Steve the Crossing Guard

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”
​(Author unknown)

“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”
​(Jello ad)

“Nobody thinks it will work, do they? You’ve just described every great success story”
​ (Say Anything)

“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


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, young children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

125 Responses to Steve the Crossing Guard

  1. beetleypete says:

    An inspirational man indeed. Perhaps he should also be teaching?
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Opher says:

    Reblogged this on Opher's World and commented:
    Fabulous stuff!! A great tale. A great person. Great children. Great quotes.

  3. Darlene says:

    What an amazing person, someone who goes the extra mile with his job, making it more meaningful for him and the students. I love this story, wish there were more like it.

    • Jennie says:

      He really is amazing, Darlene. Can you imagine if all school crossing guards were like that? That would be staggering. I wish there were more of these stories, too.

    • srbottch says:

      Thank you, Darlene. It has become more meaningful for me and makes the job more interesting. One week of school to go. But there’s still some good exchanges left. Did you know that G Washington was 6’2”? A giant in 1775. The kids were ‘wowed’ by that, today. 😊

  4. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is another wonderful post from Jennie!

  5. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, This is wonderful!!!

  6. what a nice and inspiring story. Heroes show up everywhere. I really like Steve. I ish adults had a crossing guard like him!

    • Jennie says:

      I agree! You said it well. Thank you, Michele.

    • srbottch says:

      Michele, some do. Several teachers cross at my post every morning and I make sure to get them involved. I think they try to budge ahead to hear what’s happening. 😉

      • good for you! You have inspired me too! I am a music teacher in a small Montessori school. thank you!

      • srbottch says:

        I might be way off but I think that sharing some odd fact, historical info or even telling kids about something you did as a kid, yourself, gives them some brief insight into a different world and even broadens their thinking skills. Yesterday, some of the kids were amazed (and even a teacher) when I told them how tall G Washington was (6’2”) and how he compared to others. Have a wonderful day.

      • I think you are right on target-and I had no clue that George Washington was 6’2″. I usually have a quote or a poem posted in the room . I like your idea

      • srbottch says:

        I just started reading, ‘Killing England’, one of Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing…’ series, which are excellent. Amazingly, there are many things we probably didn’t know about ol’ GW that are quite interesting. But there is no doubt that he was a warrior. I’m probably boring you but that’s when you can roll your eyes…as the kids do sometime. 😉

  7. Ritu says:

    Inspiring indeed! I love some of those quotes!

  8. Cool, what a wise and great guy!

  9. A Kinder Way says:

    Wow, this is just amazing. What a great idea and I love how this shows that even the most standoffish kid can be reached with time and even the smallest effort (saying hello). What a guy. Thank you Jennie!!

  10. Just amazing. It’s great to start a dialog with the kids and it’s even greater when they start teaching YOU! I love the statement “this girl has changed remarkably since she started crossing with me”. That just gave me the warm fuzzies.

  11. robbiecheadle says:

    I remember this lovely post of Steve’s, Jennie. I shared it at the time.

    • Jennie says:

      That post was one of my favorites, Robbie. I’m so glad Steve continued on with the children to do much more. This was a great finale to his school year.

  12. The children are so lucky to have someone who respects their brain. Thanks, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      John, I have to write that down. You have no idea how profound your statement is. You are seeing this through a different lens. Thank you!

      • I have always approached children as if they had a brain. I think it is a way to communicate on the proper level and is a trust builder. Thanks, Jennie.

      • Jennie says:

        Now, if only every parent and teacher could see it the way you and Steve do. Of course you have hit the nail on the head.

    • srbottch says:

      I’m fortunate to be in an excellent s hook district, John. Some of these kids are taking classes now that would have been college classes ‘back in the day’.

  13. srbottch says:

    Jennie, I’m at a loss as to what to say and how to thank you (unusual for me). It is such an honor to have you write about me in your blog. And let me tell you about the influence you have had on me, and surely others. Part of what I do with the kids at my school crossing post just comes naturally because I saw my father, rest his soul, do it whenever he had the chance to be with young people. And a big measure of what I do is a result of reading your blogs and seeing the impressive work you do with your young students. You are a terrific example for being ‘positive’. As I’ve told you, if I had to do it again, you’d be my teacher. Your energy and creativity is unlimited and your enthusiasm for being a positive influence on kids (and adults) knows no boundaries. Thank you for ‘sharing me’ with your followers, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      Steve, thank you for your wonderful words. They are much appreciated. And, thank you for being you, giving children far more than you realize. You are my hero. I’m so glad that my blog has been an influence and a part of what you do. In the words of Charlotte the spider, “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.” 🙂

      • srbottch says:

        Very nice words from you and Charlotte. When you’ve been around long enough to look back at your life, as I have, it’s rewarding to know that, for some brief period of time, you had a positive influence on someone. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing! Happy writing, Jen!

      • Jennie says:

        Well said, Steve. It is rewarding. When you think about it, we’re pretty darn lucky. Yes, let’s keep doing what we’re doing. I hope you check in to read all the wonderful comments bloggers have said about you. 🙂

      • srbottch says:

        Jennie, I did read the comments and they were wonderful. I have to control my ego (kidding). Would it be appropriate to address them?

      • Jennie says:

        That’s a good question. When this happens to me I always hit ‘like’ and reply when it feels like the right thing to do. From the standpoint of the reader who has commented, they may be thrilled to hear a few words from you. That’s up to you. Interestingly, some of my followers (and vice versa) have grown from this same situation. I have a feeling the comments will keep coming in, so keep on the lookout. In the words of Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over. 🙂

  14. Dan Antion says:

    What a great way to turn an ordinary job into an extraordinary experience.

  15. Norm 2.0 says:

    What a wonderful uplifting thing to read after a long tiring day. Bravo and thank you 🙂

  16. Doris says:

    What an inspiration! Teachers could take a lesson from him, Great job Steve!!🎉

  17. I remember the Woodchuck post, Jennie. I love this update on Steve. It shows how easy it is to create connections, to make kids feel valued, and to spark their intellect and imagination. What a hero. 🙂

  18. What an incredible man to take a job some would treat as mundane and do something so wonderful with it. The world IS full of inspiring people. Yay Steve! 🙂

  19. Wow! What a neat thing to do, and extraordinary man!

  20. Norah says:

    Such an inspiring post, Jenni. I remember your previous post about Steve. What a remarkable man. The number of lives he has improved must be enormous. He has a huge heart.

  21. Tina Frisco says:

    What a kind and thoughtful man. The quotes are fantastic ❤️

  22. ren says:

    Wonderful and thank you for this sharing……

  23. Steve sounds like a wonderful guy. As I say about you, the children whose lives he visits are quite lucky. Hugs on the wing!

  24. This is incredible, Jennie – thank you so much. I’d like to share this post for #ForgivingFridays, is that ok? I love the focus on opening dialogue and creating honest and loving connection.

    I love your blog. So happy to know you. Happy Sunday, Jennie!

  25. Kally says:

    Oh wow. He is an inspiration to all of us!

  26. If we could all take the opportunity to create meaningful dialogue with other people, especially kids, this world would be a better place. Thanks for sharing.

  27. It gets harder and harder to be Steve every day….May we all aspire to anyway!

  28. Pingback: The Return of Posts of Note! – A Kinder Way

  29. Pingback: Today’s Forgiving Fridays: Making Peace with My Mind – Part 2! – ForgivingConnects

  30. What an amazing heart this man brings to his job. Truly an inspiring story. 🙂

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