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