Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So, Why write about School Bus Drivers?

In my search for the "Perfect" job, I have tried many professions. A great deal of them were similar in nature. They all had a boss, co-workers, annoyances, ups, downs, and any combination of the aforementioned words. Life revolved around punching a clock, getting proper hours, not getting overtime, working hard, and eventually getting stuck in a rut or being fired - neither of which is fun.

In desperate need of a job, I applied to be a School Bus Driver. Initially, I went in believing it would only be temporary until I found a "real" job. One year later and I'm considered to be a full time "floater", recieve benefits (Health, Dental, Vision) and have unusual opportunities presented to me. The pay isn't the best, but the stories that come out of the "opportunities" are ones to last a lifetime. As a "floater", I don't have a route or bus of my own and usually end up filling in for other drivers on their buses.

School Bus Drivers are a unique breed of person. One needs patience, understanding, and a little bit of insanity. Other drivers often look on School Bus Drivers as an inconvinience, annoyance, and in some cases an opportunity to harrass. We get yelled at, honked at, and our stop sign gets bypassed by busy motorists trying to "beat the bus". People often forget that what we carry is THEIR children. As a Bus Driver, I am responsible for every child who gets on and off my bus. Motorists who are impatient and make irrisponsible and often dangerous moves in an attempt to "race the bus" put theirs as well as other peoples childrens lives at stake.

Lets not forget the parents as well. Many parents freak out if their children isn't home at the exact same minute of every day. Parents, please understand that if your child isn't home and you haven't seen the bus pass by its regular stop, its VERY likely the bus just has not gotten to your child's stop yet. Calling the bus shop/transportation department the "nanosecond" your child does come home at the EXACT time your child's bus driver told you, is likely to get you a very harrassed and exhausted secretary telling you exactly what I am about to tell you. Give it 10-15 minutes. Its likely one of 2 scenarios.

1. The driver may be out and your child's bus may have a substitute on it -- These things happen sporadically so please bear with us as substitutes don't know the route as well as the regular driver and sub's often have to rely on students like your child to tell us where to go.

2. The driver or sub may have been kept by traffic. This includes trains, other automobiles, other buses, and any other type of traffic that typically occurs at 2-5 pm on a regular weekday.

If, however, the bus passes by the usual stop, or stops and your child does not get off the bus, please don't freak out. Instead, calmly call the bus shop/transportation department. Please have ready your child's name, the bus number he/she rides, and the school that he/she attends. Chances are good that these 2 scenarios may be in play.

1. Your child fell asleep. ---- It happens.... ALOT. Your child simply missed his/her stop. The bus driver will likely make arrangements to either A. Drop the child at his/her normal stop after the route is finished, or B. Find out where you would like to meet the bus to get your child if you do not want to wait until the end of the route.

2. Your child got on the wrong bus(most likely) or got off at the wrong stop (least likely) -- Most children will tell us if something isn't right, like they dont recognize where they are, or they don't belong on the bus. There are rare cases where a child will get on the bus with a friend and get off with the friend, or just arbitrarily get off the bus. Bus drivers know the names of students getting on their bus regularly, but in the event that the bus has a substitute driver, the sub doesn't always know the names of the children on the bus.

To prevent any of this from happening, I suggest a piece of paper clearly taped/laminated onto your childs backpack with the following information: First and Last name, Grade, Teacher, School, Your Address, and Bus number. ***Please note that you should place this information inside your childs backpack*** Additional information that would be helpful would be a Phone Number. Please make sure the schools have updated phone numbers. There is nothing more discouraging than calling a phone number for a child who is lost and discovering that phone number has been disconnected. Also if your child is old enough or can understand, please teach them that they can go to the bus driver if they have any concerns. It helps us identify a problem early on so that you can be notified of any problems or issues in regards to safely loading and unloading students.

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