Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New School Year - Feeling Awesome

I don't know who reads my blog anymore, and if you do, thank you!  If you are new, WELCOME!   I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging because my life got exponentially busier when I decided on going back to college.  It's now been 2 years back in college and I am about to graduate (in December) with a degree in Accounting.  I've also decided on expanding my education further and getting a second degree in Marketing.  I have maintained a 4.0 GPA, which has been difficult but worth it.

In other news, I finally decided on getting a full time bus route instead of bouncing from bus to bus.  I still do field trips but I have a set route morning and afternoon.  It's been a godsend for me given my current college schedule.  It's nice to know exactly where I am going to be on a daily basis.

True to form - my kids this year are wonderful and so well behaved.  I handpicked this bus out of all of them and I am glad I made the choice.  I provide them with cold water bottles every afternoon because it is extremely hot here and only the special education buses have air conditioning.  It's a small price to pay for the comfort of the children.  If you have children riding the buses, offer to provide just one case of water.  If every parent whose child rode the bus were to offer one case of water to the bus, we'd never run out.

In other news - one of my more helpful middle school boys had a funny moment the other day.

Him (to me) - That little girl looks too small to be going to school!

Me - Yes, she is pre-kindergarten.  They start out that small and grow a foot over the course of a year.

Him (after a few minutes of contemplation) - Your foot or my foot?

Me (nearly speechless and giggling) - 12 inches kiddo.

Thanks for stopping by!

The Bus Driver

Monday, April 21, 2014

Noteworthy News

I've been buried in college homework as I continue full steam ahead into my career change from Bus Driver to Accounting and Marketing.  This has caused much turmoil in my life that I've actually cut back on doing field trips and actually considered taking on a regular route.  In fact, I will be taking on a regular route at the end of this week in a bid to get some normalcy in my life.  Hopefully things will begin to settle down.

In other news, I had a bloodbath on the bus a few weeks ago.  Two elementary boys, ADHDBoy and SmartyPants got into a bit of a heated argument which ended with ADHDBoy hitting SmartyPants in the nose and other areas causing him to have a severe nosebleed.  Neither boy could give me a straight answer on what started the argument in the first place, but ADHDBoy was definitely the instigator.  Review of the video tape proved that ADHDBoy started it all and SmartyPants tried to finish it, but instead got more than he bargained for.

The result of this fight?  Both boys got 3 day suspensions off the bus and I ended up calling the police to remove them from the bus at the time of the incident.  SmartyPants' mom was very concerned about her son (obviously) and the lasting effects the fight might have on his yet unblemished school record.  I wrote him up for his involvement in the fight.  As for ADHDBoy, his mom immediately was upset that her son was involved in the fight and wanted to know if the other boy involved got the same punishment as her son.  She was more concerned for "fairness" than she was about the actual behavior of her son who had to be pulled off SmartyPants!  She was also upset that I had written him up as the primary instigator in the fight.  I wonder if she was allowed to view the same video tape that I had seen, which clearly showed her son striking SmartyPants first.

This fight brought some pressing questions to mind when handling children on the bus in the midst of an argument or fist fight.  Who do we call?  When is it okay to call the police?  When should students be removed instead of allowed to ride home?  Then, how do we deal with parents after the fact?

Unfortunately, times are such that parents and guardians often provide excuses for behavior instead of managing it.  Denial that their child could have possibly done something wrong often is the main reaction in a case like this.  Blame is shifted and placed on medication or lack thereof, instead of handling the behavior of the child in question and teaching them right from wrong.  Additionally, the lack of support we get from school administrators on the subject has many of us questioning our jobs.  There is one school in my district where the students will tell the bus driver that if they get written up on the bus, the school won't do anything to them, which undermines the drivers' authority when it comes to maintaining discipline on a school bus.  Yes, we have people who abuse the authority that is given them, but when the students know there are no consequences, what is stopping them from acting out?  Then who is to blame?

I just wish that people would stop excusing the behavior and start correcting it.

"Its not his/her Fault!"

The Bus Driver

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ms. Pretty

A funny thing happened one afternoon when I was riding a friend's bus learning her route. I sat next to a little girl who is a total chatterbox and insisted on telling me knock knock jokes the whole ride. I even got some of the other kids involved, they all wanted to talk to me at once. But what made me "awwwwww" the most was when this little girl and I had the following exchange:

Girl - Whats your name?

Me - Ms. Bus Driver

Girl - Oh, okay Ms. Bus Driver...... Can I call you Ms. Pretty instead?

Me - Sure :)

It was cute!

Prettily Yours,

Ms. Pretty (The Bus Driver)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Field Trip Fun!

It's OCTOBER! That means.... LOTS of FIELD TRIPS.

We had the Rodeo again this year and the pumpkin patch for the little ones. Then we have Disney On Ice coming up towards the end of the month. That being said, I've had lots of fun on field trips this month. I had the opportunity to transport several band students to competitions and then recently transported the drama club to a one-act play competition.

At the beginning of every field trip, we have to let the students know where the emergency exits are in the buses and how to use them. Since most of these students have heard the speech before, I typically try to make it a little fun by adding a bit of "airline humor" to it on each trip. The kids get a kick out of it and they even ASK me to do it. A typical "airline" version of the emergency exit speech might look something like this:

Me: Thank you for choosing bus number X today. We hope you have a pleasant ride, but before we go we must make sure you know where all the emergency exits are. (Insert required part of speech about emergency exits in airline style). The expected weather at our destination is X, and our expected travel time is X. Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times and have a pleasant flight (erm.. bus trip).

Sometimes I get a little silly with things such as last night coming back from a very long competition day and some of the kids I had transported prior on band:

Me: We thank you for re-boarding bus number 1 (bus 3 for my band students!) The current weather is..... Dark.... Our expected weather at our destination is ..... Dark...... (It was after sun down and they laughed!)

It's gotten so popular that the kids actually request that I perform my "airline pre-flight instructions".

Seat backs and tray tables to their full and upright position!

The Bus Driver.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Backing Up Protocol

An Anonymous response to my previous blog on backing up has prompted me to respond here.

And please don't honk your horn when backing. you already have a backup alarm for that. We have a shoolbus driver backing up and honking the horn at 6:15 Am right outside our door. How inconsiderate and unnecessary. - Anonymous

Sometimes we have to follow certain procedure in which we were trained. State laws vary in what is considered protocol as do public and private companies. Some companies request that the driver honk the horn as part of the backing up procedure. It could very well be that this particular bus driver's company requires the driver to honk the horn prior to performing a back-up maneuver. This is for safety in the front as well as in the back. We do understand that hearing the horn and the back-up beeper can be annoying, but the driver is simply doing his/her job.

Other procedures we have to follow include how to do a proper railroad stop and what speed we should be allowed to travel on our routes. There are also regulations in how far back do we trigger the student lights and how to have students get on and off the bus. Some states and private companies require the driver to secure the bus at every single stop, and actually help students cross the road with a hand-held stop sign that a crossing guard would use. We go through training that is designed to keep us safety conscious at all times.

A bus driver had to follow procedure that she had been recently trained on when dealing with a hijacking of her bus. The incredible story here!

You never know when you might actually need to use your training to avert a situation. These procedures might seem annoying and time consuming for you, the homeowner/motorist, but in the end, we are only looking out for the safety of all of our students that board and ride our buses every day.

Safety First!

The Bus Driver

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Advice on Backing Up

I received an email from a fellow bus driver who is relatively new at the field and he asked me for tips on how to effectively back a school bus. Proper backing is an easy task once you get the hang of it. A school bus is a daunting vehicle considering its size and cargo we carry. Often people do ask me, "How DO you turn around a vehicle that large?" That being said, I do have a few helpful tips when backing up a bus for both bus drivers and for parents (and other motorists) who encounter a bus that has to back up.

For Bus Drivers:

1. Get a trusted friend to stand at the front and back bumper - body up against the bumper of the bus while you are sitting in the drivers seat. (Do this when the bus is off and secured). Have the friend move to strategic points along the length of your bus as well as standing at all 4 corners. Viewing the bus from the drivers seat allows you to understand the dimensions of your bus from looking in the mirrors. You can get a feel for how large your bus is and where your turning radius is.

2. When backing, be aware of your tail swing as well as where your rear wheels are at all times. You can control the front of the bus and the rear of the bus by remembering where your wheels are at all times. When your rear wheels clear a corner you can cut the steering wheel hard to the direction you need, and maneuver the bus effectively. (Tail swing is what happens when the front wheels make a turn and the back part of a bus follows.)

3. When backing, it is always better to back into a dead end or side street. NEVER back into a heavy congested area or on a highway if you can help it.

4. Practice, practice, practice!!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Different buses have different turning radius'. Some buses, you will have to swing wide to get the proper angle to back. Others, its as simple as pulling in and backing out a car. Play around with your bus and if you are not sure you have the right angle, you can always back out the way you went in and try again. Once you feel comfortable with your vehicle, it is good to see if you can try backing maneuvers on spare buses should your bus ever be decommissioned due to a problem.

For Parents (and other motorists):

1. When following a bus, leave enough space behind the bus so that if the bus has to stop quickly and perform a maneuver, the bus driver is not locked by your vehicle behind it.

2. If a bus pulls into a parking lot, make sure you hang back and watch where that bus is going before you blindly follow behind. The bus driver may be executing a back up procedure and needs the space to turn around and maneuver.

3. If travelling alongside a bus, be aware of the bus drivers actions. Many of us will signal when we are about to make a turn. If we are turning, make sure your vehicle is not in the way of our tail when we do swing. Sometimes we have to make slightly wider turns due to the size of our vehicle and if you are travelling in our blind spots, WE CANNOT SEE YOU! Additionally, PLEASE be considerate and don't drive in our blind spots.

4. If you DO see a bus backing up towards your vehicle, do NOT honk the horn to try to get the bus driver's attention. We are often dealing with 50 some odd children on a bus at any given time. Instead, MOVE YOUR VEHICLE out of our way. We cannot hear you honking and remaining in place will get you squished.

Hope these tips help!

The Bus Driver

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Really Can't Make This Stuff Up!

I have not posted in a while due to other priorities, but today really was blog-worthy.

This morning, I drove a bus that is notorious for having children be at the stops late. The regular driver instructed me to leave the kids should they not be out on time as they have been told repeatedly to be out on time. I had left several stops, obviously after stopping appropriately, waiting a certain amount of time (long enough that had they been standing out, they would have boarded the bus and found a seat), and then proceeding on route. I called in each time I left children over the radio so that my actions were covered. I was even running approximately 2 minutes late due to some children RACING out of their homes to catch the bus. Overall, 80-85 percent of children were at their stops ON time.

The rule is, be at the stop 5 minutes prior to the bus arriving. Personally, I'd like to instruct all children to be at the stop and prepared at least 10 minutes prior to the bus arriving. That way they will never miss the bus if it comes early for some reason unknown. More often than not, the buses tend to run a little bit late when there is a substitute on them.

Yet repeatedly this morning, I had several children who were running from their homes. As a result, I left several of them for not being out on time. I pulled up to one stop and the two kids at that stop were out on time and waiting, then I pull to the house LITERALLY next door, and NONE of those kids are out. They had plenty of time to see me on the road, stopping at the house right next door before pulling to their stop. So, I left them. I pull up to my last stop on this route and the mom from the stop I left flags me down. I pull up and she tells me, "I'm putting my kids on this bus because well NO child LEFT BEHIND!" I told her they need to be out 5 minutes ahead of time, that's the rule. And she gets snippy with me. Fantastic.

This afternoon was equally as crazy. I had 2 elementary girls get into a fight on the bus. Turns out they are sisters. When I got to their stop, I told their guardian about the fight. She assured me it would be taken care of. When I returned to the area for my second run, I went by the house and noticed the guardian had the girls face to face linked with a belt around the waist, hugging each other. I gave the guardian a thumbs up and grinned. I think those girls will not be fighting on the bus again.

Round and Round!

The Bus Driver