I boarded the yellow bus at 2:33 for round one–the high school route. Kids streamed on, greeting the driver who knew each of them by name. All-American Public Schools has a reputation for being an affluent district, but let’s just say many would have been surprised to take a look at the students on my bus today. As I looked around, I recognized a student from our AVID class, a basketball player, and a special ed student, but my guess is that most people would merely have seen a bus filled with “the poor kids”–the ones who can’t afford the cars that fill the student parking lots.
We travelled through several apartment complexes, dropping off students. I visited with both the AVID student and the special ed student who remembered me from last year when I was a principal at All-American High. Then, the back of the bus got a bit more rowdy than I would have liked, so I cruised back to employ one of the most effective discipline techniques: proximity! They were SO happy to have me join them. We talked about why administrators ride the buses at the end of the year and how much I love that part of my duties (sarcasm, it’s a skill). One of the guys said, “Wow, you must not have a lot to look forward to in your job, then.”
Next came take two–the elementary route. After standing and watching all the kids board the buses, I climbed in only to find a kindergartner crying. I told her to come up and sit by me and then asked what was wrong.
“I MISS MY TEACHER!” she sobbed. And I mean sobbed. Loud, guffawing sobs. I got the name of her teacher out of her and tried to assure her that Mrs. A would miss her too. A kind little girl in the seat in front of her said, “Well, you can go visit her next year when you’re in first grade.” A comment that lead to even louder, more frequent sobs. The little girl looked at me and said, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that.” She was so cute and earnest in her desire to help, but my crier was having nothing to do with it.
Other than one quick trip to the back of the bus to put an end to the use of bandannas received as end-of-the-year party favors to pop one another, I spent the entire ride comforting the crying student. Whose bus stop was the next to the last stop. Oh, yes. And, she cried the whole time, pausing only long enough to hold up her wadded Kleenex and announce to me, “I’ve used all of these now.”
Oh, the dilemma! While certainly I wanted to prevent any litering on the bus, there was no way I was taking those Kleenex. Though I work with elementary schools now, there’s a reason I always taught high school, and part of that reason involves never having to collect used tissue. So, I kindly told her to just hang on to it and throw it away when she got off the bus–a feat she accomplished only moments later, finally accompanied by her older brother who’d evidently been hiding out at the back of the bus.
I did give him instructions to tell his mom that his sister had been “a little upset” about the end of the school year! And when he dropped me off back at my office building, the bus driver said, “I sure am glad I had you and your mothering instincts on board today!” And, ironically, though it’s not something I usually relish, I’m glad I was there too. Because a little girl needed a shoulder to cry on, and I had a shoulder to give.