I have been driving a school bus for 8 years. It is both challenging and rewarding at the same time. The good kids, the bad kids, the kids who don’t really care, the kids who sleep the entire ride home.
I have been driving the same route for 3 years. Which means that, for the most part, I have been driving the same kids for that long. Therefore, I am pretty much vested in these kids. I worry about them, I route for them, I joke with them, I discipline them, I love on them. I wear many hats with “my kids”. It breaks my heart when they get on the bus crying because they scraped their knee right before boarding or because their boyfriend broke up with them after only a month of dating. I get excited for them when they enter driver’s education courses or get an A on a test.
I say all this because a lot of people think that being a bus driver is just driving. It is not. Bus driving is a passion. If you don’t like kids, don’t drive a school bus. I know so many driver’s that should not be in this profession because they don’t like kids. Bus driving takes patience, attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, compassion, stubbornness, and most of all love. You are these kids’ babysitter, teacher, nurse, entertainment, counselor, chauffeur , friend and mom all rolled into one.
I also say all this because bus driver’s don’t get paid enough. The pay varies depending on where you live, but here in the Seattle area bus drivers can make anywhere from $12/hr to $25/hr. If you drive for one of the big contractors you will make less than if you work directly for a school district. Considering what we go through on a daily basis, we definitely don’t make enough!
Consider that we work roughly 9 months out of the year. Most older drivers that are getting ready to retire will take those 9 months and just deal with the lack of a paycheck in the summer. However, younger drivers, with a family, are required to get a second job during those other 3 months. Our children just can’t survive on us only working 9 months. It is a stressful time when you don’t know what you are going to do for the summer months, waiting to here if you got the job or not. There are very limited positions that only work in the summer. And the pay for those summer jobs are far less than what we make during the school year. My summer job is driving summer camp kids around and my pay is 36% less than what I make during the school year. Big difference, but it pays the bills.
Another thing to consider is that most drivers do not work an 8 hour day. Your typical driver will wake up around 5 in the morning. He/she will get to work around 6 and usually work until 9 or so taking kids to school. Most drivers will then have a few hours off. If they are one of the few lucky ones to be able to pick up some hours in the middle of the day, they are just that, lucky. The drivers then come back around 1 or so and finish off their day taking kids home until around 4:30 or so. Add up these hours and you have between 6-6 1/2 hours per day. Roughly 30-32 hours per week. And this, only 9 months out of the year. Of course, if you work directly for a school district, like me, you do get benefits. Full time benefits for part time work. This is a definite plus!
So, back to my point…in order to be a school bus driver, you need to have a passion for it! Don’t just do it to receive a paycheck, because the pay just isn’t enough!
BTW…the above photo is of my real-life parallel park job on the Seattle waterfront! (Impressive hu?)