Safety Town

Yesterday I was the student, today, the instructor.  Safety town, is an opportunity for children entering kindergarten, first or second grade to come together and learn about safety.  Fire safety, bike safety, and school bus safety.  Representatives from the sheriffs,  police, and fire departments, as well as school representatives, student helpers and transportation come together to present incoming students with helpful safety tips to keep them safe at home, outside, at school, and on the school  bus. I bet you can never guess which section I was teaching.  If you guessed school bus safety, woo…you get a gold star!  My portion of the program is presented on the last day of the session.  There are two sessions a day, broken down into three separate groups in each session, to keep the groups small and manageable.

About three years ago, my coworkers and I produced a school bus safety video.  This was our first attempt at creating a project like this for the district to use as a tool to help teach our K-3 school bus safety program. Before this video was created, we used a video that was created in the early 90’s.  This was by far, our biggest motivating factor for wanting to create something new.  Umm…yeah…that video was…creepy, not to mention it was VHS…yep…VHS.

My first group of students arrived.   I instructed them to sit on the floor in front of the TV so we could watch a short school bus safety video and to pay close attention because I would be asking them questions at certain points during the video, after which we would take a walk out to the parking lot and hop on my school bus for some additional instruction on safety features of the school bus.

Not long after the video started, the children would notice that I was also participating in the video.  They were quick to point this out.  It was not long before a host of comments were hurled my way.  Many of those comments are too cute not to share.  The following are some of my favorites from throughout the day.

“Is that you on the video?”  asked a child

“Yes, it’s me.”  I replied.

“But…you’re here…how does that work?” He asked in return.  After pondering his own question, he added.  “Did you video record that…or what?”  The video was playing the entire time this conversation was taking place.  You know there is a lot of learning going on there!

From another class…

“Is this video almost over?”  Asked one child.

“Not yet, It just started.” I said.

“This video is soooo long!”  He lamented.  Folks, the video is 8 minutes and 7 seconds long.  I knew we should have edited out those extra seven-seconds of footage.  Yep, we really dragged out the content of that video to 8:07 of pure torture!  When the video finally ended, he had this to say.

“Is it finally over?”  He asked.

“Yes.”  I replied.

“Well, that’s a relief.”  He said.

And from yet another…

“Is that your husband in the video?”  A boy asked.

“No, that is not my husband.”  I replied.

“Is your husband in the video?”  He asked

“No, my husband is not in the video.”  I said

 

“Where is your husband?”  He asked

Oh for heaven sake, I thought..At what point did this turn into an interrogation? I think the police officers may have shared a little too much technique training with this group. 😉  It was so hard not to laugh out loud.  I was getting the third degree for my husband not being in the video with me…yikes!

And then there was this one, and probably my favorite.

“Is that your daughter in the video?”  A little girl asked.

“No, that’s me, I don’t have a daughter.”

I must admit, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this question.  The video was only taken a couple of years ago. Had I really aged that much?  Yikes!

 

So, there you have it, a snapshot of my day.  Boy did I have fun!  Their energy, their curiosity, and their humor…weather intended or not, they kept me amused and on my toes, all day long, and they certainly, wore me out!

 

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Schooling The School Bus Driver

The past two days, I have had the privilege of attending an advanced school bus drivers training course.  It was one of two scheduled training events scheduled in the state of Oh. There were approximately 400 drivers participating in this particular session.  The two days were broken down into a series of classroom, participatory clinics and driving events, ranging from service animals and wheel chair securements, to bus evacuations…from a smoke filled bus, and an obstacle course…of course.

As many of you know, I have been driving for the past 17 years, and as of today, I have completed six Advanced drivers training courses.  I am still amazed that  after participating in as many of these events as I have, I still walk away from each session picking up new tips or ideas on how to do, or manage situations and events.  So, big Kudos to all of our Pre service instructors and OBI’s putting together and executing such a successful training event for so many drivers.  This years star events, for me, were, Mirrors, Service Animals and transportation, and the parking lot challenge.  Not saying the other segments were not effective or interesting, but these three sections either captured my attention, presented me with new information that I had not previously known, or appealed to my adventurous side.  I would like to highlight just a few of the things I came away with from the past two days.

This first new revelation most of you will likely find rather dull and uninteresting, but really made an impact on me…Mirrors!  I have been looking at school bus mirrors every single day, of every school year, hundreds of times a day, for the past 17 years.  Here are a few things you may not know about mirrors…and not just school bus mirrors. It takes your eyes two weeks to adjust to new mirrors.  TWO WEEKS!  Our poor subs, sometimes,  drive multiple busses in one day, let alone two weeks.  This next one, was a real eye opener for me and one that I was unaware of for…too long.

When new busses arrive, they set the crossover mirrors (convex mirrors to the front of the bus) at a 90 degree angle.  This is to help reduce the possibility of damage during transit to the purchasing school district, when they are being delivered.  State inspectors inspect the busses and all busses and mirrors will pass a state inspection with the mirror brackets set to this angle. What should be happening, however, is for the crossover mirror brackets to be adjusted to meet the FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards), which are a 45 degree angle, before a bus leaves storage.  A mirror grid is set up to meet these standards, ensuring proper positioning for optimal viewing and safety.  Long story short, I will be reevaluating my crossover mirrors positioning before the beginning of our school year and double checking our entire fleet for compliance. If you are unsure of proper mirror adjustments, message me, I will be happy to pass along the information to you.

There are currently 52 service animals being transported in the state of Ohio, two of those service animals are in the Centerville school district.  I have not had the opportunity to work with any service animals but look forward to the experience at some point in the future.  The number of service animals is expected to increase rapidly over the next five to ten years, increasing in number to as many as 500 in the state of OH.  A couple of interesting facts about service animals.  Only dogs and miniature horses can qualify as service animals…NOT therapy animals.   Service animals require between 350 to 500 hours of training before they can be active service animals.  The average cost of a service dog can range from 14 to 17 thousand dollars to the recipient of the service animal and can cost up to 40K to train and place the animal.  The applicant must go through a rigorous training process and pass a final test before being awarded the service animal and must recertify annually to maintain their certification.  Now, here’s a bit of trivia that all animal lovers hate to hear.  A service animal is viewed by insurance companies as, a durable piece of medical equipment…don’t shoot the messenger!  In case of an emergency, however, the child’s needs will always come first, the service animal will find its way to their child.

Driving an obstacle course is always a welcome change of pace.  We were definitely taken out of our elements as school bus drivers today.  This years driving events, included a forward serpentine and an evasive maneuver event intended to decrease the drivers tendency towards panic braking and promote  proper seat and hand positioning.

We were instructed to drive the course without braking and to maintain or increase our speed throughout the course.  There were both transit and conventional busses available to run the course.  I, of course, chose to drive a transit bus, since I do not have that option available, to me, in our school district.  Not to mention…they’re just fun to drive and handle and turn so much better than a conventional school busses…yes, I have bus envy.

I got to start my morning on the course today.  No trial, no practice, just get in and drive.  First up, forward serpentine.  I started maneuvering around the first cone accelerating through the course as I went weaving through the cones without using my brake, as instructed.  I managed to miss the first two cones in the serpentine and then, wham, blasted the third and bash…took out the fourth.  I went straight into the second event, evasive maneuvers continuing my accelerating…as instructed. I approached the section of the course where the instructor issued a verbal command to veer left or right on the course. Veering to the right, as instructed. The objective was to continue forward without braking while still maintaining control of the vehicle while making quick, smooth movements of the steering wheel with proper release of the throttle and no braking.  Oh yeah…now that was fun!  Never mind that I managed to take out three cones in the  process.

Once we made it through the course the first time and went for a second go around, my instructor told me that I could use my brake…Hmm…guess I took the course a tad too fast for my instructors taste, on that first go around.  She did say accelerate and not to brake.  Once I completed the course for the second time around.  This time only taking out two cones on the impromptu turn. I completed the course and brought the bus back to its starting point for the next driver to complete their portion of the maneuvers course.  As I exited the bus, my coworkers confirmed that I flew through the course the first time around, prompting the change of directive from my, OBI.  Note to self…try not to terrify OBI’s while driving evasive maneuvers.   It may not have been a pretty run through the course, but it sure was fun.

All in all, it was  another great training session. I have new information to pass along to my district and new tools and information for my new driving students.

 

#learnsomethingneweveryday#

#nevertoooldtolearn#

 

Snake Charmer

Some of you know my history of finding critters in unusual places, particularly mice. Like my dryer, my boot, in my vacuum cleaner and on my bus…Critters dig me!  Today’s adventure did not involve any tiny furry friends nope…I’ve graduated…to…snakes…

I was pulling weeds in a section of the garden we had not yet planted, when two snakes darted out of the tall grassy weeds I was yanking on which, of course, startled me. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see these two uninvited slithering guests darting out from the same area my hands were occupying.

Nick suggested I should shoo the snakes out of the garden. Sure…cuz snakes respond to verbal commands from humans. Besides, it was too late, the two snakes quickly disappeared under the weed barrier we have in place between the garden rows.

I wasn’t exactly eager to resume my garden task, knowing my two sneaky friends were stealthy slithering about just waiting to devour my hand…

Yes, I know they are only garter snakes and yes, I know they are completely harmless…blah…blah blah…and yes, I may be a drama queen.

Watching them slither around in and about the yard…no worries. Knowingly and willingly sticking my hand in the same area they just disappeared from…not so much.

Nick, (my husband)who is also not a snake fan, came over and took the shovel I was using…for the stubborn crabgrass I was trying to dig up. He put the shovel into the ground and discovered the snake…laying her eggs…oh geez. Really?!?

He wanted to kill it…I wasn’t having any part of that! I may not like snakes but I dislike killing creatures, far more than my comfort level of their existence.

Well, Nick picked the creature up, with the shovel, and hurled it over the fence. And by, hurl, I mean twenty feet up and twenty feet out, with an audible thud as she landed. I’m not sure if it was the shovel, the hurling, or the landing part that killed the snake, but we found it, dead in the yard, a few hours later.

So much for trying to be compassionate and the whole live and let live concept.

On the lighter side…we finished weeding and planting the garden without any additional surprise critter visits and the day could not have been  prettier!

So, why would I be sharing a story with you about my garden, when it has absolutely nothing to do with school bus driving…I’m so glad you asked.  My adventure reminded me of a story that took place on my bus a few years ago and it just happens to be about one of my kids and his encounter with a snake.

 

“Hey, Mrs. Mileti, guess what happened to me this weekend?” Adam asked.

“I have no idea, Adam. What happened?

“I got bit by a snake—TWICE!” He told me.

“Oh my goodness, how awful! Where did that happen?” I asked.

“In my yard.”

“Ask him how he got bit by the snake.” His brother shouted, as Adam was telling his story.

“How did you get bit by the snake, Adam?” I asked.

“I picked him up by the tail and spun him around, like this.” Adam proceeded to give me a visual reenactment of his encounter with the snake. He swung his arm around in a rather wild lasso-type

motion indicating a very wild ride for the snake, which, resulted in the snake ultimately biting his finger at some point.

“How did it happen the second time?” I asked.

“I did it again.” He said.

“And you were surprised by the snakes response the second time around?”

I think both Adam and I can safely say we would make terrible snake charmers!

This story is from my book, School Bus Sass.  If you like the stories found on my blog, then you will LOVE, School Bus Sass!  It’s available on Amazon and Kindle.

Seniors Say Goodbye

It’s hard to believe, another school year is coming to an end. Today was our seniors last day. As is typical, I have very few seniors that actually finish the year with me. This year, I had two. I like to leave my seniors a parting gift and wish them well in their future endeavors.

It definitely makes me a bit sad to know I will likely never see them again or ever learn where their paths will take them or what outstanding accomplishments they will achieve. Looking at the joy prominently displayed on their faces, it is clear they are pleased with what they have accomplished thus far, and are eager to discover what lies ahead in the next chapter of this journey we call, life.

Their youthful enthusiasm brings a smile to my face and distant memories come crashing back as I recall my own graduating experience. They are fond, enduring memories. I hope the joy and enthusiasm they feel today, resides with them long into the future, propelling them to heights they once only imagined.

There is a quote I like to impart with each of my seniors. To me, it sums up my wish for them.

I hope your dreams take you…
to the corners of your smile,
to the highest of your hopes,
to the windows of your
opportunities
and to the most special places
Your heart has ever known.

Congratulations, 2018 grads!

Saying Goodbye To A Transportation Legend!

Yesterday, we celebrated the end of an era.  My boss, George Sontag, will be hanging up his keys and closing the bus doors for the last time on July 31, 2018,  just shy of 58 years in the transportation industry.  He is 79 years young and is walking GPS or as we like to say, you don’t need GPS, when you have GS…George Sontag. The man knows where all 120 of his busses are at any given time during the day.  There is no logistic that man can’t solve.

George started his transportation journey in 1961 in Indian Hill, Oh, retired from the Milford school district in 1991 and was coaxed out of retirement to take on Centerville City Schools transportation department the very same year.  George will leave the Centerville school district with 27 years of service.

George is quite simply… amazing.  He arrives before 5…that’s a.m. and leaves after 5:00 in the evening…every day!  He leads by example and no one could ask for a better boss.  He is kind, compassionate, dedicated, fair and professional.  I am blessed to have worked for him for the past 14 years and will miss him dearly when he is gone.

Our transportation department, hosted one, of half a dozen, retirement parties for George.  There were about three hundred attendees from around the state and a host of employees both current and past to wish him well.

One of my very talented coworkers, Sue Tickle, created the work of art shown below.  The bus that you see, is actually a cake.  Hard to believe, but true.   In addition to the mind blowing, cake masterpiece, she also had eight different kinds of cup cakes prepared and creatively displayed on construction pylons.  To top it all off, there were a variety of hand made candies for everyone to enjoy.  Sue’s creativity and attention to detail are impressive, to say the least.  You can check out dozens of Sue’s masterpieces on her Facebook page, Angel’s Food Cakes, or on her web page http://www.angelsfoodcakes.com.

celebrating a liftime of dedication transporting generations of school children.   A festive, fitting evening celebrating a liftime of dedication to school bus transportationIMG_1943.jpegIMG_2651.jpgIMG_2652.jpgIMG_2657.jpgIMG_2654.jpg

Spread A Little Kindness

I stated in an earlier post, that at the beginning of each school year, I take the time to learn each childs’ name and greet them in the morning as they get on the bus, and again in the afternoon as they leave each day.  Many of the children reply in kind with a hello or a good morning and address me in the afternoon in a similar fashion.  Needless to say, every year, there are typically a few children who choose not speak to me, regardless of my daily efforts to make it happen.  While I am puzzled by their lack of response when being spoken to, I go about my merry way and continue to greet them each day as they board my bus and each afternoon as they depart for home.

I am thrilled to report, that, determined kindness, and perseverance pays off!  Today, for the first time this year, not one, but two of my students who boarded the bus every day since the beginning of the school year, never uttering a reply to my greeting,  greeted me!  A very shy second grade girl, whose voice, until today, I had never heard, said…Good moring.   And one of my high school boys who daily walked by silently, said…Hello.  This may sound very insignificant  to many, and, it probably is, but to this school bus driver, it was like winning the lottery!

So, for all you drivers out there going the extra mile to make sure your kids know you care, keep doing what you are doing!  What we do does not go unnoticed.  Even if it does take the better part of a school year for your efforts to take effect or sink in.  We may never fully realize the impact we have on a child’s life but the effects could be long-lasting!

School Bus Driver appreciation day was Monday, May 8th… to my fellow drivers near and far…Your pressence in the lives of your children, makes a difference…YOU make a difference!  For all that you do and for all that you are…Thank you!  The wheels of the bus wouldn’t go round, without you!  Keep on…keepin on!  🙂

 

 

 

Completely bear-able

Every year school bus drivers all over the country get the opportunity to show off their wicked awesome driving skills at a school bus safety Road-e-o. This event consists of a variety of events that test the drivers driving skills and safety skills.

This year, the state of Ohio added a new event for all of the drivers to perform. The event aims to demonstrate our skills in properly fitting and securing a child safety harness. In essence, it is a positioning device designed to help keep a child safety seated.
They are usually part of an IEP (individual education plan)
and are generally seen on our special needs busses, so many of our drivers are unfamiliar with how to put them on and secure them properly to the seat.

Shockingly, there were no children who volunteered for this venture. So, in an effort to practice this skill, we solicited the assistant of, Sandy.

Sandy was patient, quiet, and calm. No matter how many times we put that vest on and fastened her to the seat, she always managed to smile, never becoming unbearable. When we finished practicing, however, Sandy set her sights on a different location on the bus…

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