The Bus

About two weeks ago I was at the bus station in Springfield, MA, waiting for a friend to arrive on the bus. While I’m waiting, though, I see a bus for the PVTA pull out, headed for Holyoke with stops along the way. The PVTA is the regional bus system, linking and serving towns in central-west Massachusetts.

Before the bus even clears the station parking lot, two teens come out of the station to the berth the bus just left. They’re both apparently just out of school. Both have bookbags, and big bulky coats, and both are suddenly aware that their bus is leaving.

The boy looks at the bus. I guess they have a policy not to let more passengers on after they pull the bus away from the terminal. But the bus is still in the parking lot. He shoulders his bookbag, and takes off at a run, crossing the street in a moment. He’s racing the bus to the next stop.

The girl stands there. She gestures a couple of times at the bus. I see her turn to her colleague – boyfriend? – who hasn’t been standing there for several moments. She reacts with surprise, and turns back to the bus. She gestures a few times, helplessly, and then turns and goes back into the station.

Now, before you say I should have helped or anything, keep in mind that I am a big white guy hanging around in a rundown neighborhood near the bus station. I’m also a good 300′ away, I have Clio my black dog with me, and I’m waiting for someone whose bus is supposed to be pulling in now. If I go to this girl’s rescue my motives can be potentially misconstrued in a moment as suspect (and even so, I still feel guilty for not offering help).

But what really gets me is the two attitudes on display. They struck me then, and they strike me now, as relevant to the teaching profession. A good many of our colleagues are adopting the girl’s point of view. They’re looking at the tech bus pulling out, bemoaning their lack of savvy, and going back into the waiting area for the next opportunity to come along.

The boy has decided to hoof it. The typical starts and stalls of a bus in traffic – and of tech in schools – give him a 50%-50% chance of making it to the next stop and being able to get on board. Maybe he’ll make it, maybe not. He’ll have some stories to tell whether he succeeds or fails, and he’ll be faster to jump on the next bus when it comes along. And even if he does make it on the next express line, he’ll be more familiar with the neighborhood as a result of his daring and risk.

Meanwhile in the NOW of two weeks later, I imagine that a gap has already opened between these two friends. He abandoned her at a bus station in a rundown neighborhood – a lonely and potentially dangerous place. The teacher thus abandoned doesn’t know the neighborhood, fears the other denizens of this strange world, and wonders when or if the next bus will come. She’s resentful of her faster, risk-taking colleagues. And she’ll fight to keep any other friends and colleagues from getting on the tech bus without her.

Given how rarely official tech opportunities come along in many schools, she and her friends may be waiting a long, long time.

Meanwhile the boy may still be a long way from home. But he’s a lot closer to where he wants to be. And at the risk of alienating colleagues and friends, he’s better prepared to jump on the next bus to come along.

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