It’s Monday, March 22, and instead of one group of students on Monday and Tuesday, and another on Thursday and Friday, I have both groups attending school all five days! Hopefully this is as special a day for the students as it is for their school bus driver!

As usual for a “first” day of school, after the last student has been put aboard, I find a spot to pull over to let everyone know I am called “Mr. Jim” and that I will be their bus driver the rest of the year. I let them know that my job, and only job, is to see that they get from home to school, and from school to home, safely.

I let them know they need to help me in this, and that the school has set up rules that “we” must follow to make sure what “we” do on the bus helps keep all of us safe. Typically this is: no heads or hands out the window at any time, no standing up or moving while the bus is moving, voices held to a “classroom” level.

I let them know that maybe, on this bus only, they will treat everyone the way they want to be treated! On this particular point I am very emphatic that throwing of some else’s backpack or saying bad things about another student is totally unacceptable, and if they choose not to accept this, perhaps they should consider finding another way to get to school! (Of course I can’t stop them from riding my bus, but they don’t know that!) It gives them food for thought!

If you think about it, school bus drivers are the very first person, related to school, that the students see each morning and the the last when they go home.

As school bus drivers, we hear way more information about what is going on with each of the students' home life than we maybe need to hear. When the driver is picking up and dropping off the same students every day, it is very easy to get the feeling that these are “my kids!” We know when the child gets on the bus that they didn’t get enough sleep, or there was some sort of conflict at home before they rushed out to catch the bus, or whatever, and many times, the bus driver becomes the one to lend a neutral ear to an upset student.

It really isn’t the bus driver's job to try to help the child with his or her problems, but by now it is almost impossible to not love each and every student and hope that in some way you can say the right thing that sends the child to class or home on a positive note!

I have to admit that driving a school bus, for me, has gone far beyond a job! The fun of sharing the excitement of one of your students receiving a “Bark Paw” award, or winning a class spelling bee, being chosen for an athletic team in your high school, or “ first chair” in band or orchestra, almost gives you the feeling you did it!

And bus drivers get paid for it! How can you beat that?

Sahuarita resident James Berg is in his eighth year of bus driving grade school and high school students for Sahuarita Unified School District 30. He lived in Seattle, Washington, before retiring and leaving a career in custom home and small commercial building. School bus driving, he says, is “the perfect answer to retirement boredom.”