There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you haven't time to respond to a tug at your pants leg, your schedule is too crowded. Robert Brault

Whats driving a bus like? Seventy of your kids in the back seat going to town. Mr. Brandon

Thursday, December 17, 2015

“Time to Shine”

Every dog has his day, everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame.  If you are red headed, freckled faced, have a perpetual smile and are considered by some to be “slightly” overweight when do you come into your full glory?  When are you greeted like a hero? The week before Christmas break and you come to the bus with your big smile wearing a Santa hat.  As you enter the bus all eyes turn to you and you say, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” of course.  As you walk down the aisle little children pat your belly and say, “Santa, Santa”.  You sit down knowing it doesn’t get much better than this.  After Mr. Mucus, I mean Santa, was seated there were a few rounds of Rudolph sang than they moved onto Jingle Bells.  The sing-a-long came to a close when Santa asked, “Mr. Brandon, do you know the real meaning of Christmas?”  There was a gentle quietness that fell across the bus like a Hallmark special on TV.  “Yes, I do know the real meaning of Christmas” I replied.  Each student anticipated in silence for the sharing of the real meaning of Christmas.  Then in a soft loving voice I said, “The true meaning of Christmas is to buy your bus driver a really, really nice present.”  The riot that occurred could not be described as Peace on earth good will toward men.  As the violence subsided someone finally ask, “Well then Mr. Brandon what do you want for Christmas?”  My reply of, “To throw all of you off the bus and live happily ever after,” was not very well received.  From Mr. Brandon’s School Bus Merry Christmas.

P.S.  When you have over 60 elementary students on your bus do you know how many elf on the shelf stories you have to listen to?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Random Thoughts of a Bus Driver "Priorities"

     Have you ever told your spouse that there was just not any money in the house hold budget for an item that they were considering and turned around and bought something yourself that was even more expensive?  How did that work out for you?  No matter how you try to justify your reasoning it all comes out the same, “If there wasn’t enough for one item then there defiantly wasn’t enough for a more expensive item”.  Recently eighty million dollars yes that is an eight with seven zeros, was moved from the Alabama Education Trust Fund into the General Fund.  The reasoning being, whether you believe the figures or not, that the Trust Fund had a surplus of one hundred forty million dollars and the General Fund was going to come up short.  At the same time it is reported that from 2008-2014 Alabama cut funding to schools by 17.3%, the second highest in the nation.  As a teacher in the state of Alabama I have received one, yes that’s a one with no zeros, state mandated raise since 2007.  That raise was a staggering 2%.  In that same amount of time the cost of living has increased by over 10%.  If you have been in education for any length of time you have found that you are at the top of the pay scale and if my math is correct I now make 8% less than I did ten years ago.  I do not profess to understand the entire goings on in Montgomery, I’m not sure even those that work there do, but I have missed something somewhere.  If you have a surplus large enough to bail out the general fund than why am I making 8% less this year than I did eight years ago and no real promise of a raise in the future.  Don’t tell me that there is not money in the budget.  If this works I’m going to let Montgomery explain to my wife why I was able to buy that new shotgun and we couldn’t get the living room furniture.  I was recently reminded of a phrase that is found in the ethics laws that govern what a state employee is allowed to except from outside sources.  Teachers being a state employee are also bound by this law.  The phrase used is “de minimis value”.  The definition given for this phrase is “something so small that accounting for it would be unreasonable”.  I understand the reason for having ethic laws but I’m sure they were not put in place because someone was concerned that a kindergartner may bring undue influence on his teacher for a grade of satisfactory in hand writing.  Yet this phrase has also sums up how those in positions of power and sometimes the general public have come to view those who work in education “something so small that accounting for it would be unreasonable”.  We talk about how children are our most valuable resource.  Teachers have been in hundreds of conversation that end with “You couldn’t pay me enough to do your job”.  We hold those who work in education to a much higher standard than the general public.  As an example let a teacher get cross way with the law and when it is reported on the news they will say how they are a part of education, what role they played, and what school they worked at.  I have never heard a news cast of a robbery where they said, “The robber has been a part of the plumbing work for most of his life and worked at Joe’s Plumbing”.  I’m not saying those in education should not be held to a higher accountability.  I am saying along with higher accountability there should also be the respect and yes salary that comes with being held to such.  Yes it is a rewarding job, yes I love working with students, and yes I count myself blessed to be in education but none of these will buy my groceries or pay my mortgage.  Many reports now show that teachers are now leaving the profession faster than they are entering.  I am not asking to be a rich man; I would be willing to scrape by on the paltry salary of a Montgomery politician.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Random Thoughts of a Bus Driver "World Peace"

We live in an amazing world!  Though I do not consider myself to be old, I have had the privilege to have been around a number of years.  In those years I have seen many amazing changes.  I have seen the day when the best thing you could purchase for your child’s education was a set of encyclopedias that took up substantial amount of space, now we just Google it.  I have watched all three channels on a black and white TV serving as my father’s remote control, now you can miss an hour long program that you wanted to watch on your 72 inch high definition television, because it took so long to go through the nine hundred channels that are available.  As a teacher I have gone home with my hands covered with chalk dust and purple ink from mimeographed papers, to having a printer right in my room and an interactive board that is attached to my computer that will electronically write in any color of my choosing.  As a bus driver I have driven buses that were manual shift, exposed metal bars around the thinly padded seat, and were cold and rattled as you went down the road.  Now my bus has an automatic transmission, air shocks, tented windows, heater and air conditioning front and back, radio, and CD player.  I don’t even have to reach over to open the door for students; I have an air operated door that is activated with a button on the steering wheel.  I wax nostalgic.  This past week I was introduce to what has to be the greatest advancement in the history of the world.  I have in my life visited a number of outhouses.  Many of you know what I speak of.  I have visited one and two holers whose seats were hopefully worn smooth over the years by use so I would not get a splinter.  It was always questionable what you would find in them to “clean” yourself with after the job was finished.  I once used toilet paper in Russia that I believe I got a paper cut from.  My daughter and 5 month old grandson often stay with us during the work week.  With a baby in the house there are numerous diaper changes and with that came the flushable, moist wipes.  That alone should have some recognition.  Then my daughter brought in a device that I believe given time and the right amount of consideration could possible change the course of the world.  It is the right size to hold a package of wipes and then, be still my beating heart, you plug it in and it warms, yes warms the wipes.  Not only are they moist, for a better job, but WARM.  Oh! What a blessed invention to be introduced to in the chilly month of December.  With one of these in every world leaders bathroom how could you not come out with a good feeling toward all mankind.  Forgive me Leonardo da Vinci, move over Thomas Edison, why has this not made world headlines?  I have never been one to spend a lot of time in the royal chamber but in the future if my family needs me I can tell them where to look first.  Who knows I may have decided what room to move the set of encyclopedias to. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

“Disco on the Bus”

After a few minutes on the bus your friend and mine, Mr. Mucus, pulled his head into his jacket and zipped it up so his head was inside.  In a few moments he started yelling, “Go, go, run.”  The other students around him asked what he was doing.  He informed them that he was watching a ball game on his big screen TV.  He continued to yell for his team until the game was over.  At this point there was a pause and then he said, “All right,” and start moving around in the seat in a circular motion.  He must have been aware of the questioning eyes that were now looking at him and he replied from inside, “I’ve turned on the disco ball in the dance room.”  He gyrated around a number of times the movements getting larger and larger until he hit his head a good lick on the seat in front of him.  He fell back in the seat, knowing that we were concerned a voice from inside called out, “I’m not dead.”  Then it was followed by, “I think I’ll go back to watching television.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Choosing A Side"

There have been and continue to be great debates throughout the years.  Hercules, hero of the ancient world or bully with a lack of tolerance for creatures who only want to practice their traditions of destroying towns and people?  Climate change, real threat or Governmental hoax?  Bacon, bad for your health or the true joy of life?  Dogs, man's best friend or one of the world's biggest free loaders, only surpassed by cats?  Dorothy, misplaced good hearted youth or unwanted Kansas refugee causing havoc in Oz?  At this time of year we come to the biggest debate that can be had on a bus full of elementary students in the month of December.  It comes up each year and you know the bus driver is always called in to arbitrate the discussion.  Feelings are hurt, tears are shed, voices are raised, and from time to time blows are exchanged.  Each year I know I will hear, "Mr. Brandon, is Santa Claus real?"  I try to moderate and let each side have its say so.  In the end all discussion must be brought to a close.  I let them know that they are free to believe what they want but as for me, I believe, because I don't want to take the chance of having nothing on Christmas morning.  There are many things in this life that I don't believe in; A politician's promise, that you can have healthy and tasty, a lawyer who says he only wants to help, or when your wife says you don't have to get her a present this year.  But I do believe in the sparkle in the eyes of a child when he talks about Santa coming to town.  When students take the time to sing Christmas songs together on the bus and the bus driver knows when every Christmas tree on their route went up because they were told in high pitched excited voices. I hope your life is filled with high pitched excited voices.  I hope that sometimes that voice is yours.