In light of the most recent bus accident in Indiana I feel it necessary to explain what it’s like to be a school bus driver and the training required. We have been referred to as the pre-dawn road warriors. We arrive at work before the sun comes up and many return as the sun is setting. We are licensed to drive large vehicles and are tested on everything from the parts of the engine to self-defense. We are the people that choose to drive your child safely to and from school each day…we are school bus drivers.
Driving a school bus is like herding cats and the noise level on the bus, at times, is like an amplified rolling chicken coop. Every day is different and every child has his/her own unique personality. I accepted a position with the county I live in as a temporary gig until I decided what my next chapter in life would be. Well, almost six years later, I am still driving a school bus! I have been reminded by friends, family and former colleagues that I had a career in banking that lasted almost 30 years, have a Bachelor’s degree, and were honorably discharged from the military as a Sergeant… so why in the world would I ever consider driving a school bus?
The day in the life of a school bus driver is as thankless as I could have ever imagined and as rewarding as anything I could have ever imagined. One day a child screams and cries all the way home because she wants her brother to sit with her but her brother refuses; to the child that brings you homemade cookies from his Grandmother’s bakery just because he thought you might need one…
You are screamed at by irate upset parents and greeted by the parent that waits for you in the morning with a gift. Each morning tests your patience with the person that is late for work and now has to sit staring angrily at the outstretched STOP sign on the bus as a child boards to the patient driver that waits for you with a smile as another student slowly drags themselves and their book bag behind them. There are days when the weather is bad and the windows are fogged and your senses are on alert to possible high water on the road to wires down. Calls are made via the two-way radio to our dispatch team, by far some of the calmest, kindest people ever, for both information and guidance to ensure that your child once again arrives safely.
It is the craziest job that I have ever had but one that I enjoy doing every day.
As school bus drivers the safety of your child is the number one concern and it is not something that is taken lightly. We are required to take several written tests and a road test to include a pre-trip test. We are trained in C.P.R., first aid, pupil management, self-defense, Positive Behavioral Intervention and support, signs of abuse and neglect, signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior, Active Shooter Civilian Response Training, defensive driving, route identification… and the list goes on and on.
As driver’s we privately joke about the student that did this or that or how ridiculous drivers on the road can be because we make them wait a lifetime of 30 seconds as a child boards our bus, but let me reassure you deep down and in the back of every school bus drivers mind is the terrifying thought that at any given moment your child’s safety could be compromised and we are the difference in the outcome of their safety.
Driving a school bus is not something any driver takes lightly and it is not a job without extensive training ensuring that your child arrives to and from school safely. While on the bus your child becomes ours if only for a short time each and every day during the school year. I have assisted students with bloody noses, cut fingers, headaches, loose teeth, moodiness, anxiety, anger and yes being too sassy for their own good all while transporting them to or from school. And yes I am not perfect I have had moments where I have gotten very stern with your child reminding them that their parents have an expectation that every day I will transport them safely to wherever they are going and that their proper behavior on the bus is all part of arriving safely.
Over the course of my day having roughly 125 students, I politely greet each student by name and when time permits ask them about their day or what fun plans they may have for the weekend. I have had children get on the bus very angry at a parent and complain to me about how mean the parent was only to calmly ask them if it was something maybe the child did or to say that the child might want to cut their parent a little slack they are doing the best they can and remember to try to be respectful. I have been a medic, counselor, driver, disciplinarian, cheerleader and most importantly a great listener to try and make the students day a little better. My goal and the goal of any bus driver in doing this job have always been to deliver the students safely wherever they may be going and to try and make their experience on the bus a good one. I have never wanted any student that I have transported to leave my bus with a bad experience.
So please consider this the next time your child boards a school bus, the bus driver for a short period of time, is taking your place and for whatever reasons has decided to take on the HUGE responsibility of safely delivering your and our most precious cargo to and from school. Please be kind and considerate to your pre-dawn warrior and please do not be too quick to judge the actions of the drivers. The welfare and safety of your child is our number one concern.
Be kind out there,
K. Lentz – A School Bus Driver
You can read the published version of my piece here at the River City News Northern Kentucky