Do kids know what it takes to be a school bus driver?

Surely most children aren’t aware of all the specific requirements — the training, the background checks, the testing, etc. But they do seem to understand that being a school bus driver is a tough job that not everyone is cut out for.

That’s one of the impressions I got as I was judging entries in the Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year essay contest, which Thomas Built Buses conducts each year. Consider these comments from several of the essays:

•    “It takes up a lot of time for bus drivers to get up at 4:30 in the morning just for a bunch of children in need of transportation to get to school on time.”
•    “[My driver] has a really long day.”
•    “I know my bus driver (Kim) deserves to be bus driver of the year because instead she could be working as a cruise ship driver somewhere in Florida. But she’s not. Kim is here in rainy Portland, Oregon, driving kids to and from school and their houses.”
Many of the essay writers also recognized that part of what makes their drivers great is their actions beyond the job description:
•    “He always does trivia questions to make us smarter.”
•    “She will pray for you if you ask her.”
•    “I have seen him help a lot of people, especially the elderly, in his community. He mows people’s grass with no charge and he gives fresh vegetables from his garden.”
•    “Mrs. Leslie helps numerous families by providing dinner and different kinds of food, Christmas presents for the children who don’t have anything under the tree, and clothing that will keep them warm.”

Here are some other heartwarming and humorous highlights from the children’s essays:

• “When she is driving, she is careful and she doesn’t have road rage, like me!” (This was written by an 11-year-old.)
• “Try standing or moving seats when she lets other children off at their stops. Nice try, not going to happen.”
•    “If you feel sick, she will find a place to pull over and then she will give you her garbage can so you won’t have to get sick all over the bus.”
•    “My favorite part is not the candy or the handmade stuff. My favorite part is that he cares for me and all other people.”
•    “She takes very good care of the bus. She tapes up the holes in the seats of the bus!”
•    “She makes sure we are super safe and do not become roadkill!”
•    “One time I was having trouble with something, Ms. Julie waited till everyone got off the bus and allowed me to talk with her privately.”
•    “[She] allows us to talk on the bus, but when she says be quiet, you better believe that bus gets real quiet and quick.”
•    “Mrs. Edy has never crashed the bus.”
•    “My sister has autism and she works hard to learn to do the things that other kids can. My bus driver will sing a song sometimes to help the kids learn something. Like, one time this kid didn’t know how to put on her jacket, and she sang ‘you put your right arm in and then the left arm in to put your jacket on.’ She understands kids with autism.”
•    “Mrs. Leslie is a great example. She shows us how to love others.”