The Morning’s First Contact

I hope all school bus drivers read the editorial in “The Oregonian” by Aki Mori titled “Why do teens drop out by shutting out?” Mori describes some students as polite, but exhibit a nonchalant attitude toward their grades and the learning process.

With little sense of initiative or concern about their future, these youngsters represent a cross section of the student population that is unable to meet basic academic standards, year after year.

In Japan it’s called hikikomori. It’s not depression or autism or agoraphobia that causes these students to take to their rooms and avoid contact with the world. Educators think it’s caused by intense bullying at the hands of school classmates; in the face of bullying, children receive little in the way of support from teachers and parents; and students are often children of parents who are incapable of providing a nurturing home environment. The Portland Public Schools have put great emphasis on stopping bullying and we drivers are on alert for students giving or getting this behavior. If we observe bullying, we report it right away.

Mori, an educator in the Beaverton School district says that “teachers need to seek out simple connections with students that communicate compassion. Parents need to continually assure children in words and actions that they are their first priority in life.” The rest of can have a role.

As bus drivers we can make sure we know all of our riders names and greet each with a smile and a good morning. We may be the first person in the morning who shows an interest and really cares about their welfare.

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