Steve is a fellow blogger and a school crossing guard in western New York state. I have to tell you what he does with children. Obviously the best teachers are not always teachers in the classroom.
Last January he wrote a blog post, “How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck…?” It has not left me. It sticks to me. I can’t let it go. Steve decided to ask interesting questions to the students at his crossing, like “Who is Pavarotti?” and “Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?” and “What direction are we facing while wanting to cross? Forward doesn’t count.” and “Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”
Steve did this to strengthen the daily dialogue with students, and stimulate their thinking skills. That became a big deal; children expected his question of the day, and the roots of friendship began. Then, conversations started to take place. In Steve’s words:
- ‘Space exploration’: first country, name and payload (most knew Russia, some knew Sputnik, and others guessed dog, monkey, ‘don’t know’ …correct answer was dog on Sputnik.
- ‘What is the preamble?’: first we defined preamble then many knew of the preamble to the US Constitution. I suggested that the words “We the People” was pretty powerful.
- ‘February and Calendar’: Which one do we use, Roman or Gregorian? Some knew the Gregorian and I explained that the switch was the result of the Roman night aligning properly with various solstices. Also in the Roman calendar, February was the last month and it’s meaning meant celebration, and the Roman leader declared it would be a month long celebration of the previous months.
One girl, a freshman, asked if Gregorian was named after Pope Gregory. Hmm… Steve looked up the answer. That triggered a change. Now there was real dialogue. And, the kids wanted this. Steve had another idea; he asked the school kids to think of their favorite quote and write it down so he could make a list to give them.
Wow. Steve has gone from asking questions to having conversations. Now, he is throwing the ball in the student’s court. He knows they’re ready.
Steve said there was not much of an interest at first, then there was a breakthrough.
“A high school girl used to walk by without a word, even when I would say ‘good afternoon’. Recently she seemed to take an interest in my routine of asking questions or sharing facts. She even said hello.
In passing me this afternoon on the way to her bus, she stopped, reached into her bag and handed me a laminated sheet (must have been done at school today) with 9 quotes from Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk. Apparently he’s well known.
The quotes are interesting but, more importantly, this girl has changed remarkably since she started crossing with me. I was a bit stunned when she gave me the paper, but I told her how happy it made me.”
And so it continued throughout the rest of the school year. Quotes from students started trickling in. And good to his word, Steve made a list and gave it to the students. Here is the collection of quotes from Steve the Crossing Guard’s students:
Favorite Quotes From Brighton Middle & High School Students*, 2017/2018 (*contributed by a few students and a crossing guard)
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet”
(Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk/peace advocate)
“Because you are alive, everything is possible”
(Thich Nhat Hanh)
“Just because you’re happy doesn’t mean the day is perfect, it means you’ve looked beyond its imperfections”
(Bob Marley, Jamaican singer/songwriter)
“The most important things in life aren’t things”
“If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger”
(Buzz Aldrin, American astronaut)
“Then tell the wind and fire where to stop, don’t tell me’ Madame DeForge!”
(from Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’)
“Happy is still legal in all 50 states”
“Nobody thinks it will work, do they? You’ve just described every great success story”
“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its entire life believing it is stupid”
(Albert Einstein, German born scientist…genius)
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it”
(Thich Nhat Hanh)
“That’s one of the great things about music, you sing a song to 85,000 different people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons”
(David Grohl, American musician/songwriter)
“To thine own self be true, and it shall follow, as the night the day, that thou canst then be false to any man”
(Polonius, from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’)
Thank you, Steve. You have done far more for children than many of their classroom teachers. You are the real teacher. And, it gets even better- a thank you note:
Steve can be followed at srbottch.com