids as well.
Baby wipes - If you prefer baby wipes to hand sanitizer, these can serve double duty as cleansing items for the seats and surrounding areas.
Cleaning supplies - most bus barns will provide cleaning supplies for a driver to maintain general cleanliness of their bus. This includes windex, lysol, and other antibacterial agents for cleaning the bus.
Puke powder - yes the name sounds awful but it is essential for that child that you will eventually have that vomits everywhere.
Trashcans and trash bags - again self explanatory, but if you promote a clean bus, most of the trash the children will make will find its way into the can.
Broom - A strong and sturdy broom to reach those hard to get areas, brooms also aid in killing random bugs and other pests that find their way into your bus.
Log book/folder - Your bus barn is going to ask you to handle paperwork, it is handy to have a folder to use to keep all paperwork in. It also helps to keep a current copy of your CPR certification on hand.
Bus roster - This is majorly important if you are in an accident or if a child needs to contact their parents for whatever reason. You need to know who is on your bus at any given time. This goes for bus passes too - I usually keep those for about 2 weeks, then toss them. Things in a bus roster should include the following: Name of the student, Grade/School, Address, Emergency and Parent numbers, and any allergies or special conditions one should be aware about. Your bus barn should provide a form for children and parents to fill out and return to you.
Route description - make sure a route description is handy on your bus for those inevitable days that you are going to be sick. A route description is a lifesaver for sub drivers who do not know your kids. Also, make sure a roster is attached to each route description so that the sub driver can have it available immediately in the case of an emergency.
Bus seating chart - It may be a good idea for you to assign your passengers seats. The seat assignments are also helpful for identifying problem passengers.
Clearly posted rules - these can help students realize what rules they are supposed to follow on the bus. I recommend going over the rules with each group of kids that enter your bus.
Citation/write-up folder - make sure you have a folder full of blank citation/write-up sheets. Explain to students that if they do not follow the rules they are going to get a verbal warning from you, you will talk to their parents, and then if they persist, you will write them up and turn them into the school. Explain that there are consequences for receiving a write-up such as a change in assigned seat to one of the front seats (or a least desirable location). I know of one bus driver that had all of her children sitting up front and left the back of the bus as no-mans-land. There were at least 6 seats between the last group of students and the very back of the bus. A misbehaving child was sent to sit in the last seat by himself, which wasn't viewed as a reward as there was no one around him to help him disobey.
Offer little treats and incentives - Maybe you could develop a positive behavior system on your bus. Some bus drivers use gum as an incentive, or lollypops. If the children behave (for the most part) all week, they get a treat on Fridays. You may want to have them work towards a pizza party or an ice-cream treat. When I drove for an after school program, I brought things like cupcakes, and on the last day of after school, I brought ice pops since it was so hot out. The kids will appreciate these little treats.
I hope these tips help new drivers and seasoned drivers alike as we roll into the upcoming school year in August (or September) depending on your location!
The Bus Driver