Being a bus driver is a uniquely challenging art. First, drivers have to be on-time. They can't be early, and it's best to not be late. Drivers have to judge traffic and the weather to arrive at their many stops as close to their assigned time as possible. Next, safety is critical. Yes, buses are large, and the community looks out for them. Still, buses are large! I know I wouldn't want to drive one empty-let alone one filled with the most-precious members of our school district. Finally, much of the "work" bus drivers must do is while driving, facing the road, and monitoring students through a rear-view mirror. They literally do much of their work backwards and in a moving vehicle!
I had time each morning to ask the drivers about what drew them to being bus drivers for our district. Each driver had a unique response, but I heard two common themes over and over. They each love kids, and they want to help students start and end their days on positive notes. I observed that all drivers knew their kids. Relationships matter to our drivers. They greeted the students by name, and they worked very hard to have systems in place so they could know the students' names. I noticed inspirational quotes and fun artwork inside the buses. I noticed drivers laughing and singing with the kids and being especially helpful for any student who may struggle. I heard positive praise for students who were making good choices. I heard gentle reminders for students who needed some encouragement about being safe. I saw high-fives and hugs from kids as they were boarding and leaving the bus. Drivers often said things like, "Have a great day, and I can't wait to see you when I pick you up after school."
One observation was perhaps the most special theme I experienced while riding the buses. In their own way--but over and over--I heard bus drivers calling the students, "their kids" or "my kids." The sense of ownership and love the drivers have for our students helps our students know that they are cared for, safe, and loved. I can't imagine any greater gifts to help our students be more successful leaders and learners.
It is an honor and privilege to work with so many unsung heroes. Our district is fortunate to partner with many teams who help support our students. The next time you see a bus, please give them a little extra room on the road and be sure to give them a thumbs up or a wave. They're transporting--with great care and love--our most precious cargo.
PS--Many thanks to the entire Transportation Department--from mechanics to drivers to receptionists for allowing me this great opportunity. Also, thank you to the staff at Woods who did extra AM car duty so I could ride the buses. I am grateful.