School|Life Audio: on the bus

At her new, public middle school, my eleven year old sister has encountered all sorts of kids that her tiny private school had shielded her from, and she often tells us about her new friends and acquaintances at dinner. I asked her to recount one story from a few weeks ago.

For many middle school students, the journey to school is the first that they’re taking pretty much on their own. I was liberated by the middle school commute. It was this sacred 20 minute walk during which I could listen to my ipod shuffle and feel real cool and mature. If I could get to school on my own, I could get anywhere, right? You can tell that my sister’s sprint out to the bus each morning gives her a thrilling sense of responsibility.

But she was confused by this. How could someone do something like that? How was it resolved? Should she treat this kid differently because of what she had done?
I was confused too. Isn’t it a the crossing guard’s job to protect kids from others, not others from the kids? What would have happened had the crossing guard not seen?

My sister saw her busmate throw the bottle and watched the aftermath, and even she doesn’t know exactly what happened, if the girl had had a tough morning, a fight with her mom. And how did her mother react? Was it the first time she’d done something that bad? Is it the last?

What happens during a kid’s commute alone could reveal so much about their experience in the classroom. Can he handle himself around strangers? Is she scared of the city streets? Does mom hold his hand all the way there? No matter what stop on the bus ride you’re meeting a kid, there’s another stop and it’s hard to know what happened there. School|Life seeks to check in with kids (and parents and teachers) at every stop along the way, to illustrate how every little thing affects every other little thing. It hopes to pass on full stories, not just the fragments occasionally recounted at the dinner table.

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