A School Bus Rider/A School Bus Driver. I've Seen Both Sides Now
Having been the target, growing up, of bullying in school and on a school bus I can understand the frustration of both the children and the parents bullying is visited upon. In my experience I found that the school bus driver of my day spent little time monitoring what what voluble in the mirror above his head and listened little to what was being said behind him. What is a child to do? Who should handle it? With ten years of experience driving children ages K-12, this is my standard of acceptable behavior from myself as a driver and the reason for it.
I was fortunate to have a trainer when I started out who made a simple observation to those of us shivering in our shoes at the magnitude of what we were about to undertake. A forty foot bus and upward of seventy possible passengers! Oh my! She said simply, "When the children board the bus or are unloading at home or school, be sure to say 'Good morning.' or 'Have a nice night.' Even if they don't acknowledge what you say. Many of these kids go home to empty homes as both parents are at work and don't return home before their kids go to bed or they are up and out to work before their kids get up in the morning. You may be the first adult they see in the morning or the last as they start their evening." I take it a step further. Look at each face as they come on. Very important. As a driver you need to try to be aware of, to the best of your ability, the mood or emotion entering the bus. Why is that important? Each child potentially sets the tone for the ride to school. Is a child happy-go-lucky on a given morning? Are they quiet and head down? Are they teary? Are they angry?
The urge, if the emotional makeup of the day is anger, may be to strike out physically or verbally on the bus as they are out of the environment that made them feel powerless and are surrounded by their peers, some of whom may be emotionally or physically weaker. More vulnerable. I have found that asking a child who enters the bus singing, 'Are you having a happy day?' causes a wave of response even from those the question wasn't directed to. To a child that enters scowling or teary I ask, Hey, (child's name), is this a bad day today? Are you sad?' Giving the child a venting space to comment and making it possible for the other kids to commiserates the whole countenance of what the bus could have been had the child been ignored.
Bullying should never, ever be tolerated. It should be made known to the children that you have eyes in the back of your head that were given to you when you became a bus driver and you have been driving a school bus for at least fifty years, no lie. Listen for changes in voice pitch and emotion. For sudden quiet where there was voluble talk moments before.
It's true, a driver cannot possibly sit next to each and every child and overhear and see each action and reaction that occurs. The children should be aware, though, that the driver is concerned about them and wants them to get to school safe, relaxed and ready for the day. When bullying occurs it needs to be dealt with by notifying the driver immediately. Don't try to 'take care of it myself' in the form of striking back, verbally attacking back. This just escalates the number of children involved in wrong doing. However, all the children should be talked to at the beginning of the year and explained to that their bus schould be their very own 'STRESS FREE ZONE'. It is theirs to maintain by shutting down those who swear at them or others. Those who try to encourage others to take part in bullying. It's not tolerated on their bus. It's great for kids to feel that they have a valuable role in making their bus #!.
Wether you live in the city or the countryside, bully's exist. How they are tolerated and dealt with is a job for everyone involved.