National surveys report that school bus drivers believe middle school age children are the worst group to transport. It's no surprise that this age group can be a handful even with the best drivers behind the wheel.
The bus can be a horrible environment where the riders are stuck with each other inside a can. There is no private space, no room to maneuver far enough away from a tormentor unless avoiding the privilege to ride the bus. The bus is crammed in a fashion with a population teachers would not tolerate in their classrooms. Add to this environment the default behavior of a typical teenager: rudeness and otherwise obnoxiousness. Not to quicken the students’ respectfulness skills virtually guarantees a hostile bus environment.
Bystanders annoy me the most. These laugh along egging on the maltreatment, hiding the bullies where not obvious. Some don’t want to get involved, and some fear becoming a target themselves if they help intervene.
Children do not have to like another student to help intervene in violence, but they do have to like themselves enough not to tolerate bullying or other student disrespect happening while they are present. The bus driver can remind kids of this reality by including this announcement before every trip home: “Be respectful toward your fellows, toward the bus driver, and toward self.”
Adults can take the edge away from the bullies, but it is inevitable that the well-behaved kids and adults together must first accept the run of their environment. That can not be accomplished without adults and education involved that the well-behaved kids can trust will work.
Children are not stupid. In survey after survey students report things got worse after reporting the bullying, sometimes much worse. Trust from the adults involved is consistently perceived inadequate from the students’ perspective. These targets run the other way and look for other remedies, including suicide.
More children are willing to help intervene in bullying when they have some level of trust that bullying on their school bus can be stopped. Can children trust a school bus driver to defend them from the hostile when that driver can’t even defend his or her own workplace behind the wheel?
Well-behaved riders can notice their bus driver prevail and can perceive an army of adults engaging in helping take back an obnoxious child's stolen power. They naturally come to understand that bullying can be stopped. But they also realize that the well-behaved kids must do their part. Some seem to naturally migrate to that decision when they feel safe to help intervene in bullying. For example, see this story.
It is not possible to stop all violence, but it is possible to greatly reduce violence, to reduce specific effects on the targets, to promote the well-behaved having the run, and to contain the violent with a controlled persistence that exceeds a child’s out of control persistence.
To those who have the audacity to involve themselves in attempts to end bullying this I would say: Have faith in self, have faith in the decent, have faith in study, and stay on task. Without these qualities apparent in our efforts no intelligent child can trust us.Kraemer brought a history of sales marketing research and consumer behavior studies with him when he began driving school buses in 1989. He has remained with the same employer more than 20 years. The grace of that employer provided Kraemer the latitude to explore remedies that work well with k-12 on the school buses. Kraemer has found middle school age the most interesting to transport, an age group that resists direction yet also craves structure in their environment from adults they can trust to mean what they say. He has written about his adventures in discovering the brilliance and the passion of middle schoolers to attempt prematurely to break through the adult barrier and the skill adults must develop to work successfully with this age group. Kraemer’s FastTrack methods work well with K-12 and especially well with middle schoolers. Class materials available free from www.2safeschools.org.