The Yellow Bus
For four years in the 1960's I taught social studies at the high school in Texarkana, Arkansas and lived in a duplex in an upscale subdivision about five miles south of town. The last year there, before going on to grad school, I was offered a supplemental job driving a school bus. When the assistant superintendent explained the requirements to me, it seemed like a piece of cake. I only had to pick up and return the students in the subdivision, make one stop at an elementary school and park the bus near the high school. In the afternoon I could leave my post at the high school a half hour before the other teachers, backtrack over the route, and park the bus overnight behind the duplex. For performing this simple task five days a week I would get an extra hundred bucks added to my monthly pay check - a tidy sum back then. But of course, the gig turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected.
After I received my bus driver's license the assistant super and I took a trial run in the bus. I drove and he, standing in the step well, pointed out the homes and locations where the bus should stop. He said it was an easy route, but indicated the last driver had transferred to another route. When I asked why, he said there had been problems with some of the kids and their parents on the bus route.
"You'll see," he said. When we finished the lesson and returned the bus to the bus lot, I thanked him and he shook my hand, looked me in the eye and provided me with both a warning and a principle, "Remember: the student meets the bus, the bus does not meet the student."
On the first day of school I drove around the neighborhood gathering students waiting in the assigned locations until the bus reached a large red brick garish two story corner house. I stopped the bus on the street to the side of house while two junior high looking girls stood on the walk in front of the house. I opened the bus door from the driver's seat and called out, "The bus is over here, girls."
They walked grudgingly towards the bus and greeted me with dirty looks when they entered the bus. I smiled, said, "Good Morning," and I thought to myself this is probably round one. Sure enough, the next morning the two girls were joined by their mothers. When I stopped the bus at the designated spot and opened the door, one of the women yelled in an angry voice, "Bring the bus over here."
I killed the engine, got out of the bus and walked over to the four protesters. I indentified myself as both driver and teacher, the realization that I was a teacher seemed to take some wind from their sails and I was wearing a suit while one women had her hair in curlers and the other was still in her bath robe. I explained to them that the policy of the school board was that the student meets the bus, not the other way around, and as an employee of the board I was bound to follow policy. I excused myself and walked away. There was some mumbling, but nobody spoke up. I clambered back on the bus and the two girls followed. The next morning the girls, sans moms, were waiting at the right place. That battle was over, but there were other adventures ahead.
At 7:30 in the morning students are sleep walkers, but in the afternoon they are quite lively. I had to do something about the afternoon rowdiness. On the first Friday of the first week they were bouncing off the walls and the noise was deafening. I stopped the bus, killed the engine, and just sat there. Finally they began to ask what was the matter. I stood up got them quieted down and announced that each afternoon they had two choices if they wanted me to drive them home. One, they could sit still and speak only in whispers or, Two, they could sing. They opted to sing. There were two students in the school choir that agreed to lead the singing. Of course they tested me; after a day or two of singing they reverted to rowdy and I pulled the bus off the road and stopped until they quieted down. So, on most afternoons my bus, like the hills in the movie, were alive with the sound of music. However, when the weather was inclement, rainy or cold, the riders huddled quietly in their respective seats and whispered.
There was another incident that makes my blood run cold to even remember. One afternoon, several students exited the bus at the same time and crossed the street in front of the stopped bus. I closed the door to the bus, which automatically turns off the flashing red and yellow lights on the bus and began to move the bus forward. Something, I don't know what, made me pause and reopen the door. In a few seconds a tiny first or second grade boy, who had stopped in front of the bus to tie his shoe or to pick up dropped books, walked on across the street. I lowered my head to the steering wheel until strength returned to my body.*
One more incident to end on a more upbeat note. There were two siblings perpetually late to the bus, a boy about eleven and a girl about thirteen. I often had to use the horn the summons them from the house and they would stumble half asleep towards the bus. One morning as the girl made it to bus door her panty hose fell down below her ankles. When she reached down to pull them up, she dropped her books. She began to moan and a junior high boy sitting on the first seat saw what was going on and began to guffaw and make a commotion to focus attention on her predicament. I turned and pointed to the boy and in my toughest teacher/army officer voice hissed, "Don't you dare say a word!!" He melted into a coma and the poor girl managed to retrieve her fallen undees and books. She boarded the bus with her dignity intact.
The point of the essay, other than edited memories of a retired academic, is to emphasize the policy:
The student meets the bus.
The bus does not meet the student.
Administrators of schools, colleges, and universities get themselves tied into knots by attempting to meet unreasonable demands from students. Political correctness and gender identification issues immediately come to mind. The job of an administrator is to say no to unreasonable demands. Demands not only from students but from faculty, board members, and the public.
The transgender demand to choose bathrooms might be silly, but paying an assistant basket ball coach at the University of Arkansas three quarters of a million dollars per year is sillier. Now we learn that Allen, Texas will spend sixty million dollars for a high school football stadium, that is beyond silly - that is either insane or criminal.
Administrator! Stop hiding under your desk: Crawl out, stand up and practice saying "No". Of course, soon after taking a stand on a hot issue you will be out on the street...or worse.........
*[I understand other students and bus drivers were not so lucky. Such accidents must have lead to the addition of arms that swing out in front of the school bus when stopped.]