Saturday, January 29, 2011

Life as a School Bus Driver

Posted: 29 January 2011; Updated: 

I have been a school bus driver for almost 12 years. It is the best job I've ever had! This year I decided to accept a route different from the normal K-12 routes of all the previous years. This year I transport two groups of pre-schoolers (2-1/2 to 5) and one group of special needs children 7 to 12 years old. These children are my teachers in more important ways than I had anticipated.

Mischievous Dominique

Dominique, 7, is a Downs Syndrome child and our greatest challenge. No local private nursery school will agree to take her. Only the public school system has the resources to accept and relate to her. She is tough and self-willed! At first I did not like her and dreaded her presence on the bus. She seemed traumatized and schizophrenic, often acting out some dramatic scenario that she obviously had recently experienced. I was worried about child abuse at home. Gradually, however, I came to understand the dynamic of her family and appreciate not only what a challenge she was to them, but also the blessing that she brings of always being in the moment. What you see is what you get. She is a force of nature!

Now consider Oliver. He has just turned 7, is subject to seizures and does not speak words that we can understand. But look at that smile on his face! When I mentioned to his mother, who generally meets the bus, that Oliver seems always happy and brightens up the bus. "Yes", she said fondly, "he always awakes happy and bubbling and often wakes us up with a dance or song".  I responded, "He must have a wonderful inner life!"  She smiled and nodded, "He may be slow, but he is a blessing to us." What an attitude!

Elijah ponders
Then there is Elijah, 7, who is the definition of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and whose blood-curdling screams alarmed my assistant and me at the beginning. He is such a beautiful boy, but totally unaware of connecting with others except to honk the bus horn (when we are not alert to his general mischief-making). He comes to us in a harness that we than clip into matching clip-rings fastened to a special seat.

Isabella aka Nancy Drew
Isabella (I call her Nancy Drew), 9, in third grade, is super bright and verbose. The first time she boarded the bus she wondered if the boys would like her. Then she gave us an awesome lecture on space and black holes from a program she had recently viewed narrated by Stephen Hawkins. I think the boys were intially awed by her.

Below is a group of pre-schoolers. They have to be tied down in what is called "child restraints". These are not as onerous as the harness apparatus necessary for Elijah and Dominique, but necessary for any student under kindergarten age.

Tyler, Jacob and Donielle waiting to exit 

Saraphina and mom