The school year is winding down, but there are still four solid weeks for learning and accomplishments to happen. Our students and staff continue to chip away at their learning goals and routines. Our students’ last day is Wednesday, May 31, and students will be dismissed three hours early that day.
Recently, I have taken the opportunity to consistently ride along on some of our school bus routes. These trips have served as strong reminders of several points and have refreshed my perspective on the lives of our students and our work with each and every one of them.
I’ve seen many places our students and their families call home. Some may judge families on the visible characteristics of their homes. However, and as always, judging a book by its cover is often inaccurate and unfair. There are homes that may need shingles or have broken windows that need replaced, but those same homes may be filled with love and support for the children that live, eat and sleep there. Other spectacular mansions may be lacking inside in other departments. Clearly there are as many different individual homes in our community as there are families living in them. Regardless of the appearance of house a student lives in, the location or neighborhood, or the number of dogs a family owns, when a youngster steps on the bus, he or she is another student filled with potential heading to or from school.
I’ve also been reminded of a few bus behaviors that haven’t changed much since Alfred Tilk drove my siblings, my neighbors and me to and from school in Greenfield on good old bus No. 8 many years ago. The behavior of most kids seems to decline as each one moves farther toward the back of the bus. Morning trips to school tend to be very quiet. Most are still groggy and dormant first thing in the morning. Rides home in the afternoon are just the opposite, starting with nearly every student updating every other nearby student on the happenings of the day. This occurs all at the same time when no one appears to be listening to anyone else. As stops are made and students slowly trickle off the bus, the noise level dissipates accordingly. It has been interesting to listen to the stories students have told me on our bus rides. I’ve learned a lot, and a few things our parents may not have wanted their kids to repeat. For the most part, our students behave very well on our buses.
From time to time, a student may misbehave repeatedly, thus earning them a write-up and warning. Depending on the circumstances, students that do not correct their poor behavior choices after warnings may not be allowed to ride the bus for a period of time. Typically, this consequence cures the problem and the student learns from the experience. Unfortunately, parents sometimes feel punished because they then need to make other arrangements for their child’s transportation to and from school. Getting a son or daughter to and from school is the responsibility of parents, but we do our best to help and transport youngsters that behave appropriately and have earned the privilege to ride the bus.
On a positive note, I have noticed that a clear majority of our regularly riding students speak to the drivers, saying, “Good morning,” “Good night,” “Have a good day” or “Thank you.” This has been so encouraging. Also, our drivers recognize their greetings and positive comments can make a significant impact on a student’s day. Each driver is the first school staff member that interacts with many of our students, and starting off on a good note truly matters.
The enormous responsibility entrusted to our drivers every day should never be taken for granted. Each bus or school vehicle is filled with precious cargo and our drivers understand that. Our drivers dependably carry out their daily duties and drive their routes because they sincerely care about kids and their safety. Shortly after their retirements, I’ve heard so many drivers mention how much they miss the kids. The lessons learned throughout each day are so very important to each child’s development, but the beginning and end of each day truly matter as well.