Saturday, August 22, 2009

Response to a Comment

On my last post, I received a very long comment from A Police Wife. I felt she asked some very valid questions and I felt they needed to be addressed in a separate blog post. So, I’ll be taking her long comment and addressing it piece by piece.

Hi, I came over from Walking a thin blue line when I saw your little bus avatar. I've always wanted to know what goes on in the mind of bus drivers. :) My daughter's (1st grade) school is right off a major highway and it's the scariest thing ever. I don't know if i'll ever let her walk to school on her own.

Dear Mrs. Fuzz,

Thank you for reading my blog and taking an interest in what goes on inside a bus drivers mind. Its not pretty at times, but we can always put a humorous spin on things. I hope that you don’t let your daughter walk to school unless there is a police escort/crossing guard to help her cross the busy road. Safety first.

Last year in kindergarten, they had a bus just for kindergarteners. The morning bus driver was great and the kids loved him. He interacted with them while he drove and my daughter would come home with songs and jokes that she learned from the bus driver. The afternoon driver was another story. She seemed stressed and flustered, and once we parents waited at the bus stop for over an hour. Finally one of us called the school, and the office said that all our kids were there in the office waiting to be picked up. Apparently the bus driver couldn't find the last bus stop on her route which was about 8-10 kids. So she took them back to the school and said, "go to the office. My shift is over" and she went home! no one had any explanation for us and many of us were very upset.

So I guess I want to know what should she have done? Isn't there a radio to call in to talk to someone if you get lost? Shouldn't she have checked with the school to see if parents were still waiting at the bus stop? It was very confusing. It seemed like she was just in a hurry to clock out and go home and didn't care what happened to the kids. Also, shouldn't she know the route like the back of her hand before driving it?

First off, I am appalled at the bus driver’s actions in complete disregard for the children’s safety and security. At least she did return the children to the school, but that does not excuse her dismissive behavior. However, that being said, getting lost happens, even to the best of us, and to those of us who think we know the roads. Sometimes buses are forced to reroute and detour due to unforeseen road conditions such as accidents, trains, washouts, fruit all over the highway, whatever the case may be. I don’t know the exact weather at the time of your incident, so I’m only speaking generally.

Secondly, there are several avenues available to bus drivers in these situations. Most buses are equipped with a two way CB radio that allows the bus driver to communicate with the bus garage. In most instances the bus driver will either be able to find the proper stop, or will simply ask the bus garage to contact either the school or the parents. Parents should fill out student information forms to give to the bus driver on the first week of school. The information contained in these forms is pretty simple and is standard. Name, phone number, address, etc. Please keep in mind if you don’t keep us updated as to your current phone number or address, we won’t be able to contact you as a parent and we will have to find other avenues of getting your child home, whether it be returning to the school or taking the child to the police station.

As a parent there are a few things you can do on your end. If your child does not arrive home within a reasonable time (within 10 minutes of the scheduled stop time – for example if your child is supposed to arrive home at 3:15, you should allow from 3:05-3:25 for your child to arrive through your door) you can call the school and you can call the bus garage and ask for a status on the bus. If anything they can try to put you in contact with the driver so you can either meet the bus, or agree upon a central meeting location that both you and the bus driver know in order to retrieve your child.

Third, sometimes buses end up having substitute drivers. Substitute drivers sometimes don’t know the routes as well as the normal drivers do and are prone to making mistakes. I’ve been on a few buses where I’ve taken wrong turns and needed to go around the block to correct my mistake. Even the most experienced bus driver makes mistakes, but from a parents perspective, 5 minutes can seem like 5 hours when it comes to missing your child.

Also, my daughter would come home and talk about the mean bus driver and one time when she did something naughty and i was not happy with her, she said, "your face looks like the same face my bus driver makes!" Sounds to me like she didn't like kids very much. So I guess another question I would love to have you answer would be what qualities, if any, do you think an elementary school bus driver should posess?

Sorry for the epic comment. You have a fun blog to read!

I transport all age children from pre-k (4) to highschool (18). As a bus driver, I have learned to be patient. Kids will be kids, they will act up, and they will goof around. The trick is finding the balance between expecting them to show proper behavior and allowing them to have fun. I try to make safety my first priority, and that means that I will not allow a child to stand up on the seat or on the bus while it is in motion, to stick their head, hands, arms, feet or any other body part out of the open window, to create excessive noise to the point it prevents me from hearing traffic or the important CB radio announcement, and I will not let them eat or drink on the bus (except water).

Writing a kid up every time they pick their nose, or sneeze, or dumping their book bag out everywhere is ridiculous and absurd. Kids will not be perfect, but you can expect them to show respect to you and their fellow riders. Setting firm boundaries that are clear and precise allow even the youngest children to understand and follow the rules to keep them safe. A firm quiet tone will go way further than a loud screaming shouting match. Kids respond better when they see that you mean business in a firm way. I have perfected the “look” that will make a kid shrivel and behave. They know I mean business when I give them the “look.” Will there be days when my attitude is not a happy one, sure, but I try not to let that affect the kids. I’ve been known to pass out candy canes, or pencils on certain holidays, and play holiday appropriate music on the bus as the seasons draw near. I’ve also been known to just let them have fun. For example, Friday I had a busload of kids singing “The Wheels On The Bus” and “The Gummy Bear Song”. I sang along!

I hope this answered your questions!

Singing Along,

The Bus Driver

1 comment:

mrs. fuzz said...

Sorry to comment so late!! Thank you for answering my questions. I'm loving your blog and all your stories. I'm officially caught up now. I've been a little MIA.