The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”


“Who was Pavarotti?”

I thought I had them stumped. But stumping wasn’t the end game. The objective was twofold: strengthen our daily dialogue, the fun part; and stimulate their thinking skills, the learning part of our relationship. .

As for Pavarotti, the surprise answer came from a confident high schooler on a unicycle who steadied himself, as best one can on a unicycle, and delivered it with certainty. “Not only was Pavarotti a famous Italian opera singer”, he opined, “but he was a tenor”.  I was impressed.

Crossing Guard PatchI’m a crossing guard for a suburban school district in western New York State. Every school morning and afternoon, I have a minute or so to interact with groups of kids ages twelve to eighteen years, while waiting for their signal lights to change. I try to make the wait meaningful.

“What is the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius?”

Recent mornings been have been cold, bitter cold, the perfect environment to challenge them with this question. And the answer came fast. “(F-32) /1.8”. These kids are good.

It’s become apparent that they almost expect something each day, a quiz, a fact, a general question. An approaching airplane provokes a simple discussion. An unusual sunrise or an odd cloud formation gets us talking and imagining. It’s all about the dialogue.

“Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?”

“What direction are we facing while waiting to cross? Forward doesn’t count!”

“January is named after the 2 headed Roman god Janus.”

“Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”

“How many centimeters in an inch, millimeters?”

For the most part, kids haven’t changed over the years. The younger boys are still immature, they run, yell and ask nonsensical questions.  And boys and girls still hold hands. But there are some noticeable changes. Pink, purple or blue hair is common with today’s girls, and even with some boys. The huge backpacks have replaced gym bags for carrying books. And, nearly everyone is connected via cell phones.

However, kids are still kids. If I can make them smile or laugh as they start their school day, then ‘mission accomplished’. And it all starts with a greeting…and, maybe a new question…

“Good morning, kids. Have a great day!”


“Oh, By the way, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

To my surprise, they had answers. We’re learning from each other.

Jan 2018

Dedicated to a wonderful teacher I’ve been fortunate to know, Jennie, and her cadre of lucky students.

Published by


Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

32 thoughts on “The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?””

  1. I love this one.Do you really ask questions when childrens are crossing… ?
    Terrific idea (good) It must be an obligation by law to do so.
    Good man.
    By the way what is the answer to frosty ?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve!! I was loving every word of this post, so glad that you had written about your quiz questions to children. And then, I got to the end, and read the dedication to me. I am deeply humbled. Stunned. And, so very thankful. Thank you! A must reblog today. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jennie, if I had to start school all over again, I would want you as my first teacher…and C Warren Paige as my geometry teacher (South High, Worcester). He was strict and had high expectations. I loved geometry. And you would love a morning at my crossing post with the kids and me. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awww… that is so nice, Steve. Yes, I would absolutely love a morning at your crossing post! I reblogged this wonderful post. You don’t have a reblog button, so I had to copy and paste onto my blog. The likes and comments are already coming in. A hundred thank yous!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. When you go to the bottom of a post where the “like” button is, the “reblog” is beside it. Only one other time did I come across a post without a reblog button. I wish I could tell you how to add that. I’m sure WordPress can!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Robbie, I learned that the U.S. is one of a handful of countries using Fahrenheit. My state, New York, borders Canada (metric, all the way) and when I used to cross the border for business, I had to remember that the speed limit of 100 was kilometers (per hour) not miles (per hour). I had to back it down to 60mph (1km = .6mi). Although, in Canada 🇨🇦, drivers never drove 100kph, they were usually 120 or more. 😜 Thanks for the nice words, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love it, Steve! Those kids are lucky to have yet someone else to help lift them up and give them something to think about as they start their day. And a fine example you set for greeting one another with a smile and something interesting to say!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Linda. It’s fun and most of the kids enjoy the exchanges. I refer to my post as a classroom 😂. I know a lot of their names and the different personalities. The kids are great and I enjoy the job…even when it’s -0- or raining.

      Hope all is well with you and Dave. You must be living this storm.

      Take care and stay warm. And keep reading, I need the followers for my ego. 🤪




    1. I did ask a couple of middle s hook girls, twins, who play lacrosse, what the national game of Canada 🇨🇦 is. Most Americans don’t know it’s lacrosse and neither did they. But at least they didn’t say hockey. They guessed soccer.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. Writing is something I started to try to stay sharp, mentally. It’s a challenging task. I hope I continue to deserve your vote of confidence. And isn’t Jennie terrific?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m late to the party, Steve. Jennie just emailed your post from back in the day because she knew I’d love it. She’s right! I can almost imagine some kid saying to his/her mom, “Drop me off here. I want to talk to Mr. Bottch.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pete, as a guy who spent most of my career in sales, I insist that the kids cross at my post because, as I tell them, I get a commission for every crossing. I also tell them that they’ll have a masters degree from the ‘curbside classroom’ by the time they graduate. We have fun (ex. this story), we communicate and we actually learn something while crossing the street (4 lanes). ‘And I get rich off the commissions’ 😂. Thanks for reading/commenting, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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