My favorite kind of field trip is the one where I drive kids in kindergarten or first grade to some event. They are usually inner city kids and nearly everything that happens to them on the trip is new to them. For some, it may be their first time on a school bus.
This week, I picked up a busload near downtown Dallas and immediately went through the "canyon". It got dark inside the bus and the bright amber lights in the tunnel were whizzing by. I heard sixty little kids say in unison, "Oooooooh"!! The sad thing is, they are so small, their little heads don't stick up high enough to see much while riding the big ole bus. But I love their innocence.
Much more problematic is the task of maintaining order while transporting 60 middle-school boys - something I get to do twice a day. The trip home is always more of a challenge that the morning ride. In the afternoon, all the pent-up energy is just dying to be released. My job becomes trying to delay blastoff until I can get them off the bus. Of course, just as in teaching, it's incredibly important to begin the year off right. Mess that up and you'll never regain discipline. But now it's months into the year and each ride is a ticking time bomb.
I try to establish an atmosphere from the moment the boys start arriving at the bus. I sit at angle in my seat and make eye contact with each one as he gets on the bus. I will speak if I think I need to work on rapport with some kid that may be up to something. I also look for anything that doesn't belong on the bus. In my 25 years of doing this, I've confiscated water balloons, sharpened sticks, a shepherd's staff (got me...the kid said he was Moses), pets, and one bottle of whiskey.
I've also had kids I was scared of...kids with such a degree of anger or bitterness that I do everything I can to avoid confrontation. I'll let them get away some stuff that others can't. I can't afford any Phyrric victories while halfway between the school and bus stop. Better to make mental notes and write up the offenders the next day.
The hardest thing I do is to concentrate on driving a large vehicle in traffic while keeping one eye on sixty hormone-engorged adolescent boys. I guess it's inevitable...I've had times when I've looked up at my wide mirror to check out a disturbance on the bus only to look back at the road and see my bus about to rear-end another vehicle that has suddenly stopped directly in front of me. Somehow, I get the bus stopped and 60 boys have to peel their faces off the seatback in front of them. I always begin each trip with a prayer...and God has saved me a few times.
Someday soon, I relate the events of the day when a speeding car hit one of my students as he got off the bus. God was around that day, too.