washingtonpost.com
The Magic Behind the School Bus

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My children's morning bus driver is incredible. She engages the students, learns their names, asks them questions, shows patience and kindness and is unfailingly polite. My middle child, Dasha, is handicapped, and I need to drive to school every day to help her off the bus. Yet even though I drive to school every morning, and even though riding with me means that my son, Daniel, 7, and Dasha, 9, can sleep an extra 15 minutes, they often request to ride the bus. My children especially look forward to riding the bus on trivia day and snack day. The bus ride is a positive experience. They are involved, stimulated and ready to learn when they get to school.

One rainy morning the buses were lined up in front of the school waiting to unload. I could hear the other bus drivers (understandably) yelling at their students to sit down, quiet down, etc. When our bus drove up, I heard the bus driver practicing the pledge to the flag with the kids. Their driver, Sharon Devonish-Prince, is one in a million. She takes her job to a completely different level.

Melanie Williams

parent

Calverton Elementary School

Beltsville

As a volunteer tutor at Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax County, I recently saw what happens when a special bell rings for a hurricane drill: Every student exits his or her classroom and kneels on the floor in the hallway, facing the wall. Upon cue by the PA system, in unison each one crouches down and places hands over head. Not a word is spoken, though more than 800 elementary school children are kneeling side-by-side. What an impressive silence!

On another occasion, I was there when the fire alarm sounded for a drill. From every classroom, students formed an orderly procession to an assigned exit. Again, no one spoke. Older children held the door open so kindergartners could exit first. Once outdoors, any conversation was in muted tones as teachers and administrators checked their clipboards and communicated by walkie-talkie to find any students not standing with their usual group. Within minutes, every student, teacher, administrator, visitor -- and volunteer -- was accounted for.

I cannot begin to imagine how such extraordinary discipline is achieved. And I have no doubt that if a real emergency ever occurs at the school, the children will be prepared.

Ellen Jamison

volunteer reading coach

Centreville Elementary School

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company