The school secretary...this person runs the school, knows how to solve problems, is the first person to greet an angry parent...lots of reasons. But no...this wise woman said she did not agree. "The most important person a child encounters for the school day is the bus driver. The bus driver is the first person to greet the student...and that could determine the rest of the day. It makes a difference if the bus driver opens that door and welcomes the student with a smile and genuine greeting."
I pondered that and thought about the two bus drivers I had when I was in school. There was Mr. Lane. He was perfect. I only remember him stopping the bus one time because we got too rowdy. He spoke in a quiet voice and explained the reason we needed to stay in our seats. And then he drove us to school. ( He also gave each of us a huge Hershey bar for Christmas.)
When Mr. Lane retired the next driver was Mr. Smith (not his real name). He was a grouch and yelled every day. I could usually expect a miserable ride to and from school. He drove too fast, stopped too fast and got angry too fast. Once he turned the corner near a corn field too fast and slid into a deep ditch. The big boys (high school kids...I was probably in 7th grade...well the big boys started rocking the bus and chanting "Smithy, Smithy, Smithy" as the bus would rock precariously to the side. I knew we were going to land in the ditch, and fortunately the bus was deep enough in so that when we did fall to the side we were at an angle and not flat on the side. We all crawled out and waited for another bus to come get us. Of course, that was before buses could communicate for help, so Mr. Smith had to leave us and call for help at the next house. I can't imagine that happening today.
I think of the bus drivers at the school where I taught...and Jaci comes to mind. She always smiled and knew all of the students' names. That was because she also worked in the cafeteria as the cashier, greeting each student by name, with a smile and an encouraging word. What a wonderful way to begin the school day...stepping onto the bus to the smiling face of Jaci.
Yes, the wise woman was right...that school bus drivers are an important beginning and ending to the students' day. But we must not forget each part of the fabric of the school...custodians, cooks, counselors, teachers, media specialists, secretaries, principals....on and on....So many I will not even try to continue. Each has an important role in the education of our students. But for today...I say 'thanks' to the school bus drivers out there who greet each child with a smile....and a special thanks to Jaci.