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Weekly Letter 1.4.17
On December 17, 2016, there was a thought provoking opinion piece about school busses by Alina Simone in the New York Times Sunday Review, ‘I Wish I Had a Pair of Scissors, So I Could Cut Out Your Tongue’.
If you are like me and this mom, you may find yourself spending too much time worrying about behavior on the school bus. As she points out, “At a time of hypervigilant parenting and wearable GPS trackers for kids, the school bus remains one of the black boxes of childhood. In what other situation would parents allow dozens of kids, ranging from 4 to 13, to look after themselves, with the only adult in earshot focused on navigating a six-wheeler through rush hour traffic?”
I respect the sentiment of this piece, which is why I call your attention to it. But I also think that bussing is an incredible privilege that we here at the Brooklyn New School need to remember to appreciate. As scary as it is, it is actually an opportunity for our young ones to be independent and responsible for themselves.
When I think back to my own childhood in the sixties in Queens when children as young as seven were wandering around the neighborhood and swamp land by themselves, I lament the loss of freedom for children today. So although the bus is hardly the same as the streets of Queens, this ride is a moment in which kids can exhibit self regulation and actually make decisions for themselves.
Sometimes they do make the wrong decisions, saying the wrong things, being inappropriately physical, and even climbing over the bus seats. Nevertheless for the most part, when something egregious happens, kids generally do report, whether to you or to us.
The best way to monitor bus behavior is to check in with the kids about their daily ride. When something comes up, let the school know. We make a point of looking into anything that is reported.
Keep in mind that children often only tell what the other kid did, neglecting to mention their part. We find that a few conversations can get to the bottom of what happened and that points of view vary, but when we get the children together, they can generally come to a common understanding.
Once in awhile, a child’s behavior is so inappropriate that we have to suspend him or her from the bus, but for the most part, what works best is talking and helping each child to think about what he or she could have done differently.
As we enter the new year, join me by checking up on the bus ride in order to help the kids be the responsible youngsters that we know they can be.
All for now,
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