The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The Facts, Just the Facts… ‘Did You Know Abe Lincoln Had A Sense of Humor’?

‘We miss your facts’, a student at my school crossing post offered. ‘Well, here’s something, did you know that President Abraham Lincoln had a great sense of humor?’ No, she didn’t and neither did other students. I didn’t, either, until I recently read* more about Lincoln.

‘His pictures always show him looking sad or serious’, another commented. ‘Well, he was often sad and serious. He had much to be both sad and serious about in his life’.

One can get a potpourri of facts by reading.

This is the stuff we talk about at the Curbside Classroom. Facts. But there’s more. And the kids love the ‘more’.

He changed the world for the better. Dr. Jonas Salk did that. I was working on March 26th and reminded the kids about Dr. Salk and his successful research into developing a polio vaccine on this date in 1953. We discussed what we could in the very brief time before crossing.

Tying the polio epidemic and the successful vaccine then, when I was a kid, to the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought, was interesting for the kids, as well as a couple of teachers or adults who happened to benefit from crossing at the Curbside Classroom, that day. Understanding that events in history often repeat themselves was a good lesson. And to have an eye witness, me, who experienced the anxieties of both, tell them about it, was a plus.

Some of these kids are graduating this year and it’s exciting to see them planning their future. It’s been a challenging year because of the pandemic but kids are resilient and they seem to have handled it fine, for the most part.

I like to think that the Curbside Classroom helped them kick start their days. I hope it will be a fond memory, as they continue along a successful Life journey and maybe, just maybe, change the world for the better.

Congratulations, Class if 2021!

Steve

* Team of Rivals’ by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin

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)

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “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.