I used to love driving a bus and had the knack it took to make it fun and safe. It suited me, that mixture of dimpled and dotted eyes and crossed teens; that was all the curriculum I needed. The length of the class was perfect.
A good driver’s job was to make them skip off the bus in the morning and be ready for what the day brought them at school or get them into hearth and home mode at night. Typical of life in general the good driver managed crisis well and, more importantly, had a regular routine that was crackily and alive.
The routine? Unregimented talk and tease. Truth and dare with a semi mature adult that knows the boundaries not to cross. A promoting somehow of of the skill of attaching and belonging and the etiquette required to make this work. Upholding those rules of herd law that frown on growl, snap and tail between the legs. Having fun with the little imps.
One routine? The railroad crossings. The whole safety thing demands quiet as the driver looks and listens. When I call out “RAILWAY” they are expected to call out together “QUIET”. Even then I was a poet. Who could end it there? Teaching some rhyme and rhythm is important so….
Mr. Mike oughta try it
…or is a riot..but you are an adult and you can find all the rhymes. This was fun and the kids would always nibble at each other too and became quite adept at affectionate teasing.
Yes my name was “Mr. Mike”. I demanded respect to nonsense and drew clear lines not to be crossed. Have you ever tried climbing up to the pinnacle of two capital “M’s”. It takes a whole year of scaling and helps keep them occupied. The few that got to the top I would gladly count as friends and peers.
Once they get to the top afterall they immediately realized that you are no higher than their own name. From the vantage point of lofty you see that the “M” in Mister does not get drawn outside of the same line as you find the “B” for Bob or the “S” for Shirley and, if it does, it was poorly scribbled needing to be redone.
So, with this authority, I asked for homework to be done by the younger kids. It was expected to be completed. “Draw a large “H” on a sheet of paper as bold and clear as you can. Make little butterfies and airplanes buzzing around.” Each child was given a different letter as they got off. They would always do it.
If the powerful “Mr. Mike” changed the seating arrangement there was to be no whining. It is not like they were afraid of me, that my tone would change or parents and teachers would be told. There was no stomp or push. I had a different tactic.
My weapon was deafness to whining and the knowledge of the fact that simpering is not a colour anyone likes wearing long. Some kids would spend five minutes in the aisle modeling a good pout and usually in that time the other kids would tell them how it brings out the worst of them. How it made their “I” disappear.
The ordered seating arrangement was specific. Johnny with his “H” here, Peter with his “E” there. The game was easy. See how many waves and toots each side could get. Left side would catch someone’s eyes and on command they would spell out “HELLO” in the windows and frantically wave. The phrase “HELP ME” was particularly fun and not only made my students skip but helped their parents and community have some fun as well.
The poor kids at the back of the bus? They made their own flashcards and I never really knew what was on those. There was no complaints though I suspect there could have been. The sign “you are cute”, “honk if you love Jesus” and “back off” were at times found amongst the litter but I doubt this was all of them.
I never worried about it much. The way I see it any reasonable person can remember the danger of getting eye contact with the kids at the back window of a yellow bus. Very foolish really. When pulled up behind a bus the only way to keep your self esteem in tact was to avert your eyes or have strength enough to smile. To remember what it was like to be in that seat and what you would have done.
I may have taught them the “1, 2, 3…stick your tongue out” thing but the whole “give the finger” theme was not mine. In fact may I make a suggestion. Instead of saying “these damn kids today” perhaps you could pack something in your car just for the occasion as part of your emergency kit. Perhaps market one of those great big “we are number 1 hands” that fans wear at sporting events and alter what finger is raised. Get out of your car at a light and do a little dance and wave back. They would be encouraged if you would wear something beside grimace after all.