I think I forgot what it was like to be a high school student. I figured the only way to really know was to become one. So I did. Today I was a student at ACS Secondary. Just for a day.
I met George, an ACS bus driver, at his home at 6:15am and jumped on the bus in the darkness of a rainy morning. Then I sat through a double block of Humanities 9—and I did all the work the students did. Then I had lunch and crammed (and I mean CRAMMED—20 minutes to learn 6 weeks’ worth of work) for a Social Studies 11 unit test on WWI which I had to take right after lunch. I finished the day in French class.
So, here’s what I learned (in a 3 part series).
Part One: The Magic School Bus
The school bus is a community all on its own. Everybody knows everybody on the bus. And, I think George knows everybody in every house and road along the way. The first thing I realized was that George knows everything. He knows all the crashes that have occurred on all the roads, all the farmers and their names and children, and most importantly all the kids who are going to get on his bus. He doesn’t just know their names. He knows which kids eat breakfast, which kids don’t. He knows who sits with whom and what will happen if I sit in their spot. He knows who won’t take one of my chocolate bars because of allergies (I brought 95 of them along—I figured I could use a few friends) and which kids are scared of spiders. And the kids love George. There’s a whole culture on our buses that I didn’t even know existed. And, this culture is positive and heart-nurturing, mostly. It is terrific!
George shared, “Gerry, it takes time to build trust, but after you build it, the kids feel secure on my bus and it all goes great!” And he’s right. It does.
“Tell me a joke,” I quipped to the elementary students at the front of the bus. For 20 minutes I heard more “knock, knock jokes” than I’ve heard in a decade. I only gave chocolate bars for the ones I understood, although the made up ones seemed to be just as popular to the kids as the ones that had a punch line. Fourth grader Alicia Postma did her best to explain the ones I didn’t get.
I spent the last 20 minutes at the back of the bus with the older kids. There’s a hierarchy. Big kids get the back, small kids in the front. By the time I got to school I was so thoroughly nauseated from being at the back of a bus with fogged in windows that the fresh air was a welcome change. I asked George, “How do you know the names of the kids at the back of the bus?” He said, “Gerry, they weren’t always the big kids you know. They used to sit at the front.” George is watching these kids grow up, and nurturing them along the way. Maybe THIS is the magic school bus….
I ran to the washroom and then off to class. But I was late, so I got a late slip first. I had that awkward feeling of knowing every eye was on me as I handed in my late slip to the teacher at the front of the room and settled into my seat. I forgot what riding a bus for an hour before school feels like. Today I remembered.
NEXT MONTH: A Morning with the Grade 9s