Repeat Performances: A Rant

Sometimes a school transportation director or manager who has been to one or more of my presentations pays me the ultimate compliment:  “You’ve made a difference for kids.”  What more could I ask for?  Well, the “more” I seek is a sense that the same problems don’t constantly recur.

I’m a story teller, and the stories I tell in my presentations are the situations I read about in lawsuits.  They can make for heart breaking reading, tragic tales, but serve as excellent training tools.  And so, when I put my hard-core lawyer’s suit of armor on, and steel myself to the reality that these stories are about real kids who have, often, suffered real pain, I can actually find some perverse satisfaction in coming across a new story.

More often, though, I’m frustrated.  And frankly, going through three or four piles of cases and news stories this week, I was struck again, as I’ve been struck before, by the “repeat performances.”

A too-common and recurrent theme is the child who’s missing on the bus.  A tragi-comedy of errors follows:  maybe the child got on the wrong bus, the parent is not notified in a timely fashion, no one’s quite sure where the child is, and it turns out the child is at home – but, it seems, no one knew that.  Then there’s the driver who orders a student off the bus who may have misbehaved or become ineligible to ride because of new policy or loss of privileges.  I’m so tired of reading about discipline by duct-tape – you’d think that drivers all carry a roll of the stuff just in case they have a young mouth that needs closing.  And there are too many YouTube videos of out-of-control buses on which drivers fail to stop a vicious attack, or even radio for help when a student informs him that there’s about to be a fight.  And don’t even get me started on bullying and harassment.

Of necessity, many of you are integrating “active shooter” instruction into your training curriculum, an important focus on proper use of restraint.  Just a couple of years ago, the potential presence of predators – real and anticipate-at the bus stop was the topic de jour.  I get that these are tremendously important issues.  But when will we make the “old” ones go away?

I once did a presentation at the CASTO conference called “Just When You’ve Heard It All.”  If I were retitling that for the present, I think I’d call it “Just When You’ve Heard it All, You’ll Hear It Again.”  Does anyone have any ideas?

Posted on July 6, 2013, in Modern Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. They’ll “go away” (or maybe more accurately, be reduced more dramatically) when pupil transportation leaders recognize that a culture of compliance (command and control) is both an inappropriate and ineffective method to improve performance in an organization that relies on members (drivers) who work with little direct supervision, providing service to individuals (students) who respond poorly to direction and punishment.

    While educators work to engage students in learning, some of us spend our time at the other end of the learning continuum, resorting in frustration to orders, threats and then consequences that do little to change unsafe behaviors, either in drivers or students. We serve in an environment dedicated to student learning, and yet we pay no attention to developing our drivers’ ability to teach the school bus safety curriculum we expect students to learn. We blame rather then solve. React rather than prevent. Maintain status quo rather than improve.

    We need to align our philosophy and methods with those of our best school systems (and some of the highest performing organizations in the world). We need to develop a culture of continuous learning and improvement in pupil transportation, one where our purpose is embraced by our team members as noble and important. Our purpose? 100% of our students, protected 100% of the time. What could be more noble than that? What could be easier to commit to?

    It’s not an easy task, but I’m willing to bet on its effectiveness. Instead of complaining about administrators, motorists, law enforcement, parents, drivers and students, we need to engage them as real partners, teaching them to work together to help us protect our students. It’s the only viable solution.

    In the end, we need to believe that it’s not really a privilege for students to ride our school buses. It’s a privilege for us to serving and protecting them.

  2. Peggy, Love your stuff! have seen you several times and always read what you write when I find a “STORY” One thing that pops to mind when you talk about repeat performances, Communication between all parties involved, no matter the problem, seems to be key to success. It does seem that people start to lay blame before they solve anything now days. I feel very strongly that if there is a circle of communication established, most problems are solved faster and they arise less often. Keep up the great work you do for kids.
    Darrel Christie.

  3. Thank you Peggy, for your blog. It is great to get to read some interesting stories from transportation professionals like yourself.
    We will continue to repeat the past because we don’t change ourselves to deal with the new problems that arise. We don’t learn from past problems, unfortunately. When it comes to dealing with student issues, we focus so much on the child, what is the child doing, why did the child do it, how do we respond to it. We need to step back and focus on ourselves, the transportation professionals, managers, dispatchers, instructors and drivers. We need to start teaching our professionals that dealing with todays children is not like it was when we were growing up. I hear it all the time from my drivers. “If I had done that when” and “If my kid had done that”. For those of us that have been in this profession a long time, we grew up in a different era, a very different “air” of training and responsibility. Even those who are just starting in this profession have been raised with a different set of rules from those the children they are transporting were. We were taught that respect was given to every adult, no ifs ands or buts. It has come around to the fact that respect is given if it is received first and responsibility only lies with the person who sees that there is something wrong. Not with the wrong doer.
    We need to start teaching our professionals that they must, MUST, examine their own attitudes, ideals, and actions. We all need to make a change, not to become like those we are transporting, but a change that teaches the children that we care. We have to reach out to them, in honesty, truth, and sincerity. We have to treat them as individuals with individual needs. And we must give them the respect that we think we should have. Treat them as special and that they are all equal.
    We can only regain those things we have lost by finding them within ourselves and giving them to others.

  1. Pingback: A Confession of Confused Values | Clearance Lights

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