Very few parents get to understand the crucial role that school bus drivers play in the lives of their children. Even fewer actually pay them any attention beyond dropping off and picking up their children from the designated bus stop areas. Surprisingly, most school bus drivers have a love/hate relationships with their charges and besides teachers, they are the other regular adults who spend a considerable amount of time with your child. Their face and personality may appear insignificant as you see them behind the wheel yet these are people you depend on daily to safely get your child to and from school. At the very least you should get to know their names and find out from your children what they are like. This ensures you not only have peace of mind about the safety and comfort of your child but also have a point of contact in case of an emergency.
Besides all that, it is also important that parents and the general public appreciate the work done by school bus drivers and the conditions they operate under. Even if you may not get to thank them daily or regularly, you can stop making crazy demands from the drivers and make their work a bit smoother. In the end, it is in the interest of everyone involved that the children’s journey has as few inconveniences as possible. Given the ambivalence of the general public towards school drivers, it is no surprise that so much about the day to day lives of these people is known. Here are 20 such things you should know about school bus drivers.
20 There are no secrets from bus drivers
You may not know much about your school driver- perhaps not even his name, but he or she knows plenty about you. Given that school bus drivers have to be listening to the children, it soon becomes easy to create a rapport with them.
In the end, the children find it interesting to fill them in all about their adventures and family stories.
Most school bus drivers reveal that they get to know not just parents’ names and occupations but other intricacies like divorces, quarrels, adultery, new purchases, holiday plans etc. Children love telling tales and a listening ear is all they need to go on revealing stuff their parents would have preferred remained private.
19 Bus drivers can't touch the students even during medical emergencies
Bus drivers are not legally allowed to punish troublesome kids. More surprisingly, they are forbidden from touching the kids since it could easily end up in a lawsuit. They are not adequately prepared to deal with emergencies whether it is the kids fighting or medical emergencies. Most of the time the bus drivers are left with only a call to the school administration for help or yelling at the kids in the event of a scuffle in the bus. The usual advice even when the kid is having an allergic reaction or seizure is to take the kid home or to school, whichever is closer, placing a mental strain on the driver and further risking the child’s life.
18 It's almost impossible for a driver to be fired
Because of the associated stress and perceived lack of glamour in the school bus driver profession, not many people are lining up to be hired. This means many school districts are struggling to sufficiently fill up the required slots.
As such the prospect of firing an experienced driver is not an attractive option.
The shortage of drivers across the country means the boards are desperate to keep drivers on no matter what. At most they get suspended for a couple of weeks, fined or switched to a different route. It takes extreme circumstances, such as assault or getting a DWI but not informing the employer, for the driver to be fired.
17 Parents can be more problematic than students
Unfortunately, children are not the only source of trouble to the school bus drivers. In fact, they are not as big an issue as their parents. This is because, with the children, a driver can find a way to establish control or easily spot the most troublesome ones and place them under monitoring. The parents, on the other hand, can prove tricky to handle and often an obstruction to the smooth working of the bus driver's schedule. Some will openly tell their children not to listen to the driver while picking arguments with him or her. Others are often late, delaying everyone, or are simply not there at the drop-off points.
It is not always a struggle and a fighting experience for the drivers. There are those kids who treat the drivers as great friends and even an extension of their family. As such, they often come bearing gifts to the drivers out of their own volition like candy bars and even packed dishes and other treats.
Parents too get in the game and may decide to offer treats to the drivers especially during seasonal festivities.
The adults, though, are more likely to offer bribes, especially cash for favors or for allowing certain rules to be broken, like allowing the children to bring forbidden items like open drinks and other contraband onto the bus.
15 Intensive training
While in most cases the entry requirement for one to be a school bus driver is a commercial driving license, many bus drivers get on-the-job training and earn various qualifications in safe driving so they are best placed to react and avert disaster when on the road. There are plenty of training hours before the driver gets his first trip out. Further, it may come as a surprise to most parents that school buses are much safer compared to their personal vehicles in the event of an accident. The seats are heavily padded and high-backed which distributes the energy in case of an accident, diminishing the impact. The high ground clearance also ensures the bus is likely to suffer minimal damage in the seating area.
14 They may know your child better than you do
Most parents forget that school bus drivers have been looking after their kids since the first day they got into school. They see your child’s behavior up close on a daily basis when he or she is away from any authority and interacting with other children.
As such, they are at times better placed than you are in judging your child’s behavior.
From kindergarten to middle school and even high school they have seen behavior changes in your child both good and bad. It helps matters for you to at least hear them out and not be on the defensive when informed of the misdoings of your child.
Another of school bus drivers’ challenges is having to keep on explaining to parents why they have to be at certain stops on time either to drop and pick up their kids. Most people assume as long as there is a road leading to their house, the school bus should get there. Unfortunately, school bus drives have clearly mapped out routes for safety, convenience, and efficiency. There are a number of roads they do not drive up on including private roads. They also need to be sure of safe turning, and the road also needs to be good for driving during foul weather. It is therefore important to find out the most convenient location for you and your child and be there on time.
12 Dealing with other Drivers
Besides parents and the children, the other struggle bus drivers have to deal with is regular drivers. Apparently, no one ever wants to be stuck behind a school bus and most other drivers will use all means just to get ahead of the yellow bus including underhand tactics that place the children and themselves at risk of an accident.
Tailgating, constant blowing of horns and failing to let all the kids cross first is simply reckless driving.
Regular drivers should understand that school buses are meant to drive slowly and the flashing lights and stop signals are there for a purpose: the safety of the children.
Sure, being a school bus driver is not one of the most glamorous careers out there, and there are a few of bus drivers out there who get into the job just to make ends meet as they await something better. However, for a vast majority of school bus drivers, this is what they love doing. Being in charge of the safety of the children, being responsible for bringing them to and from school on time, and watching the kids grow even with the challenges that come with, is what they take pride in. They enjoy when they are able to create a good rapport with the kids and also the cool benefits that come with being a bus driver including vacation time and flexible working hours.
10 The ritual
One of the strangest quirks in the daily tasks of a school bus driver is the one ritual they do after every route. They have to walk the full length of the bus and confirm that every kid has exited the bus. It is a common occurrence that some kids get taken in by their phones or games and do not have a clue the bus has come to its final stop.
Others fall asleep on the bus and if it were not for this crucial routine, they would be locked in the bus the whole day.
As part of the routine, the drivers also have to a carry a magnetic sign from the front of the bus and stick it at the back window so that it shows out of the back window indicating the bus is empty.
9 Free time
One of the perks that come with a school bus driving job is the flexibility of working hours as earlier mentioned. For most of them, their schedule involves a morning pickup and an evening drop off.
This means they have plenty of time during the day and if there is no field trip scheduled, they can easily catch a nap, attend class or some training, or just go to the movies as long as they are back in time for their afternoon schedule.
It may not be much in terms of compensation but it is one of the best perks people in other professions envy about school bus driving.
8 More problems with parents
There is so much that parents overlook about how their children are picked up from home and dropped back from school. It does not stop at not bothering to know the bus driver but what is largely required of them as the children’s guardians. One of the most important things required of you is providing up to date contact information. This not only helps for convenience purposes but becomes crucially important should the bus driver require to reach you in times of emergency. When changing the information you should remember to update it with the bus driver so that you can be easily reached always.
7 It means a lot to them to be appreciated
School bus drivers go through a lot on a daily basis mostly above and beyond their duty. They have to withstand daily pranks from their charges and at times abuse from the children, parents and other road users.
On top of that, they have to deal with emergencies, late parents, and making sure the whole bus is clean and hygienic for the next route and all that.
Even with the rest in between, it is easy to have several bad days in a single week. However, they maintain their cool passion and gestures of appreciation go a long way in motivating them. Even a simple thanks and greeting as well as teaching your kids to treat them with respect may be all that they need for the day.
6 Safety rules
Getting children to observe safety rules is not as easy as one may assume. Despite the obvious fear of danger that an adult may feel when, say, popping out their heads through the window in heavy traffic, or never bothering to check oncoming traffic while crossing the road, children hardly feel it. To them, traffic rules do not register despite the repeated number of times they brush with danger. It is just another avenue for fun and as such a bus driver’s task becomes increasingly difficult. This can easily turn a safe driving experience into a nightmare. Drivers have experienced stuff being thrown out at the windshield, and at times their attention has to be divided between solving fights and ruckus behind them and paying attention to what is ahead of them on the road.
5 What goes on behind them
The one thing common to most parents' confrontations with school drivers is the charge that the drivers did nothing when their son or daughter was being bullied or fought or losing something.
First thing's first, most of the confrontations in a bus amongst children are secretive and end fast.
The driver is only aware of the major incidents since his eyes are on the road. There is also the challenge of tens of incidents happening at the same time and the fact that to resolve any of these, the driver has to stop the bus and pick out the culprits. Parents seem to forget about all this and expect the driver to keep a detailed report on their child’s experience when on the bus.
4 Seniority and perks
Like any other field, there is seniority among school bus drivers and it comes with certain perks. With more experience and seniority comes more earnings. More interesting, however, is that in certain districts, senior drivers get to drive smaller van-like buses which essentially have smaller capacities and carry fewer children, hence less chaos and shorter routes. Moreover, the senior drivers get to be accompanied by bus monitors in some school districts which allows them to be more focused on the road and avoid the usual chaperoning duties.
3 Free stuff
Unlike other professions like limo drivers, school bus drivers are not restricted to staying in the background when kids are out on a field trip having fun. They are granted free admission at whichever event or location to join in on the fun.
In case the field trip happens over lunchtime, they also get free lunch, whether as a group of drivers or along with the other chaperones of the event.
This spices up their days and it is a proper appreciation for their work during other days. It is more like a treat for them since besides driving the children to the event, they hardly have to supervise them, leaving that task to the accompanying teachers.
2 Students can be mean
Whether it is just being naughty or following the example set by other adults around them, most children hardly ever respect the bus drivers and go to the extent of cursing at them, catcalling them, playing jokes, and committing a raft of other misdemeanors against the bus drivers. This is further propelled by the fact that they know they will receive no direct punishment from the bus drivers. Female bus drivers tend to suffer more, especially from older teenagers. Teaching your child to respect and appreciate drivers goes a long way in making their work easier.
1 The naughty seats
Seating arrangement in the bus is largely left to the driver’s discretion. You may wonder why your child gets assigned a specific seat but that could easily pinpoint whether he is a noted troublemaker or a good child.
Front seats are usually reserved for naughty kids so that they can easily be monitored.
Assigning the children respective seats also ensures that drivers can easily find out the culprits leaving litter all over as well as personal effects. They may also notice any missing students. Middle and high school children are also sometimes separated by genders, with girls seating on one side and boys the other to avoid much trouble.
Sources: www.stnonline.com, www.scarymommy.com, www.billingsgazette.com www.cracked.com www.rd.com, www.mentalfloss.com