Sunday, September 28, 2008

Substitute Academics for Mediocre.

Recently, I have been substituting at the High School Special Education class during the day between routes. So far, it has been very interesting and gotten me thinking on why our schools are performing so badly academically. We live in a society where teachers don’t teach. (Of course, this is a broad sweeping generalization, there are several teachers out there who love to teach and actually DO teach – so this is excluding them) Some teachers teach only to cover the “testing” standards that all schools must achieve. It’s a wonder we even MAKE AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress – in our schools.

I have had the honor of following “wrestling boy” around to his classes at the local high school. Most of his classes are pretty good; they’re all Special Ed classes with very low numbers (max of 8 kids in a class). All was going well until I spent time in his Math class. The teacher who was supposed to be teaching basically droned on about the topic for about 5 minutes, explaining in one example how to do the school work, and then insisted on using the rest of the hour period to catch up on social gossip with the other Para-pro who follows another child around all day along with checking his email incessantly throughout the period. These kids are basically allowed to sit in class with limited or no instruction and are expected to learn the material. So I worked one on one with wrestling boy. I then also turned my attention to quiet girl and socialite girl (who had asked me for help once I helped quiet girl understand the material) The other Para-pro did Sudoku the whole period and chatted with the Teacher who was SUPPOSED to be teaching the students. Annoying boy slept the whole period. The previous Friday, the students had a test. Even kids who got ALL the questions wrong STILL got a 50 percent for writing their names and “showing up”. I would have been embarrassed as a teacher when 2 students got 100’s on a 5-question test. (One of which was wrestling boy, but only because wrestling boy had supervision from me, the use of a calculator, and we drilled on the material the day before.) One got an 80 and the rest of the kids (3-4) got 50 percent. Why did any of them not get a zero? Because of the whole “We don’t want to hurt kid’s feelings by giving them a grade that they EARNED, so we’ll assuage them and their parents by saying they failed, but… not by much….”.

I console myself with the knowledge that I’ve gotten to know “Cola boy” and “Helpful boy” this week. Cola boy is autistic and has a generally sweet personality. He amazes me with his ability to remember anyone’s birthday. He is obsessed with his birthday and the months of the year. He can recite them in order, including the numbers. Oh, and he loves to put money in the Coke machine to get a drink. Helpful boy has been a joy to work with this week, although his behavior is similar to herding a class full of two-year-olds. He is a hoot to talk to and asks questions incessantly. He and I share a “secret” handshake and we also “high-five thumbs”. He is truly a happy-go-lucky kid. He makes the best out of life and what it’s given him. On Friday at lunch, he pulled out a chair for me. He makes me believe that chivalry is NOT dead.

Somehow in my crazy schedule, I still drive a bus with insane parents and even more insane co-workers. There are also some things going on in my personal life with some crazy neighbors, but I’m going to have to save that soap opera for a whole other post. We now begin the season of “Useless Field Trips” as I have blogged about before. This year it’s the Pumpkin Patch, the Rodeo, and the ever-popular Disney on Ice show.

Riding the Short Bus,

The Bus Driver.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Of Backing, Eccentricity, and Precautions

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and we’ve been in school for just about a month. I couldn’t blog much last week due to a situation at work that had me all nervous about losing my job. However, I’m still here and still a bus driver. I’ve learned several things in the last few weeks.

1. No matter how bad something is, there is always someone who has done worse and still lived to tell the tale.

2. One might meet the strangest people in the most unlikely places.

3. Lock your shit up.

The first lesson came while driving some children home one afternoon. I pulled up to a stop, let the children out, and then went to back up into a nearby driveway/trailer park entrance. I had checked my mirrors and did not see the car behind me, which I promptly had a fender bender with. Things turned out in my favor with the driver of the other vehicle getting arrested for no insurance, and luckily there was minimal damage to either vehicle. After that, folks at my workplace were calling me crash and joking with me about my backing skills. I also got told several stories of fellow bus drivers who have done way worse to buses, including one who bent an entire front fender off a brand new bus while backing. Yes, maybe we shouldn’t back up as often as we do and that person is still a bus driver too.

The second lesson came while I was on a field trip approximately an hour away. I had dropped off the team for their game and went and dined at a local Chinese place. I usually run into some of the most interesting people on field trips. I had chosen the Chinese place to get out of the heat and humidity that was widespread that day. I settled in and opened my book. This eccentric lady, dressed in black walks in and orders her food. While she is waiting, she jabbers away at the waitress about how her friend is so sick and has been in the hospital, but it keeps going around the Huddle House (local food joint) and how the management there doesn’t understand about people needing to stay home and do nothing but get better from illness and on and on and on. The waitress looked at her wits end with the woman and was only nodding and responding to be polite. I was thinking, the woman is probably lonely and is a little crazy in the head, so best not to interfere. She sneezed, and I naturally said “God bless you” and that was how our conversation started. The waitress looked relieved. “Bon Bon” as she likes to be called started telling me how she was so far away from home, so naturally I asked where home was for her, and she stated “New York”. I related I grew up in the northeast and we talked a little bit about the weather. Eventually the conversation came back to where we both live and where she grew up. It turns out, she grew up down the street from where I live today. She remembers when the apartment building I live in presently was built in the 60’s. She remembers how it was “furnished in 60’s style metal furniture, and of course you couldn’t break the furniture as the 60’s made good furniture”. I asked her about the gentleman downstairs who has lived in these apartments for approximately 27 years. She became so excited that I knew him and then she told me of her trip to Peru with him and her girlfriend. She was tickled pink that I was a friend with him and that he was still alive after all these years. So now I’ve got to ask my neighbor about “Bon Bon”, Renee, and Peru.

The third lesson was a little hard to swallow. I had my GPS unit stolen on Friday night and disappointingly; I believe it’s as good as gone.

Life is going to fast.

The Bus Driver