For professional drivers, one of the biggest topics of discussion in my training classes was student management. Drivers are generally concerned about how to handle different scenarios, and rightfully so! The good news is they receive constant training on this topic, not just at the start of their career but all throughout. As transportation directors and operation owners, we always strive to bring the best training on this topic (and many more) to our professional drivers. As a director, there were several things I found that really helped improve the relationships between the drivers and the students.
- Take the drivers out of the buses — And put them in the classroom! I worked with administration to allow drivers to periodically talk to the students about safety. It allowed for more in-depth conversation in the classroom above and beyond the evacuation drills. For the younger students, we gave bus safety coloring books. The older students received a safe rider wristband. Valuable time spent each year was with the new kindergartners or pre-K. We would pull up a bus and bring the students outside to get an actual visual of the danger zones around the bus.
- Teach drivers to recognize where they can make a difference — Drivers often want to know what to do if there is a fight on the bus, or weapons, or if they see someone getting bullied. But what about the bullying that is not so recognizable? It is easy to identify if someone is pushing, shoving, or calling names, but some cases are not so easily seen. Picture this: you’re a driver in the middle of your route. The bus is pretty full, and a student at the next stop has trouble getting to a seat quickly so you can move on. Is that student being defiant? Maybe not. It could be that the other students don’t allow that student to sit by them. It rips at your heartstrings to see a child feeling left out and alone. There are so many great ideas that can be shared once we all know how to recognize this situation. Once, a driver using a Tyler Drive tablet thought to turn a similar situation into a positive by giving the child a job to do. He asked, “Would you mind sitting up front so if someone forgets their card, you can touch the green load button for me?” Now they had a seat always waiting for them and it empowered the student with an important job. Obviously, district policies will dictate, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box in these situations.
- Help facilitate creative ways for students to thank their driver — As an advocate for the drivers, we can help facilitate special moments. Each year, I worked with other staff who were so excited to find ways for their classrooms to thank the drivers. One year the choir sang a song, another year the special education department invited the drivers to a tea party with desserts where they received handmade cards, and another year the high school students created a video to thank the drivers.
- Get the students involved in bus safety — Have the students make videos as a project about bus safety. They will remember it for years to come. You can find many on YouTube to spark ideas. It is always fun to see what students come up with.
- Keep your evacuations up to date and interesting —Add new information regarding cell phones and what the students should do with them if there is an emergency. Show them and the teachers how to open the service door. You may have a newer bus with an air door. If you weren’t trained, would you know how to release it?
I am still rewarded everyday while working in this industry. I get to meet drivers who are so passionate about keeping their student riders safe. I get to work with state officials, superintendents, administration, business owners, contractors, transportation directors, and state and national entities, all of whom want to place the best tools available in the drivers’ hands to increase the level of safety and service for all students.
A huge thank you to everyone on the front line and behind the scenes for student transportation. Have a safe and happy holiday season!