Bus drivers are a hardy breed. I don’t even like driving my husband’s truck because it’s so big – I can’t imagine maneuvering a vehicle the size of a bus. Not to mention that fact that you are maneuvering it around small and unpredictable children. And to top it off, while you accomplish this feat, you are also responsible for managing the behaviour of all the children already on the bus – with your back turned to them!
I had the pleasure of working with a great group of bus drivers from Evergreen School Division this month. We had some amazing conversations, and wrangled with some difficult questions – and ran out of time! So – this post is to fulfill my promise to them to continue our conversation, and hopefully to engage some other folks out there who can relate to the pressures faced by these dedicated professionals.
So often when we talk about using Restitution, it conjures up images for people of intense counselling-like sessions that help children understand the needs that drive their behaviour, and provide them the opportunity to think about how they could meet their needs in better ways. I often hear classroom teachers lament that they don’t have time to work through problems with their students – so how on earth can you do this as a bus driver?!
I can tell you from talking with the bus drivers in Evergreen and elsewhere – there are people out there who are dedicated to using Restitution. They have figured out that Restitution isn’t a formula that you must use to work through a problem. All the tools and strategies that we teach are not the heart of Restitution – they just provide guidance that can help us navigate challenging situations. At it’s core, Restitution is really about how you think about behaviour.
Do you feel that behaviour is either good or bad, or do you see it as a person’s best attempt to meet a need?
Do you see inappropriate behaviour as a bad thing, or an opportunity to teach?
Do you believe your role as the adult is to punish, or to help?
When you truly embrace the principles of Restitution, it’s not something that you “do”, it’s just who you are. It’s not about needing a half-hour counselling session to work things out, it’s about connecting with kids. It’s about letting them know that you care, and that you understand. It’s about working together to figure out how we can make things work for everyone.
That doesn’t change the reality that our time and opportunities are limited. It takes some creativity. The little things count – greeting kids every morning by name, commenting on the score of the hockey game to the kid who is a big fan, giving a smile and a “see you tomorrow” as kids leave. When issues arise, instead of yelling or punishing, a quick 30 second intervention might serve to get things back on track. These are some of my favorites:
Is what you are doing right now helping or hurting?
Is what you are doing ok?
What can I do to help you so you can….?
What’s you job right now?
What are you supposed to be doing?
Of course, there will be times when these quick questions aren’t enough to help kids reflect and adjust their behaviour. I know some bus drivers who have called home in the evening to have a bigger conversation. Or who have taken a few minutes before school starts to problem-solve with the child. Or schools who have come up with collaborative ways to have principal, teacher, parent and drivers work together to support each other.
There’s no one right way to do it. But at the end of the day, if our kids know that we care, and they are stronger for the intervention we have chosen, we can rest assured that we are on the right track!