Making a Difference, 1 Child At a Time
Last week California celebrated school bus driver day. I have worked with and around school bus drivers for almost my entire career. There is not a day where I don’t pause and appreciate the essential and often thankless job that drivers perform. In fact, during the year I make it a point to meet with each of our drivers. In these meetings I answer questions, solicit ideas, encourage feedback, and make sure the driver knows how I feel about their jobs.
In honor of School Bus Driver Day I share the following story obtained from one of my drivers in one of these meetings. It is not by any means unique. Rather, it is one of dozens (or thousands) of stories which demonstrate the caring, attentive, and supportive role that many, many bus drivers serve.
Albert is a student with special needs whose behaviors have occasionally been extreme. As a result, many bus drivers are worried when the student is assigned to their route. He has been known to get violent and, at times, a gentle touch can turn quickly into screaming, kicking, and punching. In the last few years several drivers and classroom aides have been injured by Albert.
Well driver Ruth loves Albert. He’s caring, friendly, and always happy when on her bus. So what’s her secret? She has created a CD containing the favorite song of every student on her route. As each student gets on the bus they get to hear their favorite song. (Sort of like the song baseball players hear when they come up to bat.) Albert loves the Rihanna song Stay, which has a lot of piano accompaniment. When Albert gets on the bus he sits towards the back of the bus. When he puts on his seatbelt, the music starts, and Albert is one of the best air piano players in Southern California. When the song is done and Albert wants to listen again, Ruth has taught him to say “More please.”
Each year in our district bus drivers get to bid on routes so Ruth is pretty sure she won’t get this route next year. But she wants to do all she can to ensure Albert succeeds so she has asked for permission to share her Rihanna strategy with next year’s driver. Because of her training, she was sensitive to the confidentiality issues surrounding student data/information and thought she’d check to make sure. Since next year’s driver has a “legitimate educational interest” in knowing her support strategies not only did she receive approval, but she received encouragement.
Ruth’s strategy has now been shared with classroom staff so that the music can become one of the behavior modification tools used in the classroom. Ruth’s approach is making a significant difference in Albert’s educational day because she refused to believe that Albert is “a problem child”. Instead, she used her training and caring to help address Albert’s “problem behaviors.”