We took a bus trip today. A very special bus trip. We were going on a Bus Wash.
The kids all piled on the bus; getting their tickets with giddy excitement and taking their seats. The two bus drivers introduced themselves and handed out a worksheet to each child.
It was a game of Spotto. The kids had to keep an eye out for different things – a bus stop, motorbike, person walking a dog; that sort of thing – and mark it off their sheet. Jack was very excited and started looking around straight away….
But then the noise started.
“The bus driver is a little deaf”, our guide said. “So you’ll need to speak loudly.”
“Red light. Everyone yell STOP!” “Louder!” “Louder!”
“Green light. Everyone yell GO!” “Louder!” “Louder!”
And the kids screamed. Louder!
And just like that, a potentially wonderful experience, full of interesting and new things to see was lost. Each time the kids would settle back into looking around as the bus travelled to the car wash, the driver would have the kids yelling again.
“Turn Left!” “Louder!” Turn Right!” “Louder!” And the kids yelled, and the babies screamed.
We went we through the bus depot and saw where the buses were repaired…. honk honk went the horn…” Say hi to the mechanics everyone! Louder!” “HIIIIIIIIIII!”
We drove through where the buses were refuelled and went through the bus wash… “Everyone yell GO!” “Louder!”
We drove past where all the buses were kept overnight….honk honk went the horn…”Everyone yell WAKE UP BUSES!” “LOUDER!” “LOUDER!”
This potentially amazing experience was sadly drowned out by all the yelling.
How often does this happen though? Children are encouraged to scream prompts over and over again… “Everyone say, Hi Bus driver!” “I can’t hear you??!”
Why do we think children need to be over-stimulated in order to get their attention?
Is having them screaming at the top of their voice the only way we know they are paying attention? In my experience, if given half a chance, children are far more interested in things than adults – often having a much longer attention span; investigating things long after we adults have lost interest.
Why can’t we leave children alone with their thoughts? Can’t they be trusted to have quiet meaningful thoughts? Aren’t they capable of engaging in conversation? Why do they always have to scream in unison?
We are teaching them to be loud and obnoxious… and then when they are, we reprimand them for it. It’s confusing for the children. Don’t we want our children to be thoughtful, engaged, focussed, considerate and passionate? Children don’t have to be yelling to show they are engaged!
Today we went on a bus trip. We drove around our town and down to the bus depot. We saw buses being repaired; hoisted high up in the air. We drove through tall petrol bowsers and sat as the bus went through a carwash.
When asked at dinner tonight about the bus wash, Jack’s reply? “It was loud.”
I wish I had said something to the driver. Next time I will.