I have been a middle school principal for 15 years. It doesn’t seem like a long time to me. The thing about working in a school, there are certain rituals and procedures that are repeated in the same way every single year. As a teacher I never did a lesson twice the same way, but as a principal, there are a few activities that have to be done with fidelity each school year. One of these is bus drills. Three times a year safety procedures for riding the school bus must be reviewed with students.
The drills take different forms. The one we did the other day involves a staff member (in this case, ME) jumping onto the bus when it arrives at school and reviewing a list of safety procedures (well we don’t literally jump on the bus, the bus comes to a stop, the driver opens the door and you walk up the steps.)
I have to say I’ve done this drill so many times I really wish I could depart from the script and have a little fun.
Here’s how, in my imagination, the drill might go:
Good morning kids. You may be wondering why I came on your bus instead of taking selfies with you in the hallways like I do on most days.
I’m here because we care about you, your safety, your well-being, and because New York State says I have to do this. With any luck this will be the least interesting part of your day. I have these safety procedures down to a science, I’ve been reciting them for many years… I pretty much have them committed to memory.
Be on time. Students should arrive at their assigned bus stop at least 5 minutes prior to pick up. If you have ever been late and wish to ensure you do not miss the bus, some students have slept overnight at their stop. Do not attempt to do your math homework unless your stop is directly underneath a street lamp. We care about your eyesight. In the spring you will take standardized tests that will determine whether your principal may continue to work here… Please protect your vision.
Wait for the bus on the side of the road. Keep off private property. Don’t step on cracks. Please be sensitive to the backs of mothers which may be adversely affected by stepping on cracks.
Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before entering or leaving. This is a conventional public school, not a finishing school for Hollywood stunt doubles.
Lineup before entering the bus. Look after the safety of smaller children. Do not take any smaller children home with you unless they actually belong to you, or your parents. In the event that a smaller child manages to come home with you, say, in your backpack, share your video games with him.
Remain seated at all times when the bus is in motion. If sitting down while the bus is in motion makes you nauseous, think about a pleasant memory from when you were in kindergarten. If you are presently IN kindergarten, think about toys.
[Point out the location of all emergency equipment, extinguisher, first aid kit and reflectors.]
There are emergency exits on the sides and the roof of the bus. In the unlikely event of an emergency, you can stack 2 sixth graders in order to reach the ceiling exits. [Point out the location of sixth-graders.]
In the unlikely event that something should happen to the bus driver, do NOT attempt to exit the bus. Organize your classmates in a loud rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus”; bus drivers hate that song. Your driver should revive herself before long in order to scold you.
In the unlikely event of a water landing, you can use your younger brother or sister as a flotation device. [Point out the location of all younger brothers and sisters.]
In the unlikely event that your bus ride to or from school was the highlight of your day, please let me know so that I can change your science teacher.
All of the following are prohibited on the bus: eating, drinking, littering, talking, contemplation, problem-solving, irony, fear, anxiety, 3-D glasses, pets, existential drama, sass, elective surgery, civilian dental implants and shirt labels that make your neck itchy.
Talk quietly, do not shout or make loud noises, say what you mean but don’t say it mean. Avoid politically sensitive subjects such as bowling or the Electoral College.
Bus riding is a privilege, like the right to vote or buy a Mountain Dew from a vending machine. Unlike these privileges however, your right to ride the bus can be revoked if you violate any of the above procedures or if we wish to annoy your parents by creating conditions under which they would have to drive you to school.
I know I can count on all of you to follow these procedures. In the unlikely event that you do not, you will be called to my office for another refresher; this speech will sound very different in my office.
Thank you for your attention, let’s make this the best Wednesday of the week!
Note, most of my blog posts consist of metaphors applicable to the field of education. This post — not so much.