The Kid Whisperer: How to deal with behavior issues on the school bus

Scott Ervin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am an elementary school administrator. I have five to 10 students who cause major problems on one bus almost every day. We’ve tried suspensions. I’ve tried yelling. I’m out of ideas because I’m not on the bus with them. Is there anything I can do?

Answer: First, you can’t make this bus driver’s job a great job. He or she does not have the Behavioral Leadership strategies and procedures to calmly create a positive, pro-social environment on the bus. If you have difficult kids on your bus and you have no strategies, you have an impossible problem.

However, what you can do is make this bus driver's life significantly better by teaching students how to behave on the bus and by allowing these students to learn and practice the proper behaviors for the bus. After all, none of your students have a bus at home, so they may not know how to act on a bus.

Here’s how I would deal with six students and their corresponding six bus referrals as said students enter my office during a non-instructional time -- let’s say, in this case, after school.

Kid Whisperer: Ugh. Guys. Yikes. I tell you what. I think I owe you all a huge apology. I have been doing a lot of yelling at you and getting frustrated with you guys. I won’t do that anymore. I feel badly, as an educator, that I didn’t realize that you just don’t know how to act on a bus. I should not have assumed that you did and, again, I apologize.


Kid #1: What’s going on?

Kid #2: I, too, am wondering what is going on. Something seems askew.

Kid Whisperer: Instead of getting frustrated, I’m just going to lead some bus lessons for you all. I have set up a practice bus, and I am going to lead bus lessons using my practice bus. Here’s the practice bus.

(Kid Whisperer reveals a practice bus, eight chairs in four rows)


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