"Keep an eye out for children you see along the way," they'd been told at the start of their police-led tour of Kansas City neighborhoods.
"They're going to be in your classrooms Monday."
There were several of their possible students, sweeping into view, looking comfortable in a mean afternoon sun. Teenagers with smiles and cellphones, hanging out on the corner.
As the bus growled on up 27th Street, four of the first five houses unfurling outside the bank of windows were boarded. Weeds swarmed the porches and sidewalks as if there'd been no drought.
Kansas City Police Officer Patrick Byrd, with his thumb triggering the public address microphone in his hand, was telling some neighborhood history.
The busload of teachers from the former Central High School — now the Central Academy of Excellence — had previously heard the officer talk of the frequent drug houses marking the paths their students walk.
The lone individual loitering in front of one of the convenience stores, he'd noted, may well be waiting for his next "open air drug sale" to walkups and drive-by buyers.
And up here, he said as the bus approached Benton Boulevard on 27th, was where someone had been shot in an altercation with police officers, sparking a riot several years ago.
"You as teachers need to pay attention to the kids in class," he said. "A lot of times you're the only stability they have."
Jason Roberts appreciated the reminder.
He's a fourth-year history teacher from Columbus, Ohio, readying for his second year at Central.
"We come to Central with that middle-class security," he said. "The bus ride tells us that is not the reality in which our students live."
The bus ride Thursday for relatively new teachers was filled with educators like Roberts and second-year English teacher Nicole Bozzella, who said they wanted the chance to teach students such as these.
Roberts had thought himself destined to teach advanced history to suburban high school students until he did his student teaching in Chicago.
Bozzella, from Bethesda, Md., was pursuing a degree in governmental affairs in college when she leaped toward teaching.
Instead of hurling her idealism at "fixing" things "with policy," she said, she aimed herself at classrooms in neighborhoods like Central's.
She's beginning her second year, she said, knowing that her students can learn, that they want to learn and that "they want everyone to be proud of them."
The trip was not meant to discourage the teachers, but to fortify them.
When Vice Principal Thomas Shelton at the head of the bus shouted, "Is anybody rethinking their options?" the teachers laughed.
Shelton, a former police officer, said he has served these Kansas City neighborhoods throughout his working life.
See that Days Inn motel going by?
"Some of our students live there," he said.
And not all of those boarded homes are always vacant. Students live in them, too.
Do the teachers notice how many of the students don't want to leave school? They will be there ahead of breakfast in the morning, Shelton said. And they'll be there until the last of the staff leave in the afternoon.
"There's a reason for that," he said. "They don't have a place to go."
Central Principal Linda Collins put her teachers on the bus, she said, "to ride the city. To see where our children live."
She wanted them to understand, she said, why "they don't look like you, don't talk like you and don't think like you. Because they have other things on their minds."
And Roberts stepped off at the end of the ride more dedicated to the power "of teaching and learning."
"It really is the main thing," he said. "When we teach, there is an extreme possibility for excellence."
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