Behind The Wheel
Center Grove Bus Drivers Give Day-in-the-Life Perspective
Writer / Matt Keating
It also means dealing with poor weather conditions, road rage, heavy traffic, and misbehaving passengers.
But the rewards still outweigh the tough times. Just ask some of the great bus drivers around Center Grove.
“The most challenging part of being a bus driver is the younger kids or new students who don’t know the rules of the bus,” says Tammy Brookshire, a driver for MS North and Center Grove Elementary School. “Also, the kids moving around, screaming, standing up, looking backward, and keeping aisles clear. It also gets loud at times on the bus and some kids can get squirrelly.”
Brookshire adds that her job is also highly rewarding.
“I love the reward of a child’s smiling face,” Brookshire says. “I am the first person they see before going to school, and I’m the last person they see before going home. I greet each of my students every morning with a happy, warm smile. I want my kids to feel welcome, safe, and have a positive experience on my bus.”
Each morning, Brookshire does a pre-trip drive to make sure her bus is in top shape. Sometimes nasty weather can be an obstacle.
“I have no control over Mother Nature,” Brookshire says. “I always drive cautiously, and always use my mirrors. Safety is my goal in all weather, and when I’m driving. If I’m late because of weather, that’s ok.”
Brookshire adds that “you have to love children and understand they are learning and make mistakes. You have to be very consistent, be a good listener, and show compassion. You also have to reward good behavior and teach them how to turn their bad behavior into good behavior. Be someone they can look up to. It also helps to have a good rapport with students and their parents.”
George Knapp, a bus driver for MS Central, Center Grove High School and Center Grove Elementary School, believes safety is the most important part of being a driver, and the most challenging.
“Weather conditions change as much as students’ attitudes also change, so each creates challenges,” Knapp says. “I recently had a mother ask me if I could guarantee that I would get her daughters to school on a slick, snowy winter morning. I said I would do my best, and drive as carefully as if they were my grandchildren. I encouraged her to call the school to check on our arrival. She said she didn’t have to since I did what I did.”
Knapp says that bus drivers deal with weather like everyone else, “except we have 50-60 students on the bus. If we are a few minutes behind schedule, that’s ok. Better to arrive a little late, than not at all.”
When it comes to kids’ behavior on the bus, Knapp has the same rules that apply in the classroom.
“Talking is fine, but yelling is not,” Knapp says. “If a driver is distracted by yelling or another commotion, he or she is probably looking in the mirror, and not watching the roadway. I have found that most parents are supportive of the drivers. If their child is acting up on the bus or in the classroom, most parents want to know about it.”
Knapp’s advice to future bus drivers is to have patience, be able to problem solve, and have a positive attitude.
“As a driver, you may be the only person all day that will say something positive to that student,” he says. “A smile and saying ‘good morning’ or ‘have a nice evening,’ and being patient goes a long way.”
Knapp’s favorite part of the job is the smiles from students. He also enjoys hearing them say “thank you” and “have a nice day.” It makes his morning or afternoon.
“There are times when a student will share a success in the classroom, or on the playing field,” Knapp says. “And being asked if I will attend a choir presentation or ballgame are special rewards. It’s hard to put a price on that.”
For Marlene West, who drives Special Needs for MS Central, Center Grove High School and Maple Grove Elementary School, says the most challenging part of being a bus driver is having the right words to say to a child at the right time.
“Our traffic and roads are also always a big hassle, but the kids feel safe on our buses,” West says. “We have the best mechanics anywhere. We also have radio and GPS contact to any type of help we may need at a moment’s notice.”
West believes the most rewarding part of her job is helping children think positively about school and how important everyone involved in their education is.
“It’s the best part-time job you will ever have if you want to stay active, make a huge impact on youth, and serve your community,” West says.