Last week I had to go to the local elementary school to participate in a Traffic Safety Class. The school asks the city Traffic Safety organization to come and teach the basics of crossing streets etc. and being safe walking to and from school. As there is no such thing as a school bus around here, all elementary school children are organized into walking groups and the oldest child takes the role of leader and is responsible for seeing that everybody stays in line (literally!) Some of the children have to walk 45 minutes or so to school and cross a couple of streets, the last being the one in front of the elementary school where I am the crosswalk guard. I was asked to attend the Traffic Safety Class as was the local police officer and someone from the police station. Unfortunately it was raining that day and the assembly had to be held in the gymnasium with a few change of plans.
You may recall that I'm a little afraid of the head officer of the Traffic Safety organization, a gung-ho, no-nonsense veteran traffic safety officer. She led the safety class that day. The whole student body gathered in the gymnasium and sat at cross legged at attention as the head officer barked rules, regulations and past accidents that she had witnessed.
"Okay, we are going to go through the basics of crossing a street. Principal, please chose three groups to demonstrate the process."
The principal asked three walking leaders to bring their groups to the front of the gymnasium.
"Listen closely. This is the road. And this is the crosswalk. Okay leaders. Take your group across the street. Raise your right hands.... Look both ways~ Right, Left, Right... Cross!"
The first group stumbled across the "street".
"That's terrible! Don't you know what you are doing? You'll have to do better than that!"
Me... gingerly stepping to the Traffic Safety Officer's side...
"Um... Excuse me. I think they can do it if they do it in English..."
"English? Well... Humph. Okay, try it again!"
The group arranged themselves at the mock crosswalk.
Me, in English, "Look both ways!"
"Right! Left! Right! Cross!"
Perfect choral synchronization! Good kids! The Traffic Safety Officer grudgingly admitted that the group knew how to cross the street. As did the second group and the third group. (Whew! I'm sure glad we ALL passed THAT test.)
Of course I'm not proud of the fact that the kids didn't know what to do without my English preamble "Look both ways!" but I think with the Traffic Safety Officer's lesson they did learn that being careful at a crosswalk is important in ANY language.
This morning everyone crossed the street with hands and voices raised high (I'd forgotten to teach the raised hand technique.) See the kids DID learn something!