Almost 12 years ago, I had to attend New Bus Driver’s Class to assure my employment. It’s a state mandated class of 18hrs that you have to finish and pass a test in order to drive a school bus. Every 2 yrs after that, you need to renew your Advanced Drivers Class certification with a 6hr class accompanied with passing a test. If for some reason, you don’t keep up on your certification, you have to start at the beginning.
Tuesday night, I walked into New Bus Driver’s Class again. This time, I was no novice. 8yrs of driving a school bus have been engraved into my mind. I expected to be surrounded by newbies with a scared ‘doe caught in headlights’ expression in their eyes. I was not disappointed. Listening to them talk, it at once reminded of when I was like them and how far away from that I have grown.
It was a strange experience. Sitting where you once sat, reflecting on whom you once were. Beginning again but with the knowledge of experience behind you. As I listened to their comments and concerns, it reminded me of just how unprepared you are of the enormous responsibility of transporting 70+ children all at once. You need to be an expert at navigating a 40ft bus, managing conflict while doing so and maintaining grace under pressure. It’s a tall order to fill and often a position that does not demand a lot of respect. Add in a healthy heaping of personal liability and it can make you choke.
The instructor will often talk about past ‘fatalities’ involving a school bus in the state of MI so that we might learn from them. He’s trying to impress upon us how 1 error can result in the death of a child and how becoming complacent in your job is dangerous. I understand why he brings them up. They are a learning tool. What went wrong in that situation? What could have prevented that incident? But story after story of a child that died at the hands of their school bus driver quickly leaves me feeling literally sick to my stomach.
5yr olds are the most at risk age while riding a bus and every story he tells us, I can’t help but picture my babies. It’s terrible. My mind will flash a picture of Emma or Gerrit, squashed or being dragged by a bus. It’s a horror so awful that I try to shake it out and wish for a bottle of mental bleach to cleanse the image.
I can feel the other drivers in the class recoiling and questioning their decision to have this as an occupation. And I remember back in the day, being scared myself. I know that there’s still a twinge of fear inside me but that’s the healthy amount. The amount that keeps you on guard, more aware, a better driver.
Trying to absorb as much knowledge for my future test, listening to tragic deaths and being at class late are taking their toll. I’m emotionally drained when I get home. I’m glad there’s only 3 more classes. I’ll keep you updated.