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: 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: srbottch.com. Instagram: @srbottch

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: “I’m Glad I’m There, Too!”

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.

“Good morning!”

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…

Steve B

Steveb.com

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

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Today, I Brought Balloons

balloon 1

I brought balloons, three of them tied into a bouquet and weighted. It was the first day of the new school year.

I’m a school crossing guard, one of a dozen in my town. We’re the first and last ‘person of authority’ most kids see when they begin or end their school day. Awesome responsibility.

This morning, I brought balloons to my post, then waited. And it worked, there were smiles and audible whispers of ‘oohs & awwws’. The first day of school was off to a pretty good start, a happy start.

All the students managed to cross safely across a busy road going to their middle and high school buildings. That’s the number one priority. But our job begins and ends before and after the crossing, itself, and that helps make their school day a positive experience. Often, it’s just a smile, a greeting, maybe a ‘great day’ wish, or a compliment, something positive they can take with them every school day.

Do you remember your first days? First day of school, first day of a new job, first day in the military? A bit unnerving, wasn’t it? Meeting new people, having new bosses, understanding new rules; phew, I feel pressure just recalling it all. Imagine how a kid feels.

My first teacher was Miss Fanny, we giggled at her name, until she slapped ‘ours’. Mrs.Downes was my first of many bosses. The principal at an elementary school where I taught before making a career change, Mrs. Downes (Isabel) was a civilian drill instructor, tough but fair, with high expectations from her staff. Drill Sergeant Davis was my first real drill sergeant (Army). He was tough, too, and fair, he showed no favoritism when delivering his wrath.

Initially, all three of these supervisors gave me pause on my ‘first day’ but I adjusted. The kids we cross daily will adjust in time, too, some sooner than others. I like to think that our approach and interaction with them will expedite that adjustment period.

So, today I brought balloons, and waited…       balloon 2

Steve

Srbottch.com

September 6, 2017

To school crossing guards, everywhere

To students of all ages

To everyone experiencing a ‘first time’