Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:49 PM on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I learned everything I needed to know about living in Homer while driving school bus No. 68

By Bob the bus driver Mayforth


Bob the bus driver Mayforth

Last fall I decided to check something off my bucket list and try school bus driving. As I started down this road I received a great deal of reaction like, "Bob, are you nuts?" "Are you sure you can handle those kids?" and "Bob, have you heard about how kids behave?"

In spite of all of this good advice, I decided to give it a try and applied at First Student.

I started a month of rigorous training with First Student. The training was focused on safety, of course in First Student's interest, but primarily focused on the student and providing a safe, pleasant trip for the student not only from the physical side but also socially and psychologically.

The emphasis on safety cannot be overstated. After rigorous testing, something I hate, safety officer Berkley Davis decided I was ready. I was assigned to route 68 coming from Chapman School down the old Sterling to all four schools. During the training and testing I observed how well maintained the equipment is. I told some friends that you could eat lunch in the engine area.

On my first day I had a breakdown on both morning and afternoon trips. This did not change my observation that the equipment is well maintained as the situations were quickly and effectively handled and I received great support from the management team.

The concerns of my friends about student behavior were greatly relieved. The students responded very positively. The afternoon incident was more difficult as it happened going up Baycrest and we needed to exit the bus.

Immediately a middle school and senior high boy volunteered, and one directed students as they exited and the other led them away from the bus and they sat on the hillside.

As fall went by, the students and I began to build a rapport. I often wished I could record the sounds I heard and give them to a classical composer as I felt it would make a basis for great music. There was happiness, sadness, disagreements, laughter and crying.

As time went by I was the more enchanted by the community on the bus. Wow, it was fun to watch the human development happening. Some with the greatest need made amazing progress.


Photo provided

Some of Bob (the Bus Driver) Mayforth's charges pose for a photograph near the end of the school year.

Transporting students on field trips also gave me some unique insights into the classroom. It seems to me that teachers invest heavily into the students. They must be emotionally tired at the end of day.

Did you know that elementary students go to the high school pool and learn how to behave around water?

As the year came to an end I heard one of my elementary students in a sweet voice say, "Bob, you are bald."

I replied, "Oh, you mean the little spot in the back" and I patted the back of my head.

"You are going to lose a lot of hair as you get older. How old are you" was his reply.

I told him I was 71. He seemed not to be able to cope with that big a number.

So ... what did I learn about living in Homer while driving school bus 68?

• Homer is a good place to live and grow.

• We do a good job of helping each other grow.

Bob Mayforth moved to Homer 11 years ago from a Chicago suburb to be closer to his grandchildren.