For many of us, change does not come easy and for some, change is down right frightening. I was given a strong reminder of just how scary change can be for some individuals, particularly, children.
I was about midway through my morning elementary route when I arrived at Leah’s stop. Several other students were waiting to board as well. When the doors opened and I signaled the children to board the bus, they filed in and took their seats. Leah, however, hesitated to board the bus and I could tell that Leah was visibly upset. Her parents cars were parked at the corner, and both parents were encouraging Leah to board the bus. Leah took a few steps toward the bus, then retreated back to her father’s vehicle. Leah repeated this process about three times, before she mustered up the courage to enter the bus. I too, was encouraging Leah to board the bus so we could continue on our way. Leah begrudgingly boarded the bus, clearly agitated by having to do so. I was not aware at that time, just how unsettled Leah had been. Leah walked back to her assigned seat, which for Leah, was located in the mid section of the bus. I watched Leah as she made her way back to her seat and was ready to proceed with my route. Leah turned around to sit down, while doing so, caught a glimpse of her parents cars pulling away from the stop. As she watched her parents vehicles drive away, Leah let out a scream. This was no ordinary scream, it was unlike any scream I had ever heard. I had no idea a pitch that high even existed, nor did I realize that any human being could sustain that, off the chart pitch, for such an extended period of time. A Shrill, blood curdling scream would have sounded symphonic in comparison.
Oddly, I was finding it difficult to drive the bus, so I pulled over before I lost my mind—I mean, before arriving at my next stop. I went back to ask Leah to move to the front of the bus. I am not quite sure what the heck I was thinking with that piece of logic, but that was my first instinct. I approached my on board siren and asked her to move to the front seat. I was met with round two of, what note is that, which was followed by, I can sustain that note for even longer than you thought, and was topped off with, I’ve just reached a new decibel level. All of this was, accompanied by Leah’s book bag being hurled down the bus isle landing five rows back. I did an about-face and returned to my driver’s seat. I was getting ready to call base for assistance, when I decided to make one last attempt to remedy the escalating situation. I got on my handy-dandy intercom and told Leah that I could not drive the bus while she was screaming and told her to stop immediately. Shockingly, my comment did not fall on deaf ears. Leah stopped screaming. The screaming was replaced with muffled sobs and pleas for her mother. Sounds that are both sad and heartbreaking, but they were also ones that I could continue driving with.
Before Leah left the bus that morning, I sat her down and explained to Leah that the safety of all of the children is my number one priority and that her behavior made it impossible for me to accomplish that goal. I also added that her behavior was not acceptable and could not happen again. Her response to my last statement was to run off the bus screaming, all the way into the school building.
When I returned to work later that day, I received notice that Leah would be taking alternative transportation to an after school program, in lieu of the school bus and her original pick up and drop off point. A change that her parents told her about that morning, just before getting on the bus. The notice was accompanied by a note of apology from Leah’s father, apologizing for Leah’s meltdown. I appreciated the note, but not because I was looking for an apology. I appreciated knowing why Leah was having such a tough morning. This information gave me an understanding as to how Leah’s thought process works and provided me with some insight going forward.
Too often, drivers are given too little information about the children we transport. Information that could assist us in providing the best care for our riders. Knowledge that could potentially help prepare or guide us on how to handle certain situations as they arise, and quite possibly even prevent some from occurring. I would also suggest that if you know your child has a high degree of fear of change or any other fear that could be triggered, consider sharing that information with your child’s driver. Our teachers have access to this information to assist them in giving your child the best possible learning experience, why not your child’s school bus driver? Your childs’ day starts and finishes on the school bus, making this information equally important to your childs’ driver. Our school bus is considered an extension of the classroom, so would it not make sense to extend the same courtesy to our school bus drivers? A school bus drivers job is not physically demanding nor is it particularly challenging, though it does have its moments. When it comes down to it, however, there are few vocations that carry the level of responsibility and liability, than those of a school bus driver.