I’ve said it over and over again in my career as a teacher, instructional coach and now as an administrator; relationships are everything and culture is what drives an organization forward. This week, I lived them and what resulted was quite powerful.
It all started last Thursday when I received an email from a teacher telling me that one of our students punched someone on the school bus. The force of the punch had knocked out the child’s tooth. I was instantly frustrated and angry that I hadn’t found out about this from the bus driver, but instead from what a student reported to the teacher. I was quick to be annoyed with the bus driver as I was now in the midst of having to investigate the situation, call parents and give consequences. In my frustration I called our assistant transportation coordinator and let my Italian temper get the best of me-I had to put the phone on speaker because my hands were flying all over the place (I learned the art of “Italian hand talking” from my grandfather). I was determined to let the transportation department know how annoyed I was. But in the middle of the conversation, just like flipping a switch, I was hit with the realization that my bus drivers and I didn’t feel like we were on the same team. In that moment I calmed down, adjusted my tone, took a deep breath and said, “Can I have the drivers come to school for a meeting next week? I’ll buy them breakfast and take some time to talk to them.”
The following Tuesday every single one of my bus drivers arrived at my school for the 9:30 meeting. They came voluntarily on their own time. I showed them the way to the library, offered them donuts, muffins, coffee and juice and sat with them at the table that I had decorated with a blue tablecloth. They seemed uneasy at first, wondering what they’d done to be called to such a meeting. I reassured them that I just wanted to thank them for all the hard work they do for our kids and families each and every day. I explained that they have one of the hardest jobs in the school district because they are charged with transporting our students to and from school safely and they have their backs to the kids the whole time! This is no small feat.
The meeting continued for about 45 minutes. I let them share their thoughts and concerns about the students’ bus behavior. We even came up with a system to reward students for appropriate behavior. And then, just before I was about to end the meeting, I remembered that I had to show each one of them how to get to the library when they had came in earlier. So, I asked this question:
“Have you ever been inside our school before?”
Every single one of them gave the same answer… “We’ve only been in the office and the lounge.”
This answer made everything seem so clear. How dare I expect our bus drivers to feel like part of the team when they’ve never been inside the school? How dare I expect them to trust me and my teachers when we only see them for 5 minutes at arrival and dismissal?
So, I invited them to come on a tour with me. I took them to EVERY CLASSROOM in the school. I walked in and said, “I have big news! Your bus drivers came to see you at school and find out what you’re learning!”
The following pictures tell the rest of the story.
Our students love their bus drivers and our bus drivers love their students.
No matter your title: secretary, teacher, bus driver, custodian, administrator, instructional aide; you play an immensely important role in the lives of children. No matter what, you think of the kids as YOUR kids, and they are! We are all on the same team. We are all educators! At any given time any one of us could be the person who makes an impact that will change a child’s life. In order to be at our best for kids, we must all respect the role that we play in their lives, we are better together.
Remember the power of the team.
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.