The following article, written by Dr. Tammy Grissom, the executive director for the Tennessee School Boards Association, was recently published in the organization's quarterly journal.
What goes through your mind when you see a school bus driving down the street? A parent will likely be smiling and waving to her child. In the back of her mind, she is thinking about all the good things she hopes for that child. Most of us recall time we spent on a school bus and smile as memories of those days flash through our minds. A motorist behind the bus may be thinking they hope they won’t be late for work.
When you see a bus, do you see hope?
Hope comes in many forms in our public schools, but a school bus rolling down the street may have never come to mind. Consider this: a school bus is hope for children who are excited to get to school to learn something new and exciting; for children who are trying to do their best to prepare for the next phase of their lives; and for parents who hope and pray that their children will be safe and well prepared for life.
Think of all the places that a school bus takes children: field trips to places like the state Capitol, museums, sporting events, and academic and art competitions. School buses are present in so many different aspects of a child’s life.
A school bus may also provide hope to the community in times of tragedies, such as tornadoes and floods. A school bus provides emergency transportation and a means to get much-needed supplies to victims who have lost everything.
I have a good friend who is a teacher, and she has told me that some of her students roam the streets at night looking for food and shelter, and sometimes even for their parents. By the time the sun rises most have still not eaten, nor have they had a good night’s sleep. Those children know that hope is on the way when they see that big yellow school bus heading down the street. Hope begins for the child when he or she steps onto that bus and is greeted by a caring school bus driver. Hope continues to grow as the school bus arrives at the school and the child is greeted by a caring, loving teacher who makes sure they receive breakfast, clean clothes and sometimes even a much-needed nap. Teachers know better than anyone that these basic needs must be met before learning can take place.
Hope lives throughout the schools through caring principals, teachers, school counselors, cafeteria and maintenance personnel, and administrative staff. All these caring people work together to provide a clean, welcoming, and exciting learning environment full of possibilities for students. Those possibilities can lead to solid careers, scholarships to college, and a better life.
An environment full of hope.
Jim Clifton, chairman of Gallup, said in his book The Coming Jobs War that “Gallup has found that kids drop out of schools when they lose hope to graduate. The reason they lose hope of graduating is because they don’t feel excited about what’s next in their lives. Having no vision or excitement for the future is the cause of dropping out of school. Students need to be rescued at or before the moment they lose hope in the future. Scientists have learned that hope predicts academic success and graduation better than grades or test scores do. Increasing hope isn’t easy, but it can be done. And it must be done locally, on a citywide basis rather than on a national one. Only a local focus has a chance.”
It is the role of the school board to create a vision for excellence in our schools and to provide hope for every student that they will graduate and be prepared for the next stage in their life.
So, the next time you see that big yellow school bus, remember that it is an important part of our public education system and plays a vital role in providing hope for all students.
A former principal friend of mine would stand outside each afternoon loading children onto the buses, and when he was sure everyone was safely on board, he would notify a staff member at the front of the bus line, “Let the good times roll. Release the buses!”