We interviewed James, a veteran school bus driver from Kansas City, who has been driving for 33 years, about his work:
James was born in China and moved to the United States when he was 8. He is married with two children. His son works as a bus driver in the same school district. James drives mostly in the morning, but sometimes he has to drive in the afternoon, too. Currently he alternates between working at schools and shuttling students to churches where parents pick up their kids after school.
A: I’ve been driving a school bus for 33 years and have loved every minute of it.
A: I love how rewarding it can be, especially when you get to see the smiles on the kids’ faces and hear their laughter when you let them off at school. I enjoy talking to the students and driving them to school. I feel like a member of their family when they are in my bus. I’m the first person they see in the morning and the last person they see at night. As a matter of fact, all of the drivers I know, love their jobs. It’s because of the kids. If you don’t like the school bus kids, then you should probably get another job. If you love kids, this is the best job in the world. I also love that I get to meet such a diverse group of people. It’s great to be able to build relationships with the families I pick up and drop off to school every day.
A: Most of the students I pick up are excited to see me. They are friendly to me. They like talking to me. They’ll ask me where I’m from, how long I’ve been working for this school district, and lots of other things. It’s good to be able to communicate with them like this.
A: I have lots of great memories. One of the best memories happened when I picked up a student who was celebrating her birthday. Her mother picked her up and gave me a birthday cake. I was so happy that all the students were happy for this girl’s birthday. I saw the smile on her face when she ate cake. It was something very special.
A: We’re not the bus driver that you see in the movies. We’re just everyday people who care about the kids. Just because we are on a yellow bus, or we are driving a yellow bus, it doesn’t mean that we’re not human. We’re not something that should be looked down upon. We love the kids. We have a passion for the kids, and we love being there for the kids.
A: There are lots of myths about school bus drivers. One is that some people think school bus drivers are all-powerful, like we can wave a little magic wand and make anything happen. The fact is, we are not all-powerful. We are just normal human beings, with the same rights and privileges as any other citizen in our country, and we have to obey the traffic laws too. Another myth is that as a school bus driver, you can tell the kids to do anything you want, and they have to do it. That is not true either. We are paid to drive the bus, not to discipline the students. We have to obey the school rules just like everyone else. And finally, there is this myth that if you have a problem with the school or school board, you can go talk to the driver, and he will fix everything for you. First of all, remember that we are human and we do make mistakes. We do not have power over the school or school board. We can’t fix everything that is wrong with the schools. Be sure to have something positive to say when you meet us. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Just be nice and it will go a long way. We are just trying to earn a living in the same way you are.
A: Be sure to join the Parent/Teacher Association or PTA at your local school. You will be surprised to find out just how much time parents spend helping the schools. If you help the schools, the school will help you in return when you need it. Also, if you see something wrong with the bus, tell the school. The school can usually fix a problem with the bus before it becomes a big deal. Parents and the school should be working together as partners, not as adversaries.
A: There are no bad things that I can think of. There have been times when I did not get paid on time, but it’s not the school’s fault. There are times when the school is short on funds and they cannot pay the drivers right away. That’s just one of those things you have to deal with when you’re in business.
A: Yes! People always try to pass notes in school buses. It’s a fact of life!
A: I think it’s good to have. It serves as a great monitoring tool, and I can see what’s going on in the school bus. I know what the kids are doing on the school bus, and the parents can see it also.
A: Parents need to be a part of their child’s education at all times. If you have a child with special needs, go to the meetings with your child’s teachers. Most schools will have an IEP, which is an Individualized Education Program, and that’s a document that will tell you what the plan is for your child. Go to those meetings and ask questions. Don’t let anything go over your head.
A: I would like to see each school bus driver get an advance notice before a snowstorm is coming. This year, we had a snowstorm that came to Kansas City on the 15th, and we didn’t get a notice until the 21st. We had three days’ notice that it was coming. That’s why I bought my kids boots, because their feet were cold. I would like to see each school bus driver get a notice that a storm is coming, so they can prepare for it.
A: It varies from district to district, but the average school bus driver salary starts at about $26,000 a year. With all of the benefits and incentives mentioned above, a school bus driver could average as much as $45,000 to $50,000. And the best part is that school bus drivers are really needed now more than ever before. It’s a very satisfying and secure job, especially in this day and age.
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A: Believe it or not, there are several great benefits associated with the job of being a school bus driver. First, you have about as much job security as you’re going to find anywhere in this country. Then there’s the retirement plan. Most districts require their drivers to retire at age 65, and provide them with a handsome pension. Even those who want to continue working beyond 65 can often do so at their current salary, provided they can pass the physical every five years. And finally, some school districts offer bonuses for safe driving records and may offer other incentives like time off for good attendance or staying with the district for a number of years.
A: Learn as much as you can about driving a bus. It’s a very complex machine and you need to know all the ins and outs. Be willing to take the time to get your CDL license and make sure you study up on it. And show up to work on time! Don’t get discouraged. It’s hard work, and you will have days that you want to quit. You will have days where the kids will just wear you out. You will have days where the bus smells like a locker room. But if you truly love children, and you want to serve at that level, just remind yourself that the reward is seeing the kids any time you pass by them. I see the kids every day. Whether it’s summertime or whether it’s winter, I see the kids in the neighborhood. I love seeing how they’ve grown. I love seeing them succeed in their lives. They’re my pride and joy.
Also, be sure to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the company you work for, or your supervisor what you need to do to move up in the company. Most importantly though, love your job. Love the kids, love the school and love the drivers you work with.