While the restrictions had their difficulties, it can be easier to ensure school bus safety with smaller groups of children. Especially if your district supplies for all age groups k-12, conflicts can arise when children in various age groups are forced back into tight spaces together after a year of increased isolation.
School bus drivers have to do several jobs at once while on the road, and one of the most important is maintaining a sense of authority and discipline among the young passengers on board. Keeping students on their best behavior is a major safety priority and can help contribute to safe driving as well. The question is, how?
For many schools, the answer is to focus on positive behavior management techniques. Some states have even begun sponsoring cross-district seminars to help encourage school bus drivers to focus on positive reinforcement whenever possible.
#1 Be a source of positivity
Positivity should begin the moment students get on your school bus. Drivers should greet students as they board the bus in a cheerful manner, and try to cultivate a friendly and comfortable atmosphere onboard. Something as simple as a “Good morning!” or “Good afternoon!” can help brighten a student’s day, and encourage a culture of respect during your school bus route.
#2 Get to know your students
As a school bus driver taking kids to and from home every day, it’s likely you are going to spend at least as much time with those kids as any of their regular teachers – if not more. School bus drivers should take the opportunity to try to create positive relationships with he students. At the very least, drivers should know the names of all their regular students, and learn a little bit about them too. This opens the door to further positive communication and other interactions which will encourage good behavior and a school bus safety culture from the students.
#3 Establish Rules and Boundaries Early and Often
Positive behavioral management doesn’t mean a school bus without discipline. There is always room for bus drivers to set rules and boundaries, and they should be set clearly and early. A great example is a short speech at the start of every afternoon route. These boundaries should focus on the most important aspects of school bus safety, such as staying seated and not distracting the driver unnecessarily.
#4 Practice De-Escalation When Necessary
If students aren’t exhibiting good behavior, the driver should first try to calmly and reasonably de-escalate the situation without resorting to threats, yelling, or other “authoritarian” discipline methods. Of course, there will be times when a bus driver needs to pull rank to keep everyone safe, but make sure this is the response used only when all other methods have failed. This is especially important if there’s bullying on the school bus.
#5 Know When and When Not to Intervene
Drivers should always pause to think before disciplining students, especially if they think there’s a chance it could cause the situation to escalate. Sometimes the best response to very minor acts of defiance or small breaches of the rules is no response at all. Some attempts at intervention will do more harm than good.