Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tales From A School Bus - Chapter One

My initiation began two weeks ago and needless to say, it's been interesting.

I initially thought I'd be driving a busette (or minibus) full of special needs kids. That was changed when it was finally clued in that it might not be such a good idea for me to drive special needs kids, specifically autistic kids, when I was bringing my own children with me. As much as I had some concerns about certain behaviour upsetting my kids, they also had some concerns about my children's behaviour affecting these kids.

I can't imagine why. I mean, a flying insect of any sort sends my son into convulsions - could that be a concern?

So, it was decided to give me a brand new, uncharted route. To two inner city schools. 72 passenger bus (at least the size of a yacht). Because they thought this would be much nicer for my children, I guess. And for a new, unseasoned, clueless driver. It's not that I was against driving for these two schools, but my primary concern was whether this was the right route to take my own kids on.

Two weeks and much excitement later, I feel like an old pro. From four troublemaking teenage boys getting on (and off - I was told by one student that these were bad boys); one little girl sneaking past me up the stairs to get back on the bus (while I was chatting with her mother at the bottom of the stairs) playing with buttons at the front of the bus and trying to shut me out (I had to write her up a warning and talk to the principal about it); smoking out the emergency brakes because I drove for several city blocks without taking them OFF (hey, it was my second day, and I was NERVOUS), causing the mobile mechanics to have to come to my location to reset the dumb things; having kids come on who had no idea where they were to get off and trying to figure out where they were to go; trying to teach kids who have never been taught school bus safety and feeling like two weeks later I'm just beginning; feeling great that I didn't have to radio in for two days in a row!

Yesterday I had several new students get on at my second school, causing some confusion. Usually there is a teacher riding home with me to help with the chaos, but for some reason, not yesterday. In a "normal" bus run, stops and stop times are established, as well as the kids who will be riding. Not so with this run - yet. Word is still getting around that a bus is running in the neighbourhood and because of this I do not have kids' names, addresses, and the stop times on the way home have varied significantly.

Most of my kids get off in the first three stops. I then usually have two girls left (my very favourite kids of all, two wonderful girls) for the last stop. Yesterday at the second last stop, I had these two girls and two even younger boys (around grade two). I asked them where they were to get off the bus and they told me their street but didn't know their house number. I told them I didn't go down that street. I asked these girls if they knew where these boys lived and they didn't. I decided to carry on with the run and if these boys didn't know where to get off I would just return them to the school.

Before I could leave that stop, one of the boys was leaning over the seat of the other little boy. I told him he had to sit down. He ignored me. I repeated myself. He ignored me again. I then said, very sternly, "I won't be moving this bus until you sit down and sit back in your seat. It is not safe for you to be leaning over that seat."

The boy promptly sat back. As I started forward, he hollered, "HOW DID YOU KNOW I WASN'T SITTING?" I had to hold back a chuckle, because he didn't say it belligerently, but out of genuine curiosity. He seemed amazed at my astuteness.

As I passed by a certain area, the boys told me that they lived one block over and wanted to get off. I was very troubled. I do not like letting kids off who don't know their house number, but they were insistent. This is one of the problems with having no kids names or contacts at this point. I let them off.

As I was riding, I asked the two girls if they knew who they were. They told me their names and then said, "they live with a caretaker".

"A caretaker? Do you mean they live in a foster home?" I asked, and they said yes.

Needless to say, I had to drive the last segment of that run, with these two girls on board, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. This was the boy who I spoke so sternly to. Yes, I needed to reinforce bus safety, but I really, really wished I would have said it in a different tone. These are two cute blonde haired, blue-eyed boys who for some reason don't have parents to love them.

And I know how kind I'm going to be from now on.

I get home, park my bus, and do my routine check to make sure there are no sleeping children or backpacks left on the bus. Lo and behold, there is a backpack. So I zip it open, looking for information on who it belongs to, thinking I'd at least notify them. I pull out a piece of paper with a name, also looking for a phone number. This paper read:

This is to notify the parents of ________that after a routine check,
head lice were found on your child.....................

I dropped the bag like I had been scalded (silly, I know). I couldn't help but be thankful that my kids had not rode the bus with me (they both had colds and were with grandma) and that this was the child's first time on the bus.

I'm quite sure that my children's seating arrangement tomorrow is going to be rearranged.

I don't know about you, but the fact that this girl left her backpack on the bus, ultimately alerting me to the possibility of head lice being transmittable to me or my kids, I think is a kindness from the Lord.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.


Laura said...

Can't wait to hear many more chapters in the "Big Yellow School Bus" Saga!

Darla said...

Believe me, that was only the "tip of the iceberg" for stories.

Mrs. Wizzle said...

Oy! One of my kids came in yesterday morning all hyped up cause their bus had been rear ended by somebody and the vehicle had gone under the bus! She told me about the panic as some kids said they had been beheaded etc. but then the lady walked up the side of the bus on her cell phone. Ohhhhhhh the stories you will be able to tell! Have fun and share with us.

Darla said...

Oh believe me, Mrs. Wizzle, I will. Today I had a little kindergartner get on without her brother (grade two), who usually rides as well. She had no idea where he was and wasn't the least bit concerned. I sent a teacher into the school to look for him and she came back not having found him, so I had to leave without him because I had another school to get to and was already late. Needless to say, when I dropped the little girl off without her brother, the mother was not too happy.

These dilemmas happen several times a week and for me are the most difficult. Because the school was aware of this boy not getting on the bus, it is ultimately their responsibility. It doesn't make it any easier for me, however, wondering where that boy went.

Thanks for responding.