“Just once, put a parent in the driver’s seat. It's the only way they will understand! Second best option, [have the parent] sit directly behind the driver for a few routes. Trying to help a parent understand why the rules are in place is a challenge sometimes.”
This plea comes from bus driver Karlene Renee Arment in response to an inquiry from me on what the toughest challenges are in communicating with parents.
There is substantial emphasis on making sure students know the rules for boarding and riding the bus, and rightly so, but what about for parents? Based on responses I am getting for a story I am working on, it seems like alleviating parents’ concerns and conveying information to them about the procedures put in place for their children to board, ride and exit the bus safely and ensuring they understand and support them, can be a lot of work.
In conducting research and interviews for the story, I reached out to transportation directors and contractors and put out an inquiry or two on social media. On Facebook, I got a pretty healthy response from bus drivers; they weren’t shy about sharing their concerns or those that parents of the students they transport often address them with.
Common concerns parents bring up to drivers include the buses arriving on time, who their child sits next to, whether their child is being bullied, if the driver is driving safely, and whether they are getting all the information they need about the bus route.
Bus drivers who weighed in on Facebook also offered several challenges they have in communicating with parents.
“Getting the parents to understand our point of view (one adult, multiple children on one bus and their child is not the only child on board),” one bus driver wrote.
Other challenges bus drivers and monitors said they face are dealing with parents who don’t understand the reasons for certain bus rules, staying calm when a parent is yelling at them, lack of contact information for students, language barriers and parents refusing to share information on a child’s condition due to confidentiality issues. One substitute bus driver added that his challenge is not seeing the children and parents every day, which can make communication tougher.
Who I haven’t heard much from yet are the transportation directors, though one, Kim Crabtree at Greater Albany (Ore.) Public Schools, shared some information with me in a recent interview. She echoed much of what the bus drivers and monitors who weighed in wrote, but added that parents are also concerned with their children not overhearing inappropriate conversation, and whether their child’s bus stop is in a safe location. She added that it is difficult to get information such as bus stop changes out to parents mid-year.
In the story I am writing, I hope to share ways to deal with these challenges. So, all you transportation directors and supervisors out there: What have you found are the most common concerns that parents have and how do you address them? What are your biggest challenges in communicating with parents and what are you doing or trying to make that easier? Please share in the comments section below, or feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Nicole Schlosser is managing editor of School Bus Fleet magazine.