The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Extra Credit & Life’s Little Rewards

Steve the Crossing Guard has always been my hero, the teacher I want to be, the one who makes a difference with children because he is creative and so ‘in tune’ with making 60 seconds at his Curbside Classroom a learning moment. He has retired, yet he is subbing (thank goodness), and there are always ‘moments’, thus this post. I read it three times. It’s that good.  Who says “get access to their memory banks and make a deposit” and “tossing out bits of life’s good stuff”?  Steve does.

First, I want to share with you the post that drew me to Steve and his Curbside Classroom. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I read this!

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”

“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.

Jan 2018

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


“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…

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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.
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34 Responses to The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Extra Credit & Life’s Little Rewards

  1. Another uplifting post from Steve!! It was most welcome today.

  2. Thank you for sharing this it is beautiful. The wonders of a classroom

  3. beth says:

    he is such a treasure and a gift

  4. Norah says:

    Steve is a treasure and an inspiration. His ripples will go on and on.

  5. srbottch says:

    Jennie, I can’t thank you enough for the kind words and for motivating me to ‘get off the schnied’ (urban lingo) and start writing. As I mentioned, this story was started way back, December actually, and I ran into a roadblock (mental block). Your encouragement helped me over the hump. And that’s my word if the day for Monday when I sub at my old post. You’ve encouraged and motivated students from the very young to the very … well, should I just say, me. And you selflessly pass on credit to others when you’re the ‘trunk’ of this learning tree and deserve it, more so. I’m not sure if there’ll be more Crossing Guard stories but if there are, you’ll be the first to know. Again, thank you for all you do for others and me, Jennie (or should I say, ‘Fred’)

  6. Darlene says:

    I love Steve the amazing crossing guard. It is folks like him and you, Jennie, who give me hope for the future generations.

  7. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for sharing another great post!

  8. beetleypete says:

    Trust Steve to stump them with ‘Shoe Trees’. I’m sure even my 30+ year-old step children wouldn’t know what they are.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. I loved his posts but haven’t seen them for awhile. He fills a unique spot in the world.

  10. What a fabulous guy and much loved I am sure… a great start to a kid’s day… hugsx

  11. Another fantastic post from Steve. He really can make you think and get the kids thinking too. He’s a natural teacher like you. 🥰

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