The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “Don’t You Mean ‘Ate’?”

The ‘Curbside Classroom’

Johnny Carson had Ed McMahon, Groucho Marks had George Fenneman. My ‘straight man’, here at the ‘curbside classroom’, was a middle schooler with a contagious laugh, perfect for the role.

Me, to a group of kids gathering at the crossing post: “Joe’s pizza is so good, I ‘et’ seven pieces!”

My ‘straight man’: “Don’t you mean ‘ate’?”

Me: “Hmmm, maybe it was ‘eight’ I ‘et’.” (drumroll, please)

Confused looks, then some smiles and an occasional, ‘oh, I get it’!

‘Get it’, or not, for me it was ‘mission accomplished’: a few smiles, some laughs, a language lesson and a feel good moment to start the school day.

The morning banter offers an opportunity for kids to communicate with an adult, me. For most, it’s easy, for some it’s awkward, and for a handful, it’s difficult. However, as days turn to weeks, weeks to months and the school year rolls along, a change is noticed, the awkward and the ‘difficult’ become less so and we become ‘comfortable’ with each other.

Early fall mornings have graced us with pristine skies and an opportunity for a new word at the ‘curbside classroom’, ‘contrails’. We watched planes zig-zag across the open spaces above and wondered aloud where they were going while marveling at the straight trailing lines behind each one, not exhaust, but vapor, these ‘contrails’.

It was a bit comical the following day to ask about another ‘trails’ word, ‘entrails’. And here, a couple of weeks later, the mention of either word caused upward glances for the former and disgusting looks for the latter.

Our ‘curbside classroom’ challenges me to find new material to share with these middle and high school students, careful in avoiding ‘overload’ yet satisfying appetites for those eager to hear something new, daily.

This week was the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and one girl accepted my challenge and memorized Lincoln’s epoch speech, overnight. No surprise, accepting challenges seems to be her forte. Another student brought this ‘curbside classroom’ lesson into school and reminded her social studies teacher of the speech. I think those efforts deserve an A for initiative.

More new words, more ‘days in history’, more questions about school activities, more, more and more. The ‘curbside classroom’ continues to be a bevy of conversation, fun and ‘wonder’! They wonder how I know so much. It comes down to three things, read, read, and read! If there’s a fourth, it’s life experience and there’s no shortage of that.

Today, November 22, was the 56th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. We discussed the phrase, ‘it seems like yesterday’. Not too many ‘yesterdays’ for these kids, yet, but give them time…

Steve (

November 2019)

Shout out to Audrey, Alice and Zoe

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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.”

61 thoughts on “The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “Don’t You Mean ‘Ate’?””

  1. Steve, I remember all my life teachers sometimes better than I remember my school teachers. It will be the same for some of these children. My teachable moments are always about nature and the world we live in. So many children deprived of experiencing the lifeblood of our planet.

    I enjoy your posts so much. Thank you for being a positive presence in the lives of children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such a nice sentiment and I appreciate it. If I can have some positive impact on these kids, I’d be thrilled. I remember lessons learned from older folks when I was a kid. I hope the kids remember something I said.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But we keep waiting for your stories and you were missing for a few months Mr B.. So we might have been worried about you and family… 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Those 56 years went like the wind. I was in college when JFK was assassinated and still recall the sadness and sense of loss. He was the young adult pick for the future and all of a sudden the future looked bleak. An old man Texan was sworn in on a plane and no answers as to why “they” wanted our man killed. We managed on but never felt that close to the government again. Super post. Steve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Derrick. Been having a challenging time concentrating on writing/reading recently. Hoping my new ‘friend’ will help…a CPAP device. I look like Hannibal Lecter when I go to bed 🙀🤪😂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Robbie, you can’t keep a grumpy ol’ man down for the count. Maybe not grumpy, and only a little bit old. Here’s the scoop. I seem to have lost the knack for finding good words to really express my thoughts. Started several stories but quit on them. But I think the real culprit was a general fatigue that seemed to kick in when I sat down to write, read or just relax. But, there’s hope. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and am now using a CPAP device to bed. Still getting used to it. I look like Hannibal Lecter when I go to bed 🙀🤪😉😂. Thanks for your concern, Robbie.


  3. We never had even child crossing guards. I had to make a mad dash across a major highway twice a day until they finally put in a light. I would have appreciated your presence for the safety factor alone. We had to memorize many things in seventh grade, the Gettysburg Address among them. It still rattles around in my mind and came back when we visited the site.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A few years ago, I got into the practice of memorizing long poems as a mental exercise. It was quite a challenge. I posted them to YouTube so my kids could see them…okay, so everyone could see them. Find me there under ‘srbottch’. I believe there are 4 poems. Keep in mind, I’m not an actor , and it shows.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I could not love this more! Love the idea “curbside classroom.” Love your dedication to young people. Love that you are encouraging real conversation in real time. I could go on, but let’s just say, you must be the best crossing guard EVER!


  5. Humor is the one of the best ways to connect with kids. I enjoyed a little banter with my students too. (I taught thirty-one years in grades 2-6). The sense of humor of a 2nd grader is considerably different than a 6th grader. I’m sure you find the same thing between middle school and high school.

    Your ‘curbside classroom students’ are more likely to learn some history if they already like and respect you. Way to go, Steve!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Still enjoying reading your blog Steve 🙂 Its fun to see how you challenge our youth to open their brains so early in the mornings! Many of our ancestors back in New England have ‘et seven of many things too, probably not pizza tho. Bet your kids look forward to their encounters with you each day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they do enjoy it. But, one thing for certain, I do😉. How are you doing? I miss waving to you when I pass your corner on the way to a pool workout at the JCC. Hope you okay. And, Linda, I appreciate you reading and commenting on my postings. See you soon. (Steve)


    1. Merry Christmas, Elmer. I haven’t been to see it, yet. It certainly is closer but still not as close as the JCC. It certainly is bigger, but not as small as the JCC. It certainly has a nice locker room but not as crowded as the JCC. And, when I go to the JCC, I can count on someone humming a song from ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ 😂! Ou Vey! I may get by there, yet, but one thing I do like about the JCC is that they always have one lane open for water walking. If I go to the Y, I’ll look for you. I’ll be the guy with the MAGA hat. Yes, I do have one but don’t dare to wear it around these parts. Take care, Elmer, and keep in touch.


  7. Where do I begin? What happens at your corner gives children everything. ‘They learn’ is a start, but there’s far more. They grow in ways that only come from exposure to words, humor, history, science, music… the list is long. You give them small doses, over and over, like bites of a cookie. In this way, the taste is sweeter, and it lasts longer. There is so much in this post, and you summed it up with the most important thing – read, read, read. We need to clone you, Steve. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you can begin with what motivates me. And, simply, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s everyone’s duty to make things better for those who follow in our steps. But, and here is a key ingredient, I’m motivated by the example you set in the way you expend so much tireless energy to teach young people so that they will succeed, themselves. We’re all laying blocks in their foundations, aren’t we? You’re the head ‘mason’, Jennie.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said, Steve. When the teacher is excited and having fun, so do the children. Like you, I am motivated. The children motivate me. Teachers like you motivate me. I am a proud head mason. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all for a good time. Rewarding to see them smile, laugh, be surprised or puzzled on a question. Then, a ‘Eureka’ moment happens when the eyes light up and you can tell, they get it! Thanks for your nice comment.


  8. I remember being in Nelson on the northern part of the South Island if New Zealand , when Kennedy was shot . I was having a brief holiday there with my best friends at that time.
    I wonder what important events your students will remember? I bet you will be one of their lasting memories – ‘ people who influenced me in my early years! ‘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, that is so nice of you. But, you’re right, when those of us who have some time behind us, look back and remember event, there are always a few things and people whom we remember. For me, my father is at the top of my list and a wonderful geometry teacher.


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