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A Trickle-Down Effect at STN EXPO Indianapolis

It is 7:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. The first keynote presentation, “Accelerate Your Achievements,” is scheduled to start soon. I stumble in, find my spot in the back corner of the presentation room, hoping the caffeine kicks in and I turn into my happy, bubbly self.

Like many of you, I am sure getting up early to sit in an hour and a half talk isn’t always the easiest thing to do on a weekend. Depending on the speaker, the experience could be a good or bad one.

As I was sitting there in the back of the room, I witnessed something that caught my eye. Professional speaker Ryan Avery went out of his way and personally introduced himself to as many of the attendees sitting in the audience as he could, including myself. He asked their name, where they live, their job description and carried on complex conversations with them. He genuinely wanted to know the audience he was speaking to.

I hadn’t even heard Avery speak yet, and I was already in love with him as a presenter. It’s the little things that make the presentation and the speaker stand-out.

Avery went on to give an engaging presentation on obtaining your dreams, but it was my first impression with him that I won’t forget. During his presentation, he referenced the people in the audience by name or profession, indicating that he took the time to remember who they were.

He asked the audience a final thought as they left the room: What is your WOW factor? In other words, what were they walking off with from this presentation?

The man sitting next to me shared that he wants to develop his goals. I sat there and thought about my takeaway and how can I use that to better myself?

My WOW factor was realizing how a simple introduction to someone, a simple acknowledgment of them makes a huge impact. This is especially true of how students feel when they get on the school bus.

Walking into the presentation, I felt like a student on her first day of school. I sat down with trepidation and attempted to start my day, unsure of how it would go, as this was my first STN EXPO experience.

However, when someone personally went out of his way to introduce himself and ask how my morning was going, changed my whole mood. I went from being an onlooker to being engaged in the presentation. The simple gesture made me want to give him more of my attention, more of my time and respect.

I have written a lot about the bus driver and student interaction and the impact it can have on the school day. You hear over and over again how the bus driver is often the first and last school district representative to greet students.

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Related: Horsager Shares the Eight Pillars of Trust at STN EXPO Indy

However, I didn’t feel that impact until Sunday, and I didn’t realize the lasting influence that a simple introduction would create. We have such a large behavioral influence on those around us and we can choose to use that positively or negatively.

The second keynote presenter, internationally-renowned school security expert and author Chris Dorn, discussed that a happy, welcoming school bus is a safe one. In his keynote on Monday, “Behavioral Approaches for Active Shooter and Other Security Challenges,” he said the bus driver acknowledging the student and the behaviors happening on his/her bus could potentially reduce an active shooter or threatening situation.

The theme of student behavior continued throughout the EXPO, especially during autism and behavior specialist Patrick Mulick’s workshop, “The Filter for Behavior Change on the School Bus.” He said on Tuesday that building a positive relationship is one of the most important aspects of a school bus.

However, supportive and encouraging behavior shouldn’t just be from bus driver to student. On Sunday, the “Addressing the Bus Driver Shortage” workshop focused on a similar topic of respecting and acknowledging employees. As a transportation director or leader, making your employees feel wanted and important will help keep your drivers longer. And in return, your drivers will do the recruitment for you.

It all starts at the top. As a transportation director, if you treat your drivers with respect, they will, in turn, trickle-down that behavior to their students. Unhappy employees are going to reflect that attitude throughout the day.

The final keynote speaker was David Horsager, the bestselling author and CEO of the Trust Edge Leadership Institute who spoke on Tuesday, June 11. Horsager said that students and parents are trusting their bus driver every day to provide a safe ride to and from school.

Horsager discussed where that trust originates from, and the eight pillars that keep building trust and keeping it intact. Two of the eight pillars showed compassion and connecting with the people around you. If bus drivers show that they care for their students, their students will, in turn, trust and respect the drivers, he noted.

Horsager added that in every single interaction you have, trust is gained or lost. That sentence stood out to me. Every single interaction you have with a person counts and is reflected in their memory. Whether you are a bus driver, transportation director, superintendent or person in a leadership position, make those interactions count. Make them a positive one for the students you transport and the employees in your district.

Take that extra second and make someone’s day a little bit better, just as the interaction I had with Ryan Avery changed my Sunday morning. You never know the effect you are going to have on someone.


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