The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Extra Credit & Life’s Little Rewards

“Extra credit! I got extra credit!”

The red-tail hawk perched on the overhead traffic signal at my school crossing post had my rapt(or) attention, so I didn’t hear the initial shouts. And the glare of a low afternoon sun made it difficult to see her, at first. But when I did, it was plain to hear and see a very happy high schooler, eager to deliver some good news.

During the morning crossing, at the Curbside Classroom, in the minute the kids and I have together, I announced that today was Pearl Harbor Day. Now, for most middle schoolers, that drew blank stares. Some high schoolers had heard about it. So, how much ‘ancient history’ can you discuss in 60 seconds? Honestly, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be much.

Franklin Roosevelt, infamy, war…a minute, to get access to their memory bank and make a small deposit. Apparently, it worked with this student, hence, the happy announcement at the end of the day, this Pearl Harbor Day.

When called upon in class to offer today’s date, my Curbside Classroom ‘pupil’ gave more than just the date, December 7th. She confidently reminded her teacher and class the historical significance of this date.

I wasn’t in the class but learned that her teacher was ‘blown away’ and awarded her extra credit.

As a school crossing guard, or just as an adult tossing out bits of Life’s good ‘stuff’ to young folks, knowing that you’ve made a positive experience for them is a big personal reward. I couldn’t be happier for this student and it made me think a bit more about the importance of passing tidbits along to kids.

Sarah Caldwell was an American Opera conductor, who said, “Learn everything you can, anytime you can. There will always come a time when you will be grateful you did”.

And, William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, encouraged others to “act as if what you do makes a difference, it does”.

In my blog, “S’amusing”, I write about a myriad of Life stories. And within the blog, I have a series titled, ‘The Crossing Guard Chronicles’, which describes my experiences as a school crossing guard and my interaction with kids. We talk and talk and talk as I engage them with a potpourri of topics in our minute, or so, together. Questions, facts, brain teasers, poetry, music (yes, I’ll sing a tune), it’s a veritable salad bowl of topics to kickstart their day (and mine), generate some smiles and help create a positive frame of mind before they enter their ‘brick ‘n mortar’ buildings. And it works.

What a great way to start the day.

One more thing, that same week we talked about trees. I stumped them on ‘shoe trees’. I have to win, occasionally…

Steve Bottcher January 2021

Blog: Instagram: @srbottch

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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.”

35 thoughts on “The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Extra Credit & Life’s Little Rewards”

      1. John, we’re into February and the snow machine from Lake Ontario Park is kicking into high gear along with cold. It’s 18 now (8 pm) and with the wind, the temps today felt like single digits. But, we still hit in our walks with the dog. John, are you in Instagram? I enjoy shooting pictures and posting to Instagram.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. STEVE! It is wonderful to read about the Curbside Classroom once again. Your story is terrific; a red tailed hawk, ‘ancient’ history in 60 seconds, Sarah Caldwell, William James, and even shoe trees. You made the day for these kids, and you made mine, too. You are the teacher I aspire to be. Thank you, and keep writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jennie, initially, my ‘lesson’ was going to be about the shoe trees and shoe horns. I thought it would have been fun to show the kids how words have different meanings. Then, at the end of the first day that week, the happy episode happened. It really made my day, my week, my every moment of being a crossing guard. You get that feelings a lot as a classroom teacher.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean! One thing happens, and everything changes in the best of ways. When the teacher follows that lead it’s called emergent curriculum. Forget the initial lesson planning and go with what’s happening. You do that well!


  2. Reblogged this on A Teacher's Reflections and commented:
    Steve the Crossing Guard has always been my hero, the teacher I want to be, the one who makes a difference with children because he is creative and so ‘in tune’ with making 60 seconds at his Curbside Classroom a learning moment. He has retired, yet he is subbing (thank goodness), and there are always ‘moments’, thus this post. I read it three times. It’s that good. who says “get access to their memory banks and make a deposit” and “tossing out bits of life’s good stuff”? Steve does.

    First, I want to share with you the post that drew me to Steve and his Curbside Classroom. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I read this!

    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.

    I’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.


    1. Jennie, thanks isn’t a strong enough word to express my gratitude to you and all you do. I do a little and it’s done ‘on the fly’ while you do a lot and it requires planning, planning and more planning to get it right. You’re so good at it, Jennie, and it shows in your postings. Think how many people you’ve influenced over your career. They can’t make a gold medal big enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much, Steve! You’d be surprised at how much of my teaching is done on the fly… which is often the best teaching of all. I am a champion of ‘emergent curriculum’, which means paying close attention to children and what they love, and doing something about that. My best teaching seems to happen this way. Reading “The Little House” became a huge learning experience because a child noticed the compass on each page. Wait, I had a compass on my phone! So we spent the next 30 minutes finding North, South, East, and West all over the school. When I tried to pull up a Safari Jeep video for children to see, somehow the Boston Robotics video popped up. Well, that has become a favorite in the classroom. Honestly, my planned teaching is good, but my unexpected ‘on the fly’ teaching is my best. That’s just like you. I think we both need a gold medal.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Now, Jennie, this note was is the perfect way to end the day. Well, a scotch would be good, too. I like the concept. Too often, we make a plan and get glued to it even if it’s going off the rails. I’d enjoy getting that gold medal with you but , in all seriousness. Jennie, you are a top notch teacher. My 4 yr old twin grandkids are in a nursery program outside of DC but I sure wish they had your level of instruction. I think they would thrive. Goodnight now. It’s been a great day.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It was so good to see a new post from you come across my email, Steve! I’ve missed “The Crossing Guard Chronicles.” I can only imagine how excited the high schooler was to learn something new, share it with her teacher and her classmates, get extra credit, and then share the good news with you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Liz, thank you so much. It’s been a chore writing in recent months it i managed to get over the hump with some inspiration from Jennie. Imagine a teenager skipping toward you with a huge smile and joyous shouts. I hope it’s something she remembers, I know I shall. It made my day so I gave myself extra credit, too…😁


  4. Always a good day when you can improve a child’s day or make him/her feel good. The support staff around the school are worth their weight in gold. By the way, I was that kid in school who surprised the teacher with my Pearl Harbor knowledge. It wasn’t because I’m so smart. Pssst-don’t tell anybody, but my birthday is Dec. 7th.😎

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would have thought the American children knew about Pearl Harbour, Steve. I’m quite surprised they don’t. It is important to remember history and that is why I write historical novels. My latest is partially set during the Second Anglo Boer War in South Africa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m certain that the older students knew, the younger ones not do much. I think our curriculum in US has been watered down over time and I agree with you that it’s important to understand our past. Thanks, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

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