|A Chat With the Team: Bus Drivers and Assistants Talk About the Morning Route, or Was It a Rout?|
|Written by Linda F. Bluth, Ed.D|
|Sunday, 01 November 1998 17:17|
Have you ever asked yourself after the morning route was completed and the students were safely in school what the bus drivers and assistants talk about?
I have always been curious about the answer to this question. So I decided to find an answer. When an opportunity presented itself to meet with three bus driver/assistant teams before conducting an inservice training session for a larger group of drivers, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
I arrived with my Dunkin' Donuts in hand and arranged for a pot of fresh coffee with real cream. These women expressed immediate gratitude for the donuts and a break from the powdered stuff. After the introductions I went right to the heart of the matter and asked: "What do you talk about after completing your morning route?" I thought I knew the answer, but I wanted to provide an opportunity for the drivers and assistants to tell me all about their morning ride and the daily challenges they faced.
For sure, they would discuss the students' behaviors, concerns, special needs, and quickly move on to strategies for correcting any outstanding problems before the afternoon pick-up. I was dead wrong.
The talked about the grandchildren, church activities, shopping at the outlets, exchanged coupons for the Wednesday grocery store specials and wanted to know a little more about who I was. They even informed me that Dunkin' Donuts was having a special. This was my clue that I would have to move the group from small talk if I wanted to learn more about their thoughts regarding the collaborative role of the driver/assistant team.
I asked my next question, "How does the driver and assistant function as a team?" One team stated, "We just know what to do. We have been working together for years." Another team remarked, "We do what it says in our job description. For example, I drive the bus and the assistant takes care of all the bad behavior." The next question was how do you know who does what? The women responded at the same time that they just knew what they were supposed to do, and they did it.
When I asked about specific job functions, one woman said that she had been driving 35 years and she does what she has always done, but it is now more problematic because the kids are from families that just don't know how to care for their children and many parents just don't teach their children right from wrong or how to behave.
Her driver assistant was a great defender of the children, but not very supportive of their parents. Another bus assistant said she did what the driver told her to do each day. I found it interesting that this question made the women a bit uneasy.
After chatting a few more minutes, I formulated the following conclusions: The drivers and assistants I met were not knowledgeable about how to function as a team. They received no formal training about collaboration with respect to job responsibilities and decision-making. The drivers and assistants were not adept about describing their respective responsibilities and could not elaborate about when they last reviewed their cooperative role.
Over and over they expressed concerns about bus behavior. I could not move them off this topic. They commented that they had limited skills available to address inappropriate or undesirable bus behavior that occurred during the morning run before beginning the afternoon pick-up. Behavior management was a major concern. Although I tried to direct the conversation in the direction of shared responsibilities and roles, the drivers and assistants wanted to discuss behavior problems.
After all was said and done, I spent the morning with a group of enthusiastic drivers and assistants discussing best practices, including functioning as a team when working with difficult students on the school bus. This valuable experience reshaped my baseline beliefs regarding the training needed and received by bus drivers and assistants to function as a team.
Bus drivers and assistants providing services for our children outside the school building deserve the same opportunity for developing team-building skills as does staff working within the school buildings.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 17:19|