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Being a Bus Driver
My reasoning behind it
After having dealt with one of the most vicious School Bus drivers I have ever encountered I decided that I should take up bus driving. He claimed that it was difficult dealing with children all the time. Since I’m a mom I thought to myself ‘how hard can it be?’
My children were getting suspended from the bus all the time for various infractions. Most to me seemed so minor that it was bordering on the ridiculous. Back talking got them 3 days off. At the time I had 3 girls on the bus, of course they were going to back talk, they were girls. He was a male bus driver who only had 2 boys, no girls.
There were other infractions as well, but none of them ever involved hitting another person. There was no fighting involved at all, nothing involving another person, except the bus driver. In my mind there must have been something wrong with the person in charge. There was one time that one of my daughters defended another child, against the bus driver, and my daughter ended up getting a kick off slip.
I went to one of the local schools at the Transportation office and put in an application. I got my interview and when asked “Why do you want to be a bus driver” I gave my honest answer. “Because sometimes the bus driver is the first adult that child sees in the day, if I greet them warmly and with a smile, it can help them start off to a good day”. Apparently that was the right answer because I got the job.
The first thing I had to do was go to my local DMV office and get my TIP (Temporary Instruction Permit). To do this I had to take a test, I had taken the book home to study first, all the answers are in there so it wasn’t too hard.
Once I began my instruction I had to learn all the parts of the bus, the in’s and out’s of just about everything. Part of my training involved driving as well, I spent about half of my training learning to do the inspection and the other half driving around. None of my training was paid.
Training for the inspection was key, it had to be done by memory for my road test. The state in which I live has a rigorous road test that has to be done in order to get the full license. After about 3 weeks I was pronounced fit to drive a bus, and my road test was scheduled. I passed with flying colors.
School started and I was assigned a route. Unbeknownst to me it was the hardest route that there was. The first 3 days I sat in the front seat while my boss drove, after that I was on my own.
No Hugs allowed!
My first day alone with the kids was a little nerve wracking, I was afraid I’d miss a stop and the kids would be left standing out by themselves. Very soon I was ‘into my groove’ and things went smoothly. My bus was full to the maximum, I had about 70 kids riding each day. It had been explained to me that each seat could hold 2 ½ butt cheeks, so when I asked about my limits, I was under (according to the law).
I had my older kids ride in the back as was their wish, the middle school kids in the middle and the littlest ones up front with me. When asked my name I told them, but for some reason it was misunderstood and I ended up being called Mrs. Brown. I had to chuckle at that and left it alone, if they wanted to call me Mrs. Brown who was I to argue?
Very soon I knew all of their names and who they should or should not set next to. For the most part they were all great kids, I had very few problems. When certain kids didn’t show up I was curious about them and hoped all was well.
The little ones loved me and most wanted to give me hugs. It was against policy to hug these children and that was the saddest part of my job. I never realized how hard it would be to tell a 1st grader that he couldn’t have that hug he so needed.
You learn Lots!
Being in a vehicle with children you can only imagine the things they told me. The stories behind each child were different. Some were in foster care, some only road the bus every other week because they stayed with 1 parent 1 week and 1 with the next week. Some lived with their grand parents, some lived with other relatives, and some lived with friends of their parents.
I watched one little girl go from being a girl to being a woman, the change was dramatic. One day she was giggling and gossiping and yelling, the next she was quiet and demure. When I questioned her on this it was because she had (in a whisper) ’gotten her period’. Her mother was doing a heck of a good job with her! Honestly, I had to giggle at the change.
One of my older boys got in trouble with the law. I found this out by stopping the bus when I seen him walking and wanted to know why he wasn’t in school. He had always been polite on my bus and I missed him. He seemed surprised that I cared enough to stop and ask him.
Some drivers are just plain mean
Halloween time came and of course I handed out the candy as they got off the bus. Some of the other drivers didn’t believe in doing this. In hanging out in the drivers lounge I began to wonder just why some of these people even became drivers to begin with.
I listened to what they had to say about the kids, most of it wasn’t very nice. The rules they had in place seemed obnoxious. One driver in particular sticks in my mind.
When she had a kindergartener eating a sucker, she wrote him a bus slip. I was horrified. “How could you do that” I asked. She replied that she had a no eating policy on her bus. I asked her “Couldn’t you just have told him to throw it away?” She said she wanted to make an impression on him by giving him a bus slip. I told her then, “So why didn’t you just have him put it in his pocket?” She looked at me like I’d grown horns and said “But it would get all fuzzy then.” Apparently she had never had anyone make an impression on her. I had to explain “If he has to put in in his pocket, yes it will get fuzzy and then he will think twice about eating on the bus, then he will have to explain to his mother why the sucker was in his pocket.” As a mom who has had to stick her hand in pockets before washing them, this would have me asking questions. I also explained to her that giving out nonsense bus slips does nothing to a parent, other than make them mad at the driver. To me that was a nonsense bus slip.
You don't HAVE to kick the kid off
I learned what I did and did not have to do as a driver fairly quickly. One afternoon I heard a commotion in the middle of the bus, one student was yelling to another student to leave him alone. He repeated this several times, I stopped the bus to try to prevent an altercation. Apparently the other student didn’t want any prevention. The fight happened, the fists were flying. One was a high school student and the other, middle school but both were fairly matched in size. I told them both that they were off for 10 days.
When I got back to the office I talked to my supervisor and discovered that I did not have to kick both of them off. I explained the situation and how the younger student tried to avoid an altercation. When I got home I called the student to let him know that he was not off the bus. He was very surprised and pleased at my decision, and thanked me for calling to explain to his mother.
I still see him from time to time and my youngest daughter even dated him for a while. Apparently I made the impression on him, that all adults aren’t mean.
Insurance is great for the Bus Driver
When speaking to some of the other drivers who weren’t too fond of the kids and their antics, I discovered just WHY they were bus drivers. The health insurance, plain and simple. Some of the drivers had a minute amount of money when the checks arrived, the rest went to pay for health insurance. So they weren’t driving for the love of the kids or the love of the job, just the insurance.
I am not one to do a lot of complaining about anything, but to me this seemed to be a dumb reason for having a job. But then when I looked at the ages of these drivers I guess I could understand, they were older and they couldn’t get jobs elsewhere. I still don’t feel this is right, no matter if it is the only way to get insurance.
Keep those promises!
One of my students who made the biggest impression on me was a girl, she was living with her uncle for reasons unknown to me. She was in high school and she was the one who dubbed me Mrs. Brown. She was my dancer. I was forever looking in my mirror to see her standing and dancing. She loved the music that I had playing on the radio. I promised her that if she sat during out bus trip, one day (I wasn’t saying when) I’d stop the bus and we’d all dance.
One day as I was turning around the bus I hit the air brakes, locking the bus into place and stood up. The kids had no idea what I was doing, they thought someone was in trouble. I turned up the radio and said “It’s time to dance!” For the entire song we all danced in the aisles and in front of the seats, where ever anyone could find room to move their feet. At that moment in time I was dubbed “The best bus driver in the world!”
For Christmas that year I enlisted my mother’s help, little knowing it would be her last Christmas. She made 75 plastic canvas school bus ornaments with the number 33 emblazoned on them. For each child they got a bag of candy and an ornament as their gift from me.
From time to time as you can imagine there were messes made on the bus, with paper and what not littering the floor. I asked some of the other drivers what they did about this. Some gave bus slips (of course) others had the students sweep the bus. I thought this was a good plan, it would teach consequences for making a mess. Little did I know this would be my downfall from being a bus driver.
Whenever I caught the students making a mess, most of them accepted their punishment without question. One day 3 students made a big mess with paper, so for each of them they would sweep the bus one day a piece. The first little girl thought this was unreasonable of me and proceeded to call her friends complaining and letting them know they would be next in the line of sweepers.
The next morning I was confronted on the bus by the father of a little boy. He felt it was unreasonable of me to ask his son to do ’Woman’s work’. When I explained to him that his son made a mess and I felt it was only reasonable to ask him to clean it up, he stated that it was my bus therefore my responsibility to clean it. I told him that my options were either have his boy clean or give him a bus slip, 4 bus slips and he would be off for 10 days. In my wording of our conversation here, it sounds like a pleasant conversation, it was not. He did a lot of yelling and screaming at me, in a very threatening manor.
It was still dark out, there were only 7 students on the bus, I was in an area that cell phones didn’t work and lets face it, I was darned scared. When I got back to the transportation office I spoke with my supervisor about the incident, asking him what to do. I was told if it should happen again, click down the handle of the mic on the CB radio. He did not offer to call the parent or even speak with him regarding this.
The student was very apologetic to me about his father‘s reaction. He even offered to sweep the bus for me. His little brother was entirely different matter, he decided that his daddy was right, I was wrong and he could do anything he wanted to me. He found out different, he got his final bus slip and was kicked off for 10 days. He was the second student I had to do this to, the first one being the one who started the fight.
Getting shot at IS frightening
Because the parent had to take the one child to school all of those children (4) rode with Dad. On my last day of driving, I passed by the house and heard a noise, I looked at one of my many mirrors and noticed that it was broken. My mirror had been shot out. There were no other houses, no over hanging trees.
One of the few remaining students on the bus that day had seen it. She was terrified. I tried remaining calm for the kids’ sake, and yes it was difficult. I dropped the rest of the kids off and called the office on my CB. I met the police there and it was agreed that yes, I was shot at. My supervisor had left for the day and I would have to wait until Monday to talk to him.
When Monday rolled around I spoke with him on the phone. He didn’t feel that anything wrong had happened. When I suggested that we change the bus stop to the church parking lot on the corner he didn’t feel it would be appropriate, it would ’put out’ too many parents. There were a total of 8 kids on this road, 4 stops.
Mom first - Bus driver second
I made my decision based on my supervisors reaction. I decided that my job at home as a mother was too important. My children needed their mother alive, not dead. So I gave up bus driving. I’m still not sure exactly who shot at me, I know the house and which side of the road the shot came from. But I will say this, one day a few weeks after leaving my job the little boy, with who this originally started with, seen me in the store and came up to me and hugged me telling me that he really missed me and wished I’d come back to driving.
How 1 person can impact you
I can tell you that I really enjoyed being a bus driver, I still feel that those kids deserve a warm smiling face when they get on the bus. I still feel that a bus drivers attitude can have a great impact on the students day. Driving those kids to and from school made me feel as though I was contributing to an important part of their day. It wasn’t the kids who made me give up my job, it was the parent of 1 student.