Morning light dusts away the darkness. Young students make their way to the school crossing post. It’s tranquil but for the quiet conversations among friends and the humming of local traffic that announces the start of a new work day. Some still have sleepy eyes, others are hurriedly finishing an abbreviated breakfast. The calm is about to change.
My long distance call even catches the attention of drivers.
Eyes pop with a mild show of enthusiasm and attention. Some eagerly anticipate what’s next, a few roll their eyes, no doubt. They know it’s another morning of quizzes, fun facts, brain teasers or historical notes. Maybe a quick grammar question, or an observation about the beautiful sunrise greeting us in the east. Yes, knowing directions is a topic for discussion. All this before they even step into their buildings.
I’m a school crossing guard, one of a dozen in my town. And my post is an impromptu ‘curbside classroom’, across the street from the middle and high schools.
A million seconds is 12 days, how much is a billion seconds? * (you’ll be surprised at the difference)
The eye movement shows they’re thinking and a few figure it out quickly.
I have only a minute, or so, to engage these preteens and teens as we await our traffic signal. By the time they’ve crossed, most are fully awake, a bit more energized and generally, smiling, a result of our encounter, I’d like to think.
Who is Jeff Bezos?** Who was Ferdinand Magellan?***
These kids are whizzes, they know the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ names. Few questions go unanswered and there’s a sense of eager enthusiasm, from the youngest to oldest.
Generally, our topics are light, sometimes humorous or serious, but often poignant. There’s an objective to my ‘drills’.
We’ve discussed STEM****, and NASA science, as in what is LEO***** and how is a young woman, Amber Yang******, tying them together?
These young people are much busier than I was at their ages: school, homework, clubs, sports and, for some, jobs. Starting the day with a greeting, a smile, a ‘challenge’, puts them in a good frame of mind. It gets them thinking, maybe relaxes them. And, it’s a two way street, we energize each other.
A survey question draws curious looks: do you eat your apple around the circumference, or stem to bottom*******, something simple to awaken their senses and promote a dialogue between us. Some are excellent communicators, others are learning, while a small number prefer to remain quiet. It’s rewarding to see their growth in this area over a school year’s time.
November was the anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address********. What did Lincoln mean by his words, ‘all men’? The thinking caps were humming for this one.
How do you pronounce humus and hummus, and what are they?*********
Yes, there were some humorous replies, there always are, these are kids. Nevertheless, with only a minute of ‘class time’, we answered both parts.
I’ve learned this about kids, they like being challenged and enjoy showing what they know. A high schooler paid a compliment, “we’re glad you’re here with your facts, stories and questions”. Nice feedback…
I’m glad I’m there, too…
To ‘teachers’ everywhere who stimulate the minds of young people, we’re glad you’re there, too.
* 32+ years; ** founder of Amazon Worldwide Services, world’s wealthiest person; *** Portuguese explorer who led first (Spanish) circumnavigation of the world, killed in the process; **** Science, Technology, Engineering, Math; ***** Low Earth Orbit; ****** 19 year old Stanford student who developed a program to track space debris that NASA uses to protect spacecraft and astronauts; ******* around the circumference, overwhelmingly; ******** November 19, 1863; ********* organic matter versus food matter