The Crossing Guard Chronicles: These Kids Are Sharp…

“Good morning…know what day it is?”

Now, this was not a trick question. Rather, it was a ‘PSA”, Public Service Announcement, for the kids I cross as a school crossing guard. I thought that I was just reminding them of the date.

“Yes, it’s Pi Day!”

“Pie Day? No, it’s March 14th!”

“That’s right, ‘Pi Day’, 3.14…..”

They had me. They were teaching me, turning the tables from our usual morning exercise. And, it was fun, lots of laughs.

These kids are sharp!

The mathematical ‘Pi’, of course, is the ‘ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter’. No, I didn’t know that. At one time, maybe, but years ago. One of the kids, a high school student, told me. I had more questions, but we were across and my ‘source’ was heading for her building, probably to a quantum physics class.

These kids are sharp!

Nearly every morning, for fun and mental stimulation, I’ll throw out a fact, a riddle, a question, word of the day, and the young people receive it well. My reward is their feedback. And they’re not shy about offering it, participating in the ‘give & take’.

Since it was Michelangelo’s birthday last week, it seemed appropriate to remind them about the artist and one of his claims to fame, the ceiling painting of the Sistine Chapel.

I was quickly informed that he painted it at the behest, maybe order, of Pope Julius II and it took several years to complete. Should I have known that? A student did. (As a sculptor, painting was not his forte, but we can agree the ceiling is a remarkable piece of art).

It is not unusual for these young students to amaze me with their knowledge, level of instruction, and ambitions. They want to be engineers, physicists, sports marketers, mechanics And they’re a happy group of young folks, as well, with keen senses of humor, especially the older ones who are tuned in to subtleties.

I hope these kids are learning something from me. My challenges are often turned into a learning lesson for me. It makes a school crossing job a pleasure.

As for ‘Pi Day’, one student wore a shirt with the message, ‘Come to The Math Side, We Have Pi’.

These kids are sharp!

‘Pie Face’ Game

Steve (March 2019)

Snowball Fights Make Good Friends

snowballs

“Wop! Wop! Wop!”

One, then another, and yet another, ‘wop , wop, wop’, from different fronts, rock-hard snowballs, spheres of packed snow that when thrown expertly, leave red blotches on the skin or wet splatter marks on clothing. Mostly, they leave bruised egos! In the shoulder, the backside, the legs and the head, if you’re not watching.

“Run! Run for your life!”

War whoops from the neighborhood bullies who gathered to harass my friends and me on a cold, snowy nor’easter day, the kind of days school kids loved. School was closed, traffic slowed and monster trucks rumbled thru neighborhoods, pushing snow into huge piles for more outdoor games, a perfect atmosphere for snowball fights. These ruffians had lots of opportunities for ‘assaults’ on us during the long, cold New England winters.

Slam!

The kitchen door closed behind me.

“Just in time for dinner”!

“Why are you so wet?”  

“Why are you panting?”

My mother didn’t get it, had no idea of the peril I faced in the dilapidated barn behind my house where the ‘bad guys’ had us trapped, on the second floor, the ‘good guys’, trapped and running out of ‘ammo’. Snow fell through the leaky roof of the old building, but nary enough to ward off the lot of ogres, older by two or three years, ungloved and open jackets, impervious to the elements. Tough guys, the toughest, and outside the barn, with an endless supply of ammo, falling snow.

I had been called once for dinner…

“Steeeeeeeeephen!”

“Suuuuuupper!”

She didn’t, and wouldn’t, call more than once.

… but the bullies wouldn’t allow our plea for a truce, a ‘temporary suspension of hostilities’. Only a ‘brave’ jump from the hayloft door into a pile of snow and mad dash to my house saved me from…well, you can just imagine!

Yes, ‘imagine’, and I do. Such a beautiful word. I find that, as I get older, a little bit at a time, ‘imagining’ becomes a key part of what I remember and makes my childhood experiences even more vivid than they probably were.

Oh, the barn was there, leaning, and snowball fights were common. And there were older kids, lots of them in a working class neighborhood of large families, but they weren’t really bullies, ruffians, or ogres. Often, we were on the same side in other activities played outside on the streets, surrounded by fresh air.

However, winter was the season of the toughest games. ‘King of the hill’ saw friends tossed about while vieing for the top spot of a snow mound. Sledding was fast and furious, weaving around cars, trees or each other. Just knocking someone into a snow bank was a game. All of it, the rough and tumble, pushing and shoving, bonded our friendships more.

We wore ourselves out…outside, where we created games all day and came home to the loud yell of, ‘suuuuupper!’

I can still pack a good snowball and hit a target…and imagine…and remember.

Yes, snowball fights made good friends!

Steve

January 2019

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To all kids who played in the streets, created fun games with friends and still remember it all.

“How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”

PAVAROTTI

“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!”

woodchuck

“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.

Steve
srbottch.com
Jan 2018

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