On Christmas I received a gift from my brother. It was a picture on a stand that had a phrase superimposed over it that read, "The road to education is paved with buses." He attributed the quote to me, and I pondered on the quote and the picture of my grandmother's school bus that she drove when I was a child. Having always had an affinity for buses, I appreciated the picture and quote but the more I pondered on it, the more the quote resonated with me.
My grandmother was a school bus driver for 30 years. Even to this day, 23 years since she last drove her school bus, former students recall fond memories of my grandmother. Over the years, former students have recounted my grandmother's kindness with such comments as "I still remember that smiling face every morning when I got on the bus." Other students make more profound comments that give a glimpse into troubled lives they led outside my grandmother's school bus. Not too long ago, I was confronted with one of those special memories of my grandmother and her school bus. A young lady now in her forties recalled the kindness and protection that my grandmother provided. It was on her bus that this former bus rider was safe from the cruelty that awaited her outside the bus and even from others on the bus. This former bus rider indicated a deep appreciation for my grandmother for protecting her and being so kind. In retrospect, what I realize is that my grandmother and her school bus provided hope for a brighter future to this young lady and the other children on her bus, many of whom were children of poverty.
Each day millions of children wait for a yellow school bus like my grandmother's bus to take them from their homes to school. The American School Bus Council (2013) estimates that there are 480,000 school buses in the United States. Those school buses carry 26,000,000 students to school each day, half of the student population in school systems across the country. For many of these children, the school bus truly is the driving force between despair at home and hope at school. My brother's quote on my bus picture could easily be re-written to say that the road to education begins with school buses. For children who face personal struggles that many of us can't imagine, it is the school bus that brings hope to them.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported that 21 percent of the population aged 5 to 17 in 2011 lived in poverty. For students of poverty, the hope for a better future rests in receiving a quality education that will lead them into further education or careers. Children of poverty often ride the yellow bus to school each day, hoping to eventually leave behind the struggles of their personal lives. The school bus is the driving force of hope to a better future (pun intended).
As professionals in the field of education, school bus drivers have an intimidating responsibility to the children in their charge. First and foremost, the safety of sixty plus children at one time can be daunting. However, the safety concern is not the only intimidating responsibility for school bus drivers. School bus drivers have the responsibility to build strong relationships with children and continue to be the driving force of hope. It is true that education begins at the door, but it doesn't begin at the classroom door. It begins at the school bus door each and every morning, providing children their first glimmer of hope for a better future.
The National Center for Education Statistics also found a total of 23,544,477 (47.7 percent) of students were eligible for free or reduced lunch during the 2010-2011 school year. The statistics are alarming knowing that almost half of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. When these students are waiting each morning for the school bus, before they can focus on the hope of an education, they must focus on the hope of satisfying a basic need of hunger. It isn't the teacher that brings these students to a place of nourishment both physically and mentally. It is the school bus driver that provides hope, providing a safe, comfort zone for students. Once children arrive at school and off the school bus, many of them are offered breakfast and later in the day, lunch for free or at a reduced price.
Yes, the road to education and hope begins with the school bus. Instead of becoming frustrated and grumbling over a school bus stopping along a highway, instead take a moment to give the driver a gentle nod showing your respect. It is that school bus driver who is providing hope and encouragement to the students who so desperately need it. It is the school bus that leads to the hope of a better day, tomorrow, and future. Like my brother said, "The road to education is paved with buses." The glimmer of hope for the millions of students living in poverty and benefiting from free and reduced lunch resides in a yellow school bus that is all too often viewed as insignificant by those within and outside the field of education.
Many people attribute hope and motivation in school only to the teachers that teach the students but in retrospect, the classroom door is not the only "door to hope" for many students, it is the school bus door each morning, taking the students on a journey away from troubles and challenges to a place where they could build a brighter future.