Lessons around social-emotional skills don't have to end when students leave the school building, as the school bus can also be a setting in which adults help students learn resilience and self-regulation skills, Lori Desautels, an assistant professor of education at Butler University in Indianapolis, writes for Edutopia.
This past summer, Desautels and a graduate student trained school transportation personnel in northern Indiana on how to form positive relationships with students during their rides to and from school and how to teach them ways to cope with stressful situations at home or during the school day. Even having a unique hand signal with a student can help him or her feel special and not lost in the crowd.
One suggestion is to recruit older students on the bus to serve as mentors to younger students, Desautels writes, noting that drivers can also “catch” students doing something kind for their peers and recognize them for their efforts, or use social media to create a sense of community on the bus.
Bus drivers are often the first and last representation of school that students see each day. The school bus ride is not just a form of transportation to a place of learning: It is a social-emotional learning environment of its own. That environment, whether positive or negative, sets the tone for learning throughout the day and affects a student’s perception of education.
The concept of student mentors on buses is an intriguing one. This type of support could benefit both the younger and the older student. The idea could possibly be expanded to provide a way to offer homework support on the bus ride home. Imagine the effect of converting this “lost time” into an educational opportunity!
If trained properly, bus drivers can provide a positive link between the student’s home environment and school, and they can foster social-emotional learning skills. This role can also be assumed by other support staff. Cafeteria workers and maintenance staff also see events, such as bullying, abuse or emotional responses, that teachers cannot always see. Since the overall welfare of a student impacts their learning, any attempts to create support systems among staff member is likely to improve educational outcomes.