I have been a bus driver since October 2006. I know the inside story, the scoop, the down low dirt of what it takes to be a bus driver, how to handle kids and adults, and how to survive on the "streets" so to speak. I have a blog, feel free to browse it or ask me a question here.
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You need a Commerical Drivers Licence (CDL) A or B - With Passenger and School Bus endorsements. Typically a CDL A class will cover most of what you need to know about driving a large vehicle and all you would need to do is take the tests for the passenger and school bus endorsements. A CDL B will do the same thing, except you cannot drive 18 wheelers with the CDL B license. Everyone is different in how they take and pass the classes, but in my opinion, its really not all that hard if you study. Most bus companies offer training which will help you obtain your license.
It is a big deal for the younger kids, however bus drivers often solve that problem by either assigning seats or letting just the high school age kids sit in the back of the bus. There has never been an all out brawl over the back seats and often I will make the children move from the last two seats on the bus due to safety issues. In an ideal world, those two seats would not be filled by students.
Some individual systems provide a budget to have aides on all buses, however aides are typically found on special ed buses. Occasionally a school system will make an exception to the traditional one adult per bus and hire an aide for those buses whose behavior problems have proven a need for an aide to manage while the bus driver drives. Most of the time, the kids are fairly well behaved. They usually sit down like they are supposed to and can get a little loud at times, but very rarely do I experience extreme behavior problems that would require a full time aide. Often the reason why there is no aide on all buses is because of budget issues. My system is facing 9 furlough days due to budget cuts and the money is simply not in the budget.
That depends on the bus. Since I bounce from bus to bus, some buses work better with the radio on, others get horribly obnoxious and cannot handle listening to the radio. (They forget they are in a moving vehicle and think they are in some nightclub.) Depending on the bus, or my mood, I will typically give the kids a choice between certain radio stations, or simply put on the one radio station that will satisfy nearly everyone on the bus. I refuse to listen to songs or stations that play songs that have an inordinate amount of swear words where half the song is "blanked" out due to the cussing. Its not appropriate to listen to on a school bus that has kids ranging in age from 4 years old to 18 years old. Since we have all ages on the buses, I have to be careful the type of music I let the kids listen to. During the holidays, I do have a couple of holiday cd's and there is a local station that will play holiday music. Usually, regardless of what bus I am on in the month of December, if the radio works on the bus I am driving, its driver's choice. Every now and again if I have a bus that has a designated high school run, I will allow the high schoolers to choose the radio station, since by that age, most of them tend to be responsible enough to listen to it properly. Those buses often do 2-3 runs in the morning and in the afternoon due to the amount of children on the route.
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Yes, riding the buses in the USA is a privilege, not a right. We have the power to get their bus riding privilege revoked, but we have to go through the school and show a track record through write ups, warnings, parent conferences, etc, with no changes before we can actually get the privilege revoked. In my school system, the kids who get written up have a progressive consequence. First write up is a warning. Second, is 1-3 days off the bus, third is 3-5 days off the bus, fourth is 5-10 days off, and then finally off for the rest of the semester or year. Unfortunately in my system, not all principals follow the system dictated by the school board and the parents will and have gone to the school board over their child losing riding privileges even though the behavior has not changed. Its frustrating for us.
No. Though we do have a bus driver appreciation week and occasionally regular bus drivers will receive small gifts from their students and families at the holidays. It is not typical to find and really depends on how well the bus driver works with families. Some drivers have had their routes for 15+ years and often have developed a rapport with the families on their routes. Gifts and tips are definitely appreciated by bus drivers. I also work as a Transit driver, and I do occasionally get a tip from passengers. Again its much appreciated, but not necessary.
Most kids do. However, we do get a few kids who will not respect us the same way they respect their teachers and other authority figures, but chances are good they just have a problem with authority figures in general and have been in trouble at school, at home, and then, on the bus. Most of the time, I manage the kids and their behavior very well, and they know when they have pushed me too far. The few that have the authority problems, will likely always have authority problems until they learn to grow up.
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