Targeting supervision in schools' "trouble zones" like hallways, cafeterias, stairwells or buses can reduce the number of disciplinary referrals, Dr. Michael Gaskell, principal of Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, New Jersey, writes for eSchool News.
The school expanded its positive behavior support program (PBSIS) to these areas, finding bus supervision to be the most difficult aspect — but starting by empowering bus drivers to assign seats dropped bus-related student disciplinary referrals by 60% alone, giving drivers the same authority teachers have in classrooms.
That step was followed with additional support for drivers: Using statistics that indicated drivers who have positive interactions with students experience better rider behaviors and tying school incentive rewards to bus behavior to improve students’ attitudes.
Problems on the bus have existed as long as buses have been transporting children to and from school. Some parents who have the means to transport their children to school and pick them up flat out reject bus transportation entirely. But there are also always stories of bus drivers who students love, and identifying their best practices can improve that overall experience.
First, districts need to listen to the drivers. Christiana Elementary in Rutherford County, Tennessee, hosted a bus driver breakfast and invited drivers to share their thoughts on how to change student behavior — a move that made the bus drivers feel respected and enforced the notion that buses are an extension of school and drivers should be respected.
Programs like “bus of the month” from Milford Public Schools in Massachusetts also promote positive behavior by riders, who receive rewards if their bus gets the most “thumbs up.” Bus of the month encourages inside voices, hands to selves, hands inside the bus, moving over to let someone sit down, and no walking while the bus is moving.
Encouraging students to use good bus behavior is a step toward using good behavior outside of school altogether, amounting to yet another arm of social-emotional learning. Buses have long been considered a disciplinary no-man’s land. Rewarding good behavior on the bus, a step removed from school, could inspire students to think more about the outcomes of their behavior while in public and at home.