It has been said that people are impressed and entertained at the circus when a man enters a tiger cage with a whip, a pistol, and a four-legged stool. It has also been said that school bus drivers are not impressed, but they will watch to study his technique.
Believe it or not, school bus drivers can learn something about discipline from the tiger tamer’s approach — without carrying a weapon.
While the pistol was the most lethal tool that a tiger or lion tamer took with him into the cage, the stool was the most effective. The trainer knew that when he thrust the stool at the animal, with all four legs of the stool exposed to its face, the big cat would momentarily freeze. Why?
In his book Developing the Leader Within You, author John Maxwell provides an explanation for this phenomenon by way of minister William H. Hinson: In an attempt to focus on all four legs of the stool, the animal would be overwhelmed trying to decipher what this four-legged object was and what it was going to do. For just a moment, the cat would become disabled because its attention was fragmented — it had too many conflicting priorities at the moment. The trainer had the upper hand, so to speak.
Similarly, students on the school bus need to be informed that there is a figurative four-legged stool confronting them when they misbehave on the bus:
1. The first leg is the bus driver and the rules of the bus.
2. The second leg is the school administration.
3. The third leg is school district policy.
4. The fourth and final leg is the often-dreaded communication with the student’s parents.
Am I advocating that school bus drivers carry four-legged stools on the bus? No, but students need to know that the driver is one of the four legs that will confront inappropriate behavior, and they may suddenly feel weakened and a bit disarmed — momentarily overwhelmed with that “frozen feeling.”
Hopefully, your school district has a four-legged stool and uses it judicially. It makes the school bus driver’s job easier.
Well-behaved students never need to fear the figurative stool, because they are already trained to respect the driver and the other three legs. In short, the vast majority of students do not need to be confronted with anything but positive comments, compliments, and thank-yous.
John Horton is a retired school bus driver and trainer from Colorado. He is a longtime contributor to School Bus Fleet, including articles on behavior management and idling reduction and numerous school transportation photos.